Sunday, 14 December 2014

Entertainment stuff from the week 8-14/12/14

Hi dusty-wet-space-things,

'Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in living color'

Yes, that picture is in colour. The trouble is, comets aren't :-D

'Comet landing named Physics World 2014 Breakthrough of the Year'

I'm not surprised.

Travelling about 300 million kilometres to catch up with an object careering through space at 55000 kilometres per hour, and then putting a miniaturised laboratory on it that can send back several years' worth of studyable data, despite only being 'on' for a couple of days, is quite a feat!

To find out which 9 experiments didn't quite make the cut, follow the link.

So, where does Earth's surface water come from?

{Not a non-sequitur, i promise!}

There's plenty of water mixed in, inside the Earth, but before the crust formed, that water could just evaporate off into Outer Space. Consequently, Earth's surface water has largely had to come from objects that landed on its surface, post-crust-formation.

This barrage has consisted of a combination of meteorites (rocky, metallic lumps) and comets (rocky, icey lumps) and recent research has shown that most of Earth's surface water probably came from carbonaceous chondrites (a kind of meteorite) because although they're much less wet, each, they're hugely more abundant than comets.

Well, Kathrin Altwegg's smellovision (ROSINA) experiment on Rosett's Philae lander, sent back data regarding the kinds of water there. It turns out that, at least in 67P's case, cometary water contains more deuterium than Earthy water, which means Earth's water can't have come from comets like 67P.

But this conflicts with other findings of comet-water analysis. In fact, it seems all (eleven) comet-water findings conflict with all the others. The only water to match Earth's for deuterium content, comes from Jupiter-family Comet 103P/Hartley 2.

The water in meteorites, in contrast, is broadly consistent with the water that we have on Earth. The investigation continues...

Back on Earth, comet dust has been found, on (in) the ground, for the first time. And guess where... that's right, the Antarctic. The only place on Earth that hasn't been extensively muddied around and stomped on by any and every taxon of life in history.

Usually, researchers collect comet dust from high up in the atmosphere, but this necessitates a sticky sheet, to collect them, and then solvents, to get them off the sticky sheet. Both of these mar results.

Antarctic researchers drilled down into the ice there, and found, among other things, tiny dust particles, measuring 10-60 micrometres across, called 'chondritic porous interplanetary dust particles'. These, of course, are not gummed or solvented, so should provide better data than anything collected before.

Again, the investigation continues...

In other news:

An all-female theatre group has been one of the many, across Spain, to be hit by the current conservative government's 'austerity' measures. To supplement their income, and maintain their theatrics as a going concern, they've opted to sell pornographic magazines, which are, as magazines, taxed at a much lower rate than theatring. This means they can lower their ticket prices, and keep punters coming through the doors. Plus, porn. Anyone who wants to defy a hysterical 'won't somebody please think of the children' government, then just take a peek at a homo sapiens' body, the way the FSM made them. They do not like it! :-D

In contrast <s>, international terrorist organisation PETA (who think it's OK to kill humans, in order to empower themselves to run animal protection shelters worse than anybody else's in the world) seems to think that human sexuality - specifically, semen - is vile and repugnant and unhealthy. As unhealthy as milk! Well, i'd agree with that - both are an equally healthy source of proteins and minerals... except one's available in much larger quantities and (apparently) tastes much nicer... I've never drunk milk (reptiles don't, you know :-P). Dairy products are repugnant, apparently. But not so repugnant that it wouldn't be acceptable to feature them in sexually-allusory form on a huge public billboard! LMAO.

Public service announcement: 'raw' milk is dangerous. Four children are seriously ill, and a fifth has died, following the consumption of 'raw' milk (meaning it hasn't been pasteurised to kill off germs inside it). Some people think that unpasteurised milk is better than pasteurised milk, but there's no evidence it's healthier or even tastier. Milk taste varies by breed of cow and 'raw' milk drinkers tend not to use high-quantity 'milkers' like we tend to get through supermarkets. This means they'd probably be drinking tastier milk even if it were pasteurised. Drinking unpasteurised milk is a pointless health risk, often driven by anti-scientific pro I-SCAM industry ideological sentiment, as demonstrated by the vendors in this story. If you want tasty milk, it's best just to go for expensive (and pasteurised) milk.

Speaking of the I-SCAM (Integrative, Supplementary, Complementary, and Alternative to Medicine) industry, ginkgo biloba's taken a double slam dunk, this week, with one study finding it utterly useless for treatment of Alzheimers, and the other finding commercially available 'ginkgo biloba' products to often be mis-labelled. In other words, they didn't actually have Ginkgo in them, at all. Looking at some other 'supplements' too, they found a sixth to a quarter of leafy gunk concoctions didn't contain any of the labelled ingredient, and suggested that this is likely down to the vendor either deliberately substituting something cheaper, or sincerely having no idea what they're dealing with. So, as with all evil perpetrated in the world, it's either malevolence or incompetence that caused it. Regardless, Gingko is one of many dodgy herbalistic 'eye of newt, toe of frog' concoctions that should be distrusted by anyone who seeks real medicine. Medicine has one ingredient - the active ingredient - the one that's going to make you better; homeopathics have no ingredients; herbalistics contain far too many ingredients, to maximise the chances of side-effects! No-one in the world knows the true extent of side-effects caused by supplements, because the I-SCAM industry doesn't even bother to check. Loyal readers of my blog (who have good memories) will know that i'm repeating myself, but i think these are important points to make.

And while we're on the subject, there's a quackupuncture (health by a thousand cuts) story going around as well:

It seems tabloid newspapers aren't the only journals to accept nonsense tales for the sake of chasing money. If you've seen the documentary 'Starsuckers' you'll know that many papers and magazines offer money for interesting stories, and people will inevitably send them some. Whether they're true or not. These sources are used as a fall-back for when the trio of journalists in the office that day are having trouble fabricating interest in what's available; or are struggling to just completely make stuff up. Well, it should come as no surprise to anyone who knows that humans are generic, and behave according to generic behavioural rules, that the world of scientific academia is similarly affected, and corrupted, by money-chasing capitalism. Maggie Simpson and Edna Krabappel (yes, the cartoon characters) have become yet more in an increasingly lengthy line of characters to publish in dodgy 'scientific'(?) journals, that publish anything, as long as the author might pay the publication fee!
{Incidentally, if you click the 'Starsuckers' link, you can see the whole documentary on Vimeo, free of charge}

And oh dear, yet another counter-productive stunt from Greenpeace. They've maybe-irreparably scarred the Nazca Lines site, in Peru, by trampling all over it in order to construct a huge, yellow, sheet-plastic message that could have just been done in photoshop. I'm not sure whether this publicity stunt is worse than the one where they faked Shell's meetings going wrong, when there are real and actually shameful things about Shell that Greenpeace could have been exposing. I'm in accord with The League of Nerds on this one -- Greenpeace and other prominent environmental organisations are wasting their abilities to lead in the right direction, with genuinely useful investigations and expos
és; and are instead committing to sensationalist, fatuous and harmful gimmicks. What a waste!

But it isn't just big-time organisations that are putting the 'mental' into 'environmental'. One American guy deliberately went to the Amazon basin, to find an anaconda, to provoke it into eating him, and to then chicken out of being eaten at the last moment. I still have no idea what the whole point of this stunt was. Just a TV programme??

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

'Trippy spiral hacks a hummingbird's hover'

'Solar Storms: 10 Hottest Facts'

'A Magnet with an Off Switch'

'The Saturn V in perspective'

'Gallium Induced Structural Failure of an Aluminum Sheet'

'Baby bird mimics a toxic caterpillar'

'How fungus invades and digests fruit'

'Where Does Belly Button Lint Come From? - A Week in Science'

'How Gangnam Style Broke YouTube - Computerphile'

'The Psychic Song (It's Sad)'

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

Word Of The Week: velleity -- a casual wish; one unaccompanied by an effort to actually obtain its object of desire

Memogenesis Of The Week: The factoid that Charles Manson auditioned for The Monkees originated with an off-the-cuff joke by Mickey Dolenz: “I just made a joke: ‘Everybody auditioned for the Monkees, Stephen Stills, Paul Williams and Charlie Manson!’... And everybody took it as gospel, and now it’s an urban myth!”

Fact Of The Week: Colin Firth has a credit as an author of a neuroscience paper, despite playing no active role in any research. To find out more about the contentiousness of the subject, follow the hyperlink.

Quote Of The Week: “The journalistic tradition so exalts novelty and flashy discovery, as reputable and newsworthy, that standard accounts for the public not only miss the usual activity of science but also, and more unfortunately, convey a false impression about what drives research” - Stephen J. Gould

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

Famous conjuror, Derren Brown, has a YouTube channel! Here's the 'best of' until now:

'Derren Brown at the Circus'

'Derren Brown at Greenham Common Bunker'

'Derren tricks shop keepers to let him pay with just paper - Derren Brown: Trick or Treat'

'Derren Brown Advertising Agency Task'

'Stephen Fry amazed by card trick - Derren Brown: Trick of the Mind'

'How not to have your wallet taken - Derren Brown: Trick of the Mind'

'Voodoo Doll - Derren Brown: Trick of the Mind'

'Derren asking for directions - Derren Brown: Trick Of The Mind'

'Derren asking for directions 2 - Derren Brown: Trick Of The Mind'

'Derren asking for directions 3 - Derren Brown: Trick Of The Mind'

'Derren asking for directions 4 - Derren Brown: Trick Of The Mind'

This one brings a whole new meaning to the term 'colour-changing card trick' :-D

'Incredible Hypnotism Trick - Derren Brown: Enigma'

'Stamping A Foot Onto A Knife - Derren Brown: How To Win The Lottery'

Demonstrations of superstition itself:

'Derren explores Superstition and BF Skinner - Derren Brown: Trick or Treat'

'Derren reads peoples hands with a twist (Part 1) - Derren Brown: Trick of the Mind'

'Derren reads peoples hands with a twist (Part 2) - Derren Brown: Trick of the Mind'

'Paranormal Photo Collection - The Ghost Hunter'

'Debunking Joe Powers' 'Psychic' Secrets feat. Quirkology - The Man Who Contacts The Dead'

'Milgram Experiment - The Heist'
Some refer to this experiment as an indicator of the base evil of humanity. But actually, it boils down to politics. The original experiment found huge conflict in the Teachers, whether they carried it out to the end, or refused to start. How far they got through torturing the Learners 'for Science' depended on how much value they put on 'people' relative to 'principle' i.e. how socialist/authoritarian they were. Mindless compliance was never what Milgram found - they had to agree that the suffering was worth it.
[New Scientist reference (subswalled)] [BBC Prison Study reference] [PLOS Biology reference]

Better than any zombie movie!

'Derren Brown the great art robbery'

'Derren Brown: The Gathering (full episode)'

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