Sunday, 24 May 2015

Entertainment stuff from the week 18-24/5/15

Hi toddlers,

'The ESF Top 10 New Species for 2015'

"An international committee of taxonomists selected the top 10 from among the approximately 18,000 new species named during the previous year and released the list to coincide with the May 23 birthday of Carolus Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy."

They're not awards for genetically engineered species, like a modern version of the Chelsea Flower Show, but just take a look at them - they're really quite funky :o)


The 27th of May marks Tapejara Day - the 3rd anniversary of this blog. Hooray to me :-D

In other news:

Have researchers discovered the first endothermic fish? (In layman's parlance, by the way, 'endothermic' means 'warm-blooded'). Well, almost. The Opah is a deep-living big-hearted muscular fish, that recycles warm blood from near the muscles that power its fins, and back around its body. This is how endothermy works - the use of internal metabolism to heat the body itself - but the effect in fish is localised. Some other species of fish have local endothermy, around their eyes, livers or swimming muscles, but it isn't yet clear whether the Opah really counts as fully endothermic, as some parts of its body stay cold at all times, and it still needs to return to the surface to warm its heart up. That means it's partially exothermic - dependent on heat from the environment. It doesn't have the self-heating power of mammals and birds, so i don't think it counts as a full ectoderm, but it's certainly a good case for demonstrating another non-discontinuity in classification of the world around us! Is it ectothermic? Is it endothermic? Yes. No. Both.

In Dubai, the police are literally untouchable*. Even if you're foreign; even if you're a tourist; even if you don't speak the local language and are struggling to communicate. I wonder whether this case has anything to do with the copper being female - Islamic superstition, etc. The Desert Dogmas don't generally tend to be too keen about touching women. #feministpatriarchy?
{*As long as you define 'untouchable' to mean 'denied by Human Law as well as Scientific Law' :-P }

Did a man really tickle a furry trout in the waters of Wisconsin, last month? And i'm not being euphemistical! Well, according to Snopes, the answer seems to be "no". The idea of a furry fish, while physically possible, is precedented only by hoaxes situated around the far north. In fact, the Royal Museum of Scotland featured a furry trout - which was actually a trout wrapped in rabbit fur - for a long time, until it was eventually revealed to be a hoax.

Staying in the water for a minute, let's speak with the octopusses, and ask them: "Did you know you can see with your skin? No? Well, you can". In fact, many species have sensory abilities where they don't think they do. Humans have smelling abilities in their lungs, skin, heart, liver and gut. But few of these sensors link up to the nervous system in a way that the brain can develop spatial awareness from them. The best that humans' lungs can do, is to identify the bitter taste of poisonous volatile chemicals (smoke) which produces a cramping sensation in the chest. In octopusses, their brains probably know very little of what their skin can see, even though their chromatophores do respond to light, using information from the light-sensing structures - opsins. Because these sensors aren't centralised, there isn't really a motive to develop a complex array of neurones, connecting them up - if smoke's in your lungs, it's in your lungs. You don't need to know where - just cough! Similarly, octopus skin just responds to light and shade, and like the primitive eyesights of the first seeing organisms, it doesn't need to provide much more information than that. Eyes are simply regions of the body that have been heavily developed for a specific purpose - seeing better than competitors and predators.

Oh dear. It's not been going well for the Torygraph recently, has it. This pseudoscientific anti-gaming propaganda piece claims, despite reality, that learning (how to play a game) somehow causes Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's being a disease, and therefore only one cause of dementia - dementia is the symptom that Alzheimer's Disease is known for. Obesity and lack of exercise is expected to cause a huge increase in incidence of dementia, as obese apathetic generations grow old, without Alzheimer's increasing at all. The study referred to is small and highly dubious, for many many reasons, but hey - manufactured technophobia appeals to the conservatism of Torygraph writers and readers, so its lies are worth money. As we've seen so many times, however, games that involve shooting aliens in the face often have more relevance to reality, than do the dangerously-ignorant scribblings that pass as 'journalism' in newspapers!

Even more ludicrously, the recent General Election in the UK has exposed the twisted, mangled ideological contortions going on behind the Torygraph's office doors. The link below leads to my photo (my camera > scanner, LOL) of an article in Private Eye - pretty much the UK's only news source that actually involves good journalism - that reports the weird diplomacy going on between the Torygraph's editors and its owners - the Barclay Brothers. The Paper itself is heavily allied to the Conservative Party (the Tories, hence the name) but Frederick Barclay is a staunched supporter of Tory 2.0 - he's a Ukipper. This led to a frontpage headline, engineered by the chief executive, lambasting UKIP and extolling the Conservatives, on the day following a 2-page spread advert for UKIP, in the form of a letter from Nigel Farage himself. So - Torygraph or Faragraph? And can we ever really know? The weird and greasy world of the Press is such an orgy of embarrassment :-/

Also from the Torygraph: the claims that WiFi makes kids ill, and smartphones cause autism. "Won't somebody please think of the children?" The entirety of available evidence says that exposure to low-level electromagnetic fields is not harmful to human health. And this is borne out in testimonials too - people report harm from light (a synonym for 'electro-magnetic radiation') according to when they believe they are being harmed from it, regardless of whether it's even present. The symptoms, too, are generic symptoms, caused by anxiety: headaches, nausea, joint pain, abdominal pain, dehydration and diarrhoea. They're all causable by anxiety. And so 'light-bulb syndrome' as i call it, can be, and has been, associated with any and all kinds of new technology: WiFi, cell phones, light bulbs, vaccines, radios, televisions, wind farms... the list will probably never stop growing, as some people will continue to project blame for psychogenic symptoms, onto the subjects of their anxiety. It's just plain irresponsible of Media organisations to pander to their irrational fears, however, which can only worsen the sufferers' problems.

If scientists are patrolling the bullshitters, who's patrolling the scientists? Well, other scientists. Science doesn't tolerate fakery. In this case, one author of a paper suggested its retraction from publication, because their co-author's 'evidence' turned out not to exist! Also demonstrated in this case study, is the importance of replication by peers. The fraudulent author had replicated their own faked findings, with more faked findings - because, well, if you can do it the first time, you can probably do it the second time. This is why it's necessary, even in global nuclear physics research, for other people/organisations who do not share biasing motives, to replicate findings, before they can be believed.

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

'The Real Reality Show: The End of Life on Earth'
Student: "I'm sorry, sir - did you say million or billion?" Lecturer: "I said billion" Student: "Oh right, phew!" - an anecdotal exchange :-D

'Orkney - Island of the Future | Fully Charged'

'Why Raindrops Are Mathematically Impossible'

'Shelf Life Episode 7 - The Language Detectives'

'What is snot, earwax and eye sleep? - A Week in Science'

'Golden Rice and Why You Should Not Fund Greenpeace'
I watched right through to the end, though mostly for the music :-D

'How To Motion Capture'
Somehow, they turn a fascinating subject into an amazingly infantile video :-D

'Lesbian Eats Asian'
This video's not what you think it is :-P

'Source Of Confusion : Coconut Water | The Checkout'

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

Word Of The Week: psychopomp -- a creature, spirit, angel, or deity, as featured in many religious mythologies, that escort freshly deceased people to 'the afterlife'

Etymology Of The Week: piggyback -- meaning 'carrying someone on your back'; from 'pickaback' which itself comes from 'pick pack' in the 1560s which meant 'like a pack'; 'pick' comes from the c.1200 definition of 'thrust/fasten' via 'pitch' with the meaning of 'work' (as in 'pitch in' or 'pitch a tent') and in which the past tense of 'pitch' was 'pight', with 'pight' presumably being pronounced as in the Scots/Dutch 'nicht'

Quote Of The Week: "False opinions are like false money, struck first of all by guilty men and thereafter circulated by honest people who perpetuate the crime without knowing what they are doing." - Joseph de Maistre

Fact Of The Week: The Empire State's spire was initially designed to moor airships. It was, of course, made obsolete by the decline in the airship industry, following disastrous burnings, amidst the comparable safety of aeroplanes. Since the completion of the Empire State Building in 1932, however, the '103rd floor' has been used to transmit all of New York's radio station frequencies, which it continues to do, to this day. (via)

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

'Ultimate Gameshow Moments - Bullseye'

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