Sunday, 15 March 2015

Entertainment stuff from the week 9-15/3/15

Hello chromotransmogrifiers,

Here's a beautiful video.

'Photonic crystals cause active colour change in chameleons'

Recent research has demonstrated that, like with butterflies and some birds, some chameleonic colour is produced by nanostructures - not by pigments.

Panther chameleons (Furcifer pardalis) have a resting state in which they are green, and can change their colour to adapt to social situations.

This research has shown that they do that using three layers of nanocrystals in their skin: the top layer of iridophores are the structures that reflect light at visible wavelengths; the second layer of S-iridophores varies the separation of the first layer's crystals from each other. When relaxed, the crystals are held close to each other, and when excited the crystals are pushed further apart, making them reflect longer wavelengths, and so making the chameleon look yellower, and then redder. The third layer of D-iridophores, at the bottom, is invisible to us, but variably reflects near-infrared light, and so is thought to help keep the chameleon cool.

Previously, it was hypothesised that chameleons controlled their colour by distribution of pigments in their skin i.e. moving the yellow pigment to the top to look more yellow; but this mechanism has been disproved, at least for the Panther chameleons.

It now remains to be seen whether other chameleons use the same mechanism (they likely do) and also whether cuttlefish use this mechanism of tunable photonic nanocrystals too.

'How Chameleons Change Colours'

'Photonic crystals cause active colour change in chameleons'

'Dancing droplets'
{The second half shows you how to do all of this for yourself}

Each droplet of dyed water contains both water and propylene gylcol, which interact to produce pressure and surface tension differences, across the droplets. The water evaporates more from the bottom, leaving a collection of water at the top that tucks the mixture into a bubble and causes currents of H2O and PG to swirl around inside it.

These currents can set the droplet off, racing across a low-friction surface, essentially powered by the water that evaporates away.

Maybe contrarily to intuition, it's actually the droplet in front that pulls the one behind. By having a higher water content, it's surface tension is higher, and so tugs harder than the droplet behind.

Because it contains more water, it has more to evaporate, and so moves faster too. Droplets don't merge until their water concentrations have evened out sufficiently.

'Researchers solve the mystery of the dancing droplets (w/ video)'

Is this some kind of joke? Why's Australia going to be in Eurovision at all, anyway?!?

'Australia's Eurovisioncontestant has been announced- and it's not TISM'

..and who the hell are TISM?!? :-P

'God understandably nervous to meet Terry Pratchett'
{In Terry's novels, Death always 'speaks' in capital letters}

'I’ve got bloody hundreds of kitchens, insists Cameron'
"In what is being termed “Kitchengate”, competitive politicans have been scrambling over themselves to up-kitchen each other, leaving Nick Clegg forlornly admitting to not knowing if he has a kitchen or not."

'Peppa Pig is nothing like Spearmint Rhino, new fathers warned'
"“Given the name, I was quite looking forward to the stack of Peppa Pig DVDs when my wife and kids were out”, said Dave Foster from Kettering."

'UKIP to make it illegal to discriminate against racists'
“Everyone else gets equal treatment, the ladies, the woofters and even the coloureds – but racists continue to be persecuted at work.”

'Jeremy Clarkson’s wife hospitalised with RSI after signing petition 650,000 times'
"Francis Cain, the wife of Jeremy Clarkson has been rushed to hospital with chronic RSI after signing the ‘Save Clarkson’ petition 650,000 times."

'Millions of rulers feared missing after publication of penis size survey'
“We’ve had to employ a one-in-one-out policy for men & boys aged 14 and up for the first time in our history,” said one retailer who wished to remain anonymous.

In other news:

'Knitted Knockers Australia' produces knitted breasts for women who've had mastectomies, and wish to refill their shape, in lieu of implants. One of the Nork Knitters dedicated herself to a trip, around Australia, knitting them for people in the various locations, who might need them. The cotton cazoomas are not for sale, however - they're only for people who need them, and can get them through Ozzie hospitals.

The Early Learning Centre is a company that produces toys and things, for little kids, to aid with learning, in the early period of their life. Obvious. One thing they produce is toy banknotes, to help kids get the idea of real money, without the cost. Well, an unsuspecting shopkeeper in Northern Ireland has accidentally accepted a '100EURO' ELC toy note in lieu of a real 100 Euro note, and put both the NI police and the ELC on edge. The BBC's acutely observationally skilled staff keenly observed that there are differences between the real and toy notes, and that the Sterling facsimiles are even more dissimilar. Fraudsters beware - they're onto your game!

Are Rwandans really healthier than the 10% of the English at the bottom of England's socioeconomic pile? The origin of the claim appears to be from a false comparison, using statistics from two different metrics, employed by the ONS (Office for National Statistics) and the WHO (World Health Organisation). The ONS was simply asking people whether they felt like they were in good/fair/bad health, to determine number of healthy years of life; whereas the WHO was asking people for years spent ill and then subtracting them from life expectancy. Obviously, the WHO's method overstates years of healthy life, at least in comparison to the ONS's method. So comparing the WHO's optimistic numbers for Rwandans (55 healthy years), to the ONS's more rigorous figures for English people (52 healthy years), is bound to make the English seem less healthy in comparison. Falsely. The WHO, by the way, says the English, on average, get 71 years of healthy life.

When Steve Novella and David Gorski published a paper advocating against the waste of research funding on quackery, the pseudoscience quasicommunity grabbed their pitchforks and burning torches to condemn them. Apparently, they think it's a good idea to continue to 'research', for example, damp sugar (Homeopathy, which Australia officially declared to be bollocks, last week) despite the fact that it has been demonstrably substantiated as false. Dribbling water on sugar pills does not a medicine make. End of story. Similarly, for all other branches of the I-SCAM industry, there is no reason to waste money on speciously-justified research. As if to reinforce their imbecility, advocates of pseudo-research have suggested that the best way to study their cash cows, is to do really weak tiny studies that are scientifically useless. Potentially with a size of 1. That's one person. That's completely useless, and it's actively antiscientific to say that research funds should be wasted on such a farce. Most people, of course, won't see the way quacks try to manipulate academics - they only see the adverts on TV, and the posters in Holland & Barrett's window; but in the corridors of power (government) the attitudes of academics has a real impact on whether policy manifests in State action. For example, there is still a Homeopathic 'hospital' in the UK, that wastes ~£50 million per year. Jeremy Hunt - the current Health Secretary - is a believer in magic water, and so is perfectly happy for it to continue to exist, and to not spend that vast amount of money on frontline staff in hospitals that actually use medicine, and so actually have the potential to make people better.

Here's some technophobia for the week, too. Anti-GMO, Antivaccine, Lightbulb Syndrome propagators, and now Titanium dioxide hystericists. Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is a compound that, as a powder, is incredibly good at scattering light. This means that it looks very bright. And very white. Very white indeed. So if you want to make something look brighter and/or whiter, putting TiO2 in it is a very good idea - it's cheap, effective, and safe. It's not very water soluble, and it's not easily absorbed by the body. And even if it is, it's not very harmful anyway. So you can already find TiO2 in a myriad of products: paper, paint, plastics, sunscreen, and even doughnuts. And that last one's where the technophobic hysteria comes in. An organisation called 'As You Sow' proclaims itself useful, for having persuaded Dunkin' Donuts to remove TiO2 powder from its doughnuts (correct spelling :-P). They style themselves as an environmentalist organisation, so we can expect them to be strong in the heart but a bit gluten-free in the head. They say that the TiO2 is especially dangerous because it comes in nanoparticle sizes. Inhaling nanoparticulates is generally bad news (as is inhaling flour), but the particles on doughnuts are rarely anywhere near as small as the nano-scale. Even so, bad PR is bad PR - like so-called 'Western' governments repealing their civil rights in fear of Religionist terrorists, companies can be relied upon to repeal their products in fear of bad publicity! Their critics don't have to be right. This isn't the first example of superstition compelling the world to be more irrational, and it won't be the last.

How do the blue super-octopusses of the Antarctic survive in near-zero-celsius water? Ice-cold water actually contains large amounts of dissolved oxygen, but getting that oxygen into the body is very difficult, because oxygen-diffusion is much less efficient and blood is much more viscous, than in warm temperate waters. Octopods (including octopusses) do not have blood like ours - with haemoglobin in - they have what's called 'haemolymph' which has haemocyanin in, in haemoglobin's place. It's not quite as effective in warmer temperatures, but works much better at low temperatures (especially sub-zero) and, incidentally, low oxygen concentrations too. Comparing Antarctic octopods to warm-water octopods has found that they are probably better set up for warming waters, due to climatic changes, as their haemolymph continues to work well in warmer temperatures. To see a video of Megaleledone setebos swimming in Antarctic waters, just follow the link:

Solar Impulse II is the second incarnation of the solar-powered aeroplane, mentioned on this blog before. In the last week, it set off and completed its first leg of a round-the-world flight, from Abu Dhabi to Muscat, Oman. It then set off on its first trans-marine journey, toward Gujarat in India, which was also its longest ever journey, at 1468 km (pipping SI-1's 1386 km across the USA) and taking ~16 hours to complete. The longest leg will be from Nanjing to Hawaii, across the Pacific; and will take about five days, to cover 8500 kilometres!

Sponges are old. Very old. I don't mean the things you wash yourself with, or even the loofah you use to strigulate yourself with - i mean biological sponges. I mean the legion supra-organisms that can be destroyed and then come back together again, overnight. Those amazing things. Researchers have dated the remains of a sponge, found in China, to be 600 million years old, which means it's likely the ancestor of all modern sponges. But more pertinent to vertebrates like us, the evolution of sponges marks the dimorphism and consequent ancestral split from our common ancestors with them. They might not look it, but they are animals too! Follow the link to see a picture of it:

Rather less interestingly, paleontologists have discovered a 2-metre long ancestor of the lobster that stalked the oceans 480 million years ago. It looked utterly weird (as did most life of the time) and probably fed like modern whales, using plates to filter food from the waters in which it lived. Meh. Man-sized lobsters are boring compared to sponges :-P To see more pictures, and a 23-minute video on the subject, follow the link:

Here's some non-news: corvids are smart. And here's some news: corvids in the USA have been documented adapting to domesticated lives - swapping gifts for food; and company for care. Now, will someone please explain why horseburgers are wrong? ;-)

And here's a wonderful thing: a touching gallery, of art for blind people. And sighted people who like touching, too, i suppose. It's been done by a Spanish artistic group, and an artist who went blind in his 20s, about a decade ago. What they've done is to take some famous paintings, and then use a relief printing technique to make them 3D and thereby tactile to gallery visitors. Unfortunately, the video of the project being made, at the link, isn't tactile, as that technology doesn't exist yet. One day, though, maybe.

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

'An intro to The Oscars (Skeptics with a K)' (my upload)

'Killing Cancer with Sugar and Alcohol!'

'Darwin Day 2015 Questions: #2 Is Evolution a Fact?'

'This Video Will Make You Angry'
Welcome to memetics. Invented by Richard Dawkins, decades ago :-)

'Ariel-1 and the Atomic Space Bomb - Objectivity #10'

'Water droplets pop like popcorn off geckos' skin'
{More info:}

'Bridge Over Diagnosis - a parody of Bridge Over Troubled Water'

This is a genuine problem; and it's the reason i always ignore the entreatments by private sector medical/pseudomedical companies to have myself tested for this, that and the other, on the off chance.

'Fake fingerprints could help fight fraud'

'The Male Display of the Greater Sage-Grouse'

'UV Light - Sixty Symbols'

'Purify Sulfuric Acid by Distillation'

'east of Chernobyl and the Pripyat river: Koschiwka (кошивка) village'

'Incredible Animal Superpowers - A Week in Science'

'Testing Religion and Offence' - CoolHardLogic

'Jeremy Clarkson Song "Eye Of The Clarkson" by Christian Reilly'
{Reference repeat:}

'Musicless Video - Never Gonna Give You Up'
{I'm thinking of starting a meme of videoless music. Do you think it'll catch on? :-P}

'John Inverdale's Rose-C***ed Glasses'

The 'Jeremy Hunts' mentioned in the description box are a reference to James Naughtie's spoonerising of "Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary" four years ago :-D

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

Word Of The Week: oniochalasia -- the act of purchasing as a form of relaxation

Quote Of The Week: "All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nominative Determinism Of The Week: Hannah Moore, Keith Moore and Ruth Less (Alexander?) -- they work on BBC Radio 4's statistics programme 'More or Less'

Fact Of The Week: In 2003, the BBC commissioned the British Army to construct a working tank, based on Leonardo Da Vinci's scribblings, replete with incompetent reproduction of the blatantly faulty gearing system, that turned the wheels in opposite directions!

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

'Venus in RADAR'

'A grand extravaganza of new stars'

'Spitting Image - Clean Rubgy Songs'
[reverse logic] Do not look these songs up. Do not look them up  :-P

'Craig Charles | Carpool'
The gears are grinding and the wheels are turning, to get Red Dwarf on the road to series 11 later this year. Apparently, there's a new series of Carpool in the works, too :o)

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