Sunday, 20 September 2015

Entertainment stuff from the week 14-20/9/15

Hi Arms Dealers,

'Ig Nobels 2015'

The Ig Nobel prizes for 2015 have been awarded, on the usual basis: research that first makes you laugh, and then makes you think.

To see the whole ceremony, follow the link. Here's a rundown of what won what for what:

CHEMISTRY: for the development of a technique to 'unboil' part of an egg {I wrote about that, here}

PHYSICS: for observing the mean micturation time of medium-sized mammals to be 21 seconds {I linked this, too}

: for the observation that the word "huh?" (or its equivalent) seems to exist in every human language {Also blogged}

MANAGEMENT: for discovering that many business 'leaders' have experienced exciting 'natural' disasters in their childhood, but only ones that didn't effect them personally

ECONOMICS: to Bangkok Metropolitan Police, for offering to pay policemen extra cash if they refuse to take bribes

MEDICINE: for experiments to study the biomedical consequences of intense kissing (and other intimate, interpersonal activities)

MATHEMATICS: for using maths to determine whether and how Moulay Ismael the Bloodthirsty, the Sharifian Emperor of Morocco, managed, during the years from 1697 through 1727, to father 888 children

BIOLOGY: for observing that a chicken with a weighted stick attached to its rear, walks in a manner similar to that in which dinosaurs are thought to have walked

DIAGNOSTICS: for determining that acute appendicitis can be accurately diagnosed by the amount of pain evident when the patient is driven over speed bumps

and ENTOMOLOGY: for the first recipient painstakingly creating the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, which rates the relative pain people feel when stung by various insects; and for the second recipient, for carefully arranging for honey bees to sting him repeatedly on 25 different locations on his body, to learn which locations are the least painful (the skull, middle toe tip, and upper arm). and which are the most painful (the nostril, upper lip, and penis shaft). {This last one was actually blogged last year}

So there you are. As i said, to see the whole ceremony, and short explanations of the research, follow the link above.

Abbott's about... no he isn't, he's just out. LOL.

In something the Aussies call a 'spill', Tony Abbott has been ousted as Liberal Party leader and Prime Minister, and beaten by Malcolm Turnbull.

I bet he wishes he could have just ended it all by shouting "stop the votes!" :-P

I'm not sure where the term 'spill' comes from. I suspect it might be one of those famous Aussie idioms. But what might it be an idiom for?

Well, given that these are pollies we're talking about here, i think we can take an educated guess at what might be spilling :-D

The same metabolic product is spilling in the UK at the moment. Anything to draw attention away from what's going on in London.

'Welcome to the London Arms Fair'

One major campaigner for Amnesty International is Mark Thomas. He mentioned his dealings with the London Arms Fair, on Carpool, last year. I've set this link, here, to skip to when the conversation starts to veer toward the fair.

For more of Mark Thomas' investigative journalism, see his 00s videos, linked in 'non-contemporary stuff', below.

It's presented as comedy, but the findings are real.

And comic.

It's a macabre comedy of awfulness.


The 27th of September 2015, will be the last perigeic lunar eclipse until 2033, so if you can, get out there and take a look at that big 'ol red blob in the sky ;-)

The 20th of September is the 5th 'Everybody Think For Hitchens Day' so don't forget to think :-D

In other news:

In the theme of the Ig Nobel prizes, this research has found that people in Costa Rica are more likely to be bitten by snakes, during El Nino events. It's already been observed that poverty and health fluctuate, in accordance with the Southern Oscillation, so the researchers decided to extend study to snake bite statistics. They only looked at one cycle, but the disparity was staggering - three times as many bites occur during El Nino than during baseline La Nina temperatures. The total number of bites from 2005-15 were 6424, with those living in poverty most likely to live in places where the snakes were trying their luck, in the hot/cold extremes of temperature. Climatic change is expected to make their plight worse, as the decades progress, through exacerbation of extreme conditions.

Here's yet another silly article title: 'How the Vatican investigates miracles' from the editor of the New York Times. It's the editors that write the titles, by the way - not the journalists, who only write the content. What makes it silly, is that The Vatican is a faith-based organisation - it doesn't investigate at all! That's how pumice stones come to be presented as preserved brains, and bits of deer skeletons as arms of saints. In the grimy depths of superstitions, where truth is a burden, it shouldn't be considered surprising, that 'miraculous relics' turn out to be hoaxes.

And another silly article title: 'Can eating more than six bananas at once kill you?' this time from the BBC. The obvious answer is "no" and that also happens to be the correct answer. Go on, eat seven and see what happens, LOL. This asinine titling is partly the BBC's pathetic adoption of the clickbait meme, and partly epistemic nihilism - they don't want to 'offend' people who are wrong. As the BBC's own More Or Less radio programme found out, it would take roughly 400 bananas-worth of potassium (the supposed 'killer' ingredient) to dispatch a man of average build, if they were all consumed at once. And as they pointed out, if you were eating your way through 400 bananas a day, your difficulties wouldn’t start with the potassium! Potassium is actually very important for health, so eating a hand of bananas would actually provide you with a healthy dose. Unless you've got faulty kidneys, that is. The source of potassium-based fear-mongering you might come across, is Veganism, where any mineral is essentially demonised, simply because you get need minerals, from meat and dairy products. By demonising the ingredients that you need from meat and dairy, they can establish rhetoric persuading you to not eat either of them. Even though that would be bad for your health. Veganism kills! In a pragmatic context, the advice should be to eat more bananas, not fewer, because vitamins and minerals are seldom consumed in sufficient quantities, even in areas where calories are cheap. In that light, it's astonishing that supplements regularly contain overdoses.

On the point of truth being a burden, i've come across this press release from the coal industry. Occasionally, sites like physorg do have spasms of pseudoscience, and let some bullshit seep in. In this case, it's the coal industry attempting to present the whole climate change and unravelling environmental disaster thing, as nothing more than a PR problem! It's not a subject where there are truths and lies - of course not - it's two sides; one valiant and bold (us) and one demented and shrill (them) <s>. In this case, the propaganda sets up the environmental movement as nothing more than a "camp" that is winning "in the court of public opinion". Let's just ignore the fact that coal is the most polluting of all fossil fuels, on both CO2eq and lung-irritant grounds, and also that coal plants emit more uranium into the environment than do nuclear power stations. Let's also ignore the fact that the coal industry is the deadliest to work in or live around, too. Um... maybe not. The coal industry should be got rid of and replaced. If i were working in the coal industry, i'd aspire to a better career.

In a similar vein, racists in South Africa have been getting hot under the collar, about Homo naledi, which i wrote a bit about last week. It's not just sexists, like Tabitha Powledge, who have axes to grind - who present the women of the group, frame and centre, who were small enough to get through into the caves, but conveniently neglect the fact that those who actually led the research, and did the all-important identification were male. They're not 'one of us' so they don't count. Blackist racists in South Africa have ignored the actual science of ancestry and biological diversity, and gone instead for the religionist route of "i ain't no monkey's great-grandson". It's just a Creation Science 101. Unsurprisingly, the bullshit's been supported by the SACC (South African Council of Churches). By mispresenting racism as a racial conflict, (us v. them) rather than an ideological superstition, they can pretend that anything the Whites do (including all of the White women who went down the hole, much to Powledge's acclaim) must be racist, no matter how right they might be, because the Whites are the oppressors. Ergo, if Whites find a relative of the ancestors of all humanity not just one 'race' then the science must be wrong! Oh, by the way, G-spots are definitely real because Science is a White Man, so you can't trust it to understand 'women's issues'. Bullshit. This is not 'blacks' issues' - it's archaeology and evolutionary biology. There's an important difference between racist rhetoric, and empirical science. One works, and makes the world a better place, and the other... doesn't.

The announcement of Homo naledi's identification as a species overshadowed the dating of fossils found in Sima de Los Huesos (the 'pit of bones') in Atapuerca, northern Spain, at 300,000-400,000 years old. Those, too, are hominin remains, but their announcement came one day after Homo naledi's! Bad timing, LOL. The age of Homo naledi, however, has not yet been determined. It'll probably be a month or more before we find out. The Atapuerca hominins could turn out to be common ancestors of neanderthals and sapiens, ancestors of just neanderthals, or be early neanderthals themselves. In both cases, answers will come, in the fullness of time.

Computers in schools - do they really help? According to David Glance, writing in The Conversation, they've had a negative impact, so should be withdrawn. But he was citing the enlinked study from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development) which actually says that there has been a modest improvement in computer-use skills in students who use computers a bit, at school, compared to those who use them rarely. Only the kids who use them a lot perform worse, and thereby bringing the average down. This scenario makes me think of the alcohol-health correlation. There is a clear dose response, between consumption of alcohol, and morbidity and mortality; yet people who consume no alcohol at all, tend to have worse health. How could it be that they (and kids who use computers a lot) might buck the trend? Well, people who go tee-total tend to be weirdo-freaks: prohibitionists, religionists, non-religious asceticists, recovering alcoholics, and anti-social masochists. These are people who adopt unhealthy lifestyles, or
in the case of recovering alcoholics, are unhealthy because of past alcohol consumption - of course they're going to be less healthy than people who 'drink a bit'. Doctors tend to put their patients down as 'drinks a bits' unless they insist they have a really good motive, because they know that most people understate their alcohol consumption. This warps the statistics. In schools that are part of this let's-go-hi-tech scheme, it's the kids who have learning difficulties, who get first access to computers - they get laptops in classes, for example. This means that the population of kids who use computers frequently, is full of struggling students, pulling the performance average down. I wouldn't be surprised if this turned out to be the explanation. It's neither the students nor the computers that are at blame for this - it's those who are misreading the statistics. As for Mr Glance's 'interpretation', it seems to equivocate between the "reading, mathematics or science" results that PISA (the test used by the OECD) is not designed to test for, and computing performance; and misses everything i've just expounded upon. Teaching how to use computers, with basic office applications, and basic web browser functions, is not expected to help students solve simultaneous equations! Either his pedagogic prejudices are leading him astray, or his own reading comprehension needs some work. The definition of success, when it comes to schooling, depends on teaching kids things that their generation would be benefitted by. In future times, ability to use computing equipment will be predicative, so i support the endeavour to increase their familiarity with it. Whether the same point applies to coding, however, is one that i, and the tech industry, seem to disagree on.

It's not only elative drug vendors that 'water down' their goods, with cheap substitutes. This I-SCAM company's forfeited their profits of ~$1 million, for bulking out their supplements with maltodextrin - a complex carbohydrate which is basically harmless, but cheap and therefore a good filler. This is by no means a new problem. In centuries past, mills would add flint, chalk, or alum to their flour, to make it whiter, and therefore look higher quality. Mashed potatoes, calcium sulphate (Plaster of Paris), pipe clay and even sawdust were added to increase the loaves' weight. This would mean less bread was being sold, by weight, for the same amount of money. Other examples include: strychnine and cocculus inculus being added to rum and beer; chlorophyll to olive oil; sulphate of copper to pickles, bottled fruit, wine, and preserves; sulphate of iron to tea and beer; water and chalk to milk; copper (for the colour) to butter, bread and gin; and arrowroot and flour (part of it inevitably not actually flour) to cream, in order to enhance its richness and thickness. The result of all of this, of course, is that the customer is not getting what they're paying for (which is fraud) and that the thing they actually get is potentially either actively dangerous, because the adulterant is poisonous, or passively dangerous, because the customer depended on certain ingredients being present. This is how Homeopathetics kill people - they think they're getting medicine, but they're not, and so they take the damp sugar and go without the life-saving medicine that they need. The Supplements industry currently revels in a no-man's-land of non-regulation, because it's neither food, nor medicine, and so doesn't have to be judged safe, in either application.

Here's our second fraud story of the week - a steakhouse in the UK, that's been selling 'zebra' and 'wildebeest' dishes, but in fact using horse and venison respectively! Hertfordshire County Council’s trading standards found out, just by dropping in and ordering a couple of test dishes. It's not necessarily a problem, that they offer zebra and wildebeest meat - it's the fact that they're misleading people into thinking that African megafauna are what they're getting.

"And how would sir like his pork steak?" "Not blue, please!" This, surprisingly, is not (necessarily) a hoax - the pig with bright blue fat. Organisms, including pigs and humans, do use their body fat as a sponge for some potential poisons, simply because those poisons are fat soluble, and so storing takes the pressure off the liver, in the short term. The technical term for it is 'bioaccumulation'. This is enough to warn people away from eating steaks dyed a funny colour, although bioaccumulation can result in undyed fat, simply because the poisons don't have a colour! Incidentally, meat vendors do sometimes dye their meats using carbon monoxide, which binds to a pigment in the meat, making it a bright pink colour. It isn't dangerous, that they do this, but it does produce a misleading colour.

Welcome to the USA. Here, the wildlife domesticates the humans. On the Scotchman Peak Trail, the Mountain Goats (which are not true goats) have become used to human presence, and now demand salt and food from hikers who make it to the top of the Peak. The humans have two options: do as they're told, and hand over the food; or disobey, and risk painful death from goat attack. Oreamnos americanus weighs more than a human male, stands more than a metre tall, is adept on the rocky environment, and is well-adapted to butting foes, in competition over resources - tired human hikers don't stand a chance of winning.

Coelacanths. I love them. But not to excess, of course. According to this research, they have an obsolete lung, hidden in their abdomen. Being fish, they breathe using gills; but they might have used the lung, the way some modern fish do, to cope with environments where little oxygen is dissolved in water, or to gain extra oxygen from pulmonary respiration (as breathing with lungs is called) at the surface. It's thought that the lung hasn't been used since the Mesozoic Era, 225-65 million years ago, when coelacanths adapted to living in deep marine environments where oxygen abundance is more consistent.

So it's possible to get a good picture of a seal riding a whale, but it's not possible to get a mildly OK picture of a bigfoot?? :-P

Apophenia - you've got to love it. But this tomato really does look like a duck! From this one side, at least :-D

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

'The Chaser's Media Circus - Season 2 Episode 2'

'LED Integrated Candle Dissasembly'

'Underwater Caesium - Periodic Table of Videos'

'Why It's Impossible to Tune a Piano'

'The Wonders of Pluto'

'Pluto's majestic mountains, frozen plains and foggy hazes'

'Proba-2 captures partial solar eclipse'

'Hubble sees a galactic sunflower'

'Cannabis and Psychosis'

'Do You Live In London?'

'Creationist illegally selling false hope cancer drug'

'Nerd³'s Hell... Frozen Free Fall: Snowball Fight'

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

Word Of The Week: delingpole -- a chipped molar, achieved by grinding your teeth in desolate fury (vulgar; slang; regarded as extremely rude - not to be spoken in public, or in private, whether out loud or not)

Etymology Of The Week: gamut -- meaning 'everything' as in the expression 'the whole gamut' comes via the meaning 'the whole musical scale' as it comes from the latin 'gamma' and 'ut' concatenated; gamma being the first (highest) note of Guido d'Arezzo's musical scale and ut being the last (lowest pitched) note of the scale.

Fact Of The Week: In 1980, Detroit gave the 'keys to the freedom of...' to Saddamm Hussein. At the time, he was perceived as 'a friend', for giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to a church! So much for national security

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

'Mark Thomas Comedy Product Series 3 Episode 1 Arms Fair'

'Mark Thomas Secret Map Of Britain - Full documentary'

'Mark Thomas On Coca Cola'

'RHLSTP Episode 23 - Mark Thomas'

'Queen + Led Zeppelin - Roger Taylor John Paul Jones & Foo Fighters Under Pressure News 2015'

‘Memo for George III’

‘Engery and Chimineas’

'Cómo usar Tinder (Using Tinder)'
Apparently, this is how Tinder works. Personally, i find the idea of 'swiping' people, whether to the left or the right, quite distasteful :-P

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