Sunday, 8 February 2015
Entertainment stuff from the week 2-8/2/15
'Supermarkets urged to keep daffodils away from vegetables in case they are mistaken for food'
Public Health England has warned supermarkets in, well, presumably England, to distance their stocks of daffodils from vegetable counters, in case shoppers mistake them for the varieties that, thanks to centuries of genetic modification, are now safe to eat.
You might think this a stupid story. But what, essentially, is the difference between an edible plant and an inedible one? This...
Daffodils, like most plants, have evolved to produce poisons, in order to prevent ingestion by vertebrate species. But mostly insects, who really rule the world. Only joking... that's bacteria, obviously!
The tannin that makes tea taste bitter, for example, evolved to gum up the saliva of ants. Because our sense of taste/smell has evolved in tandem with the development of these poisons, we can have a rule-of-thumb sureness that anything that tastes bitter is poisonous.
Most GM-ed veggies that are available, whether fatuously labelled 'organic' or 'natural' or 'GM free' or none of the above, will taste much sweeter than wild varieties, and be safe to eat.
It should be noted that Herbalists deliberately stock up on bitter leaves, on the mistaken premise that the bitterness is 'purifying the body' which couldn't be further from the truth! I wonder whether Public Health England has issued similar advice to quack shops, like Holland & Barrett maybe, that deliberately stock dangerous plants amongst the slackly-produced veggies they sell?
I suspect not.
Gingko Biloba, St. John’s Wort, Valerian Root, Garlic, Echinacea, and Saw Palmetto. What do all of these have in common?
Well, daffodils can be mistaken for food, and they can be mistaken for medicine.
Also, New York State wants all of them withdrawn from shelves in GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart, having tested them and found them to contain 'contaminants not identified on ingredient labels' and for 'posing unacceptable health hazards'.
Absolutely right, too. While 'GM free', 'organic' and 'natural' are labels that tell the consumer nothing about the safety of what they're about to eat/drink, hazard labels for poisonous content would be very useful!
'NY takes serious action against dietary supplement retailers for misleading advertising'
'Conflating memories is normal. Give Williams a break!'
US News presenter Brian Williams has been getting a lot of flack recently, for misremembering something. Well, that's news, isn't it! No, it's not.
This is just another case demonstrating the generic inadequacy of eye-witness testimony. Best advice: before you contradict someone else's eye-witness testimony with your own, check whether your memories agree with the facts!
Misremembrance has happened to the best of us. Including me. [bashful expression]
From incorrect memories of past events, to incorrect predictions of future ones.
Superstitionists who claim psychic clairvoyance (being able to see future events before they happen) have managed to perform worse than sports pundits, at predicting the results of American Football's 'Super Bowl' tournament.
'I correctly predicted sportswriters would out-guess psychics in the Super Bowl'
New England Patriots defeated the Seattle Seahawks 28 to 24. [spoiler!] 69% of ESPN writers predicted a win for the Patriots, as did 64% of 'psychics'; but but the 'psychics' failed to divine the closeness of the score anywhere near as successfully.
One psychic failed to even predict (postdict, actually) which teams would be in the final, with a prediction that the Patriots would win 13-5 against the Minnesota Vikings! LMAO.
With a Science, answers converge on the hypothesis supported by most evidence; with a Superstition, answers diverge according to the whim of the believer.
And sometimes, those superstitions diverge way beyond the realms of basic credibility. But then, the Vikings winning the tie they weren't even in, was actually as likely as a 'psychic' genuinely being psychic :-D
The 5th of February was the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 14 mission's landing on the moon. Here is a beautiful picture of Alan Shepard doing something with something, on the lunar surface.
On the 4th of February, NASA released these images of Pluto, showing Charon - one of Pluto's five moons - orbiting it.
And on the 5th of February, NASA/ESA released these images of three of Jupiter's moons transiting it at once. Apparently it's a rare occurrence to catch Io, Callisto and Europa, all between the camera and the host planet, at the same time.
In other news:
The UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has confirmed that 2014 was the warmest year, on record, for the Earth as a whole. And that's without the Southern Oscillation's help! Usually, peaks in temperature come with El Nino phases in the Pacific Southern Oscillation, but this new high has been set without 2014's El Nino arriving. When it eventually does, a new record could easily surpass this one.
Here's a case of phallic pareidolia - not perceiving faces where there are none, but instead penises where there are none. A guy was commissioned with making a public sculpture, and he settled on a cloud-and-raindrops design, which you can see at the link. But it seems many passers-by's perceptions jumped straight to the first thing on their minds: cock! LOL.
A religionist thinks exorcisms are demonised and rape shouldn't demean it. Oh really? 'Steven Engler, religious studies professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary' definitely genuinely has a real qualification in a real subject that actually has intellectual veracity to it, and absolutely shouldn't be derided for choosing such a stupid, self-demeaning career. Well, this pathetic arse has claimed that the sexual abuse of an exorcist's victim should not be used to give a bad name to the psychological abuse of their victim - what the exorcist is really there for! The deception is astounding, isn't it. How can anyone's mind be so distorted as to think that allegations of one crime might demean another crime: abusing someone while pretending that the process of extracting non-existent demons has been demonised?!?
Birds have demonstrated greater cognitive prowess, in their flight patterns: research has newly shown that, when flying in formation, birds take it in turns to go at the front. V-formations form, because wings leave streams of 'clean air' behind them, making it more energy efficient to fly there. For the bird at the front, however, they have to face the full air resistance of the atmosphere. So to share the cost of leading, they take it in turns. Neat.
Sir David Attenborough now has a genus of plants named after him. And guess what it's been called... Sirdavidia. Wonderful, LOL. He already has a species of pitcher plant named after him. And a flowering plant, and a ghost shrimp, and a grasshopper, and a spider, and a weevil, and an echidna, and an extinct fish, and an extinct plesiosaur. The newly-named genus is one of custard apples - plants that have been found to live on both sides of Africa, thousands of kilometres apart!
A UCLA department has found a population of bacteria so similar to their ancestors, that left marks in rocks 1.8 billion years ago, that they can almost state that the bacteria haven't evolved in almost 2 billion years! They explained that because biological evolution is adaptation to circumstance, then unless circumstances change, the evolutionary motive is to not change. Having lived in very stable environments for billions of years, should be expected to produce unchanging (or imperceptibly-slowly-changing) organisms. However, this direct comparison doesn't necessarily mean that none of their ancestors have ever adapted, at any time. Just like species can convergently evolve, in different places, to attain similar features; species can convergently evolve, in different times, to attain similar features. If the environment is the same as 1.8 billion years ago, then the evolutionary pressure is toward similarity with the organisms living there 1.8 billion years ago.
------------------------------------------------------ contemporary stuff
'The Incredible Candles'
'Best Hotel Ever? - Deep Sky Videos'
'Indie Games & the Fourth Dimension - Computerphile'
This is brilliant!
'Flaming Bottle Rockets - Tales from the Prep Room'
'Visible Helmholtz Resonance'
'Hot and Cold'
'Science for kids – How to make bouncing eggs – ExpeRimental #12'
'I Don't Know'
'The 5th of February'
Yes, John did upload this song on the 5th of February :-D
'Mr Deity and the Atheist'
Ah, acting - that means there's at least one thing i'm better than Richard Dawkins at. "Projection, luvvy" :-D
------------------------------------------------------ of the weeks
Word Of The Week: defenestration -- expulsion from Office, by being thrown out of a window. Coined according to the 'Defenestrations of Prague' in which people were literally thrown out of a window.
Etymology Of The Week: stickler -- meaning 'someone who persists with tasks/rules unyieldingly', comes from the 1530s, meaning 'umpire'/'moderator', from the verb 'stickle' meaning 'to moderate' which was a corruption of 'stightle' meaning 'to control' coming from Proto-Germanic 'stihtan' meaning 'to put on a step/base' and originally from PIE 'steigh-' meaning 'to stride/step/rise' as in the modern word 'stair'.
Misquoted Proverb Of The Week: "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall" - Proverbs 16:18 (The Bible (misquoted as 'pride goes before a fall'))
Quote Of The Week: “The difference between faith and insanity is that faith is the ability to hold firmly to a conclusion that is incompatible with the evidence, whereas insanity is the ability to hold firmly to a conclusion that is incompatible with the evidence.” - William Harwood
------------------------------------------------------ non-contemporary stuff
'Glendale and Phoenix from the ISS'
'QI - David Mitchell's Angry Logic'