Sunday, 13 September 2015

Entertainment stuff from the week 7-13/9/15

Hi Flaming Bourbon Tornado drinkers,

The Media Circus is back! (episode link, below)

By which i mean the show; because, of course, the media circus is always with us.

It malingers, like a bad smell, or an overly keen vicar who 'wouldn't mind' another cup of tea, for the fourteenth time.

Speaking of nauseating bores, that some people are inexplicably fond of...

Ladies and Gentlemen, i give you the Anita Sarkeesian of masculist politics.

'Sarah Palin Wants to Be Energy Secretary under Trump'

Jesus Cussed, i hope she doesn't get her way either!

Head-to-head comparison [link 1] and [link 2]


What causes extra virgin olive oil to glow red?

This video shows the effect in high quality:

'Green laser turns red in extra virgin olive oil HD 1080'

And this video claims to demonstrate the cause:

'Chemistry - Extra Virgin Olive Oil - test'

But is it right? It's certainly very plausible, but the mechanism could be a different one.

{I promise: i'm definitely writing this out in real time :-P }

'What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?'

Olive oil is basically any mixture of chemicals, that can be extracted from olives, and only olives - the fruit of the olive tree - Olea europaea. It is, essentially, a fruit juice.

The olive oil industry considers olive oil to be 'extra virgin' when it has had very little done to it, in the way of purification, since extraction from the olives.

This means that 'extra virgin' olive oil has a noteable taste, which should be noted for cooking purposes - don't use it to cook anything where the tastes will clash, or the EVOO (extra virgin) will dominate the flavours!

So although the industry has a taste qualifier, which requires the rejection of batches, due to the presence of some chemicals, the general idea is that 'ordinary' olive oil and 'extra virgin' olive oil differ by quantity of impurity contained within them.

This can be seen by eye, as EVOO tends to be darker, and more viscous, than does OOO (ordinary olive oil).

But which extra ingredients make the difference between red light and no-red light?

'Olive Oil Constituents'

Main Fatty Acids:
Oleic acid                    55 to 83%
Linoleic acid               3.5 to 21%
Palmitic acid               7.5 to 20%
Stearic acid                 0.5 to 5%
alpha-Linolenic acid     0 to 1.5%

The ingredients that are thought to make the difference between 'ordinary' and 'extra virgin' are these, in decreasing order of quantity:

"phenolics such as esters of tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol, including oleocanthal and oleuropein, having acidic properties that give extra-virgin unprocessed olive oil its bitter and pungent taste."
"at least 30 phenolic compounds, among which is elenolic acid, a marker for maturation of olives.[citation needed]"
"Oleuropein, together with other closely related compounds such as 10-hydroxyoleuropein, ligstroside and 10-hydroxyligstroside, are tyrosol esters of elenolic acid."
"Other phenolic constituents include flavonoids, lignans and pinoresinol."

The olive oil test video, linked above, claims chlorophyll is what causes the red glow. But where is it on the list of ingredients? Plus, chlorophyll is a poor absorber of green light - hence its green colour - so how would it be so energised by the green LASER?

As a heuristic, it doesn't seem quite right, that fruit like olive, which plays no role in photosynthesis in the plant, should have any chlorophyll in it, at all! But if you were trying to fake the deeper colour of EVOO, it would be intuitive to adulterate your OOO with chlorophyll. This has been done many times before. That doesn't mean chlorophyll is the chemical in the mechanism observed, however.

According to this site, one Apostolos Kirisakis found olive oil to contain 1 to 10 parts per million chlorophyll. Not very much! But easily accountable by leaves dropping into the crusher, along with the olives. So how much of olive oil's greenness can therefore be put down to the chlorophyll impurity within it?

Well, before answering these questions, i'm going to answer the question of: "How does the red light form, at all?"

To answer this question, we have to jump into the world of Quantum Physics! But don't worry, it's not that difficult.

The basic theme of QP is quantisation (hence the name) which means packets of energy, and amounts of stuff, are not like they are in Classical Physics - they have set sizes.

Your tallness, for example, can be anywhere on a continuous scale of height; but the size of a fundamental particle can not. You can use a dimmer switch to find any interval of brightness, in the lights in your house, but you can't do the same with individual photons.

MINDBLOWER: When you look at things, you're not really 'seeing' the thing you're looking at - you're 'seeing' the photons that its surface emits.

An object that looks opaque in the waveband of electromagnetic radiation (light) that our eyes can pick up, might look transparent in another band of light.

You might have been taught, in primary school, that we can see things, because light from the Sun reflects off things, and the light goes into our eyes. But if this were really what happened, then all we'd see is colourless whiteout.

What we're really seeing, is the light that's been emitted by electrons in the surfaces of those things, after having been excited (energised) by the photons from the Sun, lamp, candle, torch, or whatever you're using.

When the green LASER shines into the olive oil, we see a different colour, because the olive oil is absorbing the green photons, and then emitting new ones, at red wavelengths.

If you click the "the world of Quantum Physics!" hyperlink above, you can see how this works.

Basically, what this means, is that you can shine a wide range of wavelengths at olive oil, and get the same effect.

{Certain wavelengths will work much better than others, however, for reasons that are extra-complicating}

This research used ultra-violet light, in which the photons have even more energy than green LASER light, and they found the same red emission.

And this science demo suggests using a violet LASER, and shows a picture of redness, again.

In fact, the only wavelengths that would not produce a red glow, would be those that do not interact with the suspect ingredient in olive oil, at all. Either because they're too low-energy (out the red end of the spectrum) or too high energy (out the blue end of the spectrum) which is more likely to destroy the chemicals that olive oil is made of, than to make it glow!

This article, here, has a graph comparing the fluorescence spectra (the distribution of colours that are given out) of different vegetable oils, and it clearly shows a peak in the red band, for olive oil, distinguishing it from more-pure vegetable oils, like sunflower oil.

And where is that peak, exactly? Well, it's 682 nanometres in wavelength. That's the emission line for... chlorophyll.

So as unlikely as it might seem, that the small amounts of chlorophyll in olive oil (so small that it doesn't get mentioned as an ingredient) are responsible for its green colour, the evidence does seem to show it to be the culprit.

The research using UV light, linked above, actually found all tested vegetable oils to produce peaks at 430-450 nm (blue, oddly enough); though only olive oil fluoresced at 440 and 455 nm (pale blue, but weakly), 525 nm (the green-yellow colour of olive oil), and 681 nm (red - the chlorophyll band).

The researchers, for that case, put the green colour partly down to Vitamin E, which is again, not abundant enough to get on the list of major or minor ingredients.

The way chlorophyll makes things look green, as a reminder, is by absorbing every (visible to us) colour that's not green. That means greeness is all that's left.

But how does only 1 to 10 parts per million chlorophyll produce the obvious yellow-green colouring of olive oil, as an inverse absorption spectrum?

Well, as it happens, in this case, a few parts per million is enough. But i can make these feel more intuitive, thusly:

If the chemicals of a green dye were in a 1 in a 1,000,000 mixture of water, then there would be 1 'green' to every 1,000,000 H2O molecules.

Avogadro's constant equates 1 mol of water (weighing 16g) to 6*10^23 molecules; therefore there are 6*10^17 'green's in 16g of water.

The density of this solution will be ~1g/cm^-3 so let's imagine a cube of greeny water, 2.5 x 2.5 x 2.5cm. This cube has 6*10^17 'green's in it.

Therefore, assuming a weirdly convenient and homogeneous distribution, and looking in from the side, we would be looking at 114 billion particles of 'green' per square centimetre.

For not very much, that's quite a lot!

There are 450 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere, and yet there are still people who insist that that means it can't be responsible for climatic change by global warming... even though it's enough to support all of the life on Earth, through photosynthesis.

Go figure :-D

It's very difficult to intuitively judge whether numbers like these are big enough to have a substantial effect, in the real world, so there's really no substitute for experiment.


Chlorophyll is the culprit for the red emission, and because EVOO usually contains more of this, through biological production contamination, it shows a stronger emission of red light, through the LASER beam's path.

The higher energy the LASER light, and the more of it, the more illumination will be seen, but a range of wavelengths can be used to produce the same effect.


I think the factor that really bends people's minds, with the whole 'green LASER shows up red' thing, is that the olive oil and the LASER are deliberately selected to be the same colour.

If you were using a purple LASER, then you really wouldn't be as surprised, that the emission were a different colour to the oil. The confusion comes in, through the assumption that what's happening is that the oil is reflecting the LASER, and therefore we should be seeing the original colour.


The results of the Carbuncle Cup, awarded to "the ugliest building in the United Kingdom completed in the last 12 months" for 2014/15 have been released. And the winner is: 20 Fenchurch Street i.e. the Walkie-Talkie Building. Due to the commission to make the most of the top floors (where floor space is most expensive) it bloats out, like an over-pumped bouncy castle. The curved sides lens light down to the ground, cooking and melting passing objects, and the shape channels air, creating a wind tunnel effect. Good job, guys. Award well deserved :-D

In other news:

Homo naledi has become yet another species to fill in the gaps in the human evolutionary family tree. {Nudge to evolution deniers: they're all transitional fossils} An early relative, but still obviously hominid, it stood ~1.4m tall, had shoulders more like arboreal apes', had surprisingly strong thumbs, and had tiny heads, with room for brains about the size of an orange. 15 specimens of the species were found in a cave in South Africa, amongst 1500 other archaeological specimens. To hear an interview with the discoverers, follow the link. The skeletons were found whole, and without evidence of injury, which suggests that either they went into the cave of their own accord (at different times) or were taken in, maybe as a funerary ritual. The latter is unlikely, however, as such small-brained animals are not thought to be able to develop complex cultures exhibiting funerary rituals. Perhaps it was a place of deposition and nothing more? Years of research analysis to follow...

Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka has returned to Earth, in conclusion of a record-breaking two-and-half years in outer space, up at the ISS. He's spent 879 days in outer space, so far, in five separate stints, and beating fellow Russian Sergei Krikalev's record for total time up there, at 803 days, on the 28th of June. Padalka went to the ISS on four of those five stints, and also holds the record for the most number of times to command the ISS - also four times.

It's not just humans and birds, that fancy others who can sing. Previous research has found that male mice sing to female mice, in a register far above any pitch human ears can hear, but it turns out that females sing back. Additionally, the females play a kind of hard-to-get race, where they walk away, then slow down for the male to catch up while he sings another verse, then walk away again, until they're satisfied. So murine courtship turns out to be more like High School Musical than we'd previously imagined... I've gone off them, now ;-)

Well, this is interesting. It almost seems to work like magic. In fact, i was quite cynical about it! This team of image processing researchers have developed a program that automatically removes 'distracting' elements from photographs. Of course, if you follow the link, the examples you see are the best they've ever done - they look so good, it's easy to imagine that they just took two pictures and removed the signs! But if you then have a look at the pdf file, linked at the bottom of the article, you'll see that the distraction-removing software is quite genuine. Although not entirely automatic, as described. The program carves the image up into areas that it thinks are less or more consistent with the rest of the picture, and then the researcher picks a shape to remove. When it does, it has to replace that segment with colour from the surrounding picture, so certain edits just don't work. One of their better pictures edits a woman out, from behind a ballistrade - but only her head! It leaves her torso and legs in. Although this can only be seen by zooming in. And another tries to remove an object in the corner, by replacing it with a copy of someone's face. Real things are imperfect, and so these limitations reassure me that the program is real, and also that the rules of reality remain. You can't edit a photo without leaving a trace :-D

Is it true that micro-RNAs can be used to change genetic expression, through ingestion? Well, probably not. Evidence presented has been ambiguous, at best, and certainly doesn't score high on the plausibl-o-meter. DNA and RNA are made of proteins, which get digested in the gut, so they're unlikely to achieve anything, when ingested in plain form. Certain bacteria can only survive the journey through our stomach and small intestine, through evolved mucus-production abilities. Pills simply don't do the same. Similarly, a wide range of supplements, marketed by the 'S' in 'I-SCAM industry' are sold on the basis of the claim that "you need X in you, and this is X, so eat it" even though you need your body to make it not digest it. To have firm, pert skin, for example, you need collagen, which holds everything together, but you can't fight wrinkles away, by eating collagen! Collagen is also a protein, which also gets digested. It isn't enough to have something inside you - it also has to be in the right place.

Kuwait is partway through its $billion drive to shift its economy toward renewables-based energy. The most recent move has been another $385 million spent on solar power. And in contrast, Iran has recently negotiated, with the UN, permission to develop nuclear capabilities. Why? Iran has 92 times the surface area of Kuwait, and its own reserves of water, to fund any industry it develops - it doesn't need nuclear specifically, and neither does the UN need Iran to have it. It seems particularly suspect, that Iran should want nuclear power, and not the burgeoning solar power industry, when relatively-nearby India can supply large quantities of cheap panels. And why doesn't the UN want to push renewables? Has it merely been petulance on Iran's part? Nuclear or nothing? And is it coincidence that Iran recently announced the discovery of a large reserve of uranium? In my opinion, the UN's made a big mistake. I'm sure there aren't many who would be surprised, if there were people in Iran who turned out to want nuclear weapons, all along. Long-time readers of this blog will know that i'm a pro-nuclear kind of tapejara, but i think Iran should be going solar, like Kuwait. Though i'm not sure how happy Persianists would be, to accept peer pressure from Arabs! This was a big opportunity to grow the renewables industry, depollute the global economy, and develop a peacable Iran at the same time. The UK has been unfriendly to solar too, however.

When male stickleback fish are nest-building, and compelled to do so by androgenic hormones, they can't urinate, because their single, enlarged kidney has been repurposed to the production of a sticky material called spiggin, which is used to hold their nests together. Without the ability to release urine from the body, they'd simply inflate, and pop, so instead bodily fluid is released through their intestines. Sticklebacks have a a large number, and a wide variety of, aquaporins, which are channels in the cells of the intestine, through which water and salt can be transported. They are much less capable than a kidney, which filters waste fluid from the blood, but this contingency plan seems to work. Temporarily, at least.

THE USA's Circuit Court of Appeals has revoked the registration of a neonicotinoid called sulfoxaflor, saying the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) had not sufficiently studied the pesticide before permitting its use. The EPA is currently reinvestigating it. A few weeks ago, biologist Dave Goulson wrote in New Scientist, about how the EU's banning of neonicotinoids in 2013 has been further validated by recent evidence. In stark contrast, Conservative Party affiliated Environment Secretary Liz Truss, decided she wanted to side with the NFU (National Farmers Union) and pesticide industry, in voting against the ban. They were 'worried' that caring for bees might harm yields, but this claim has since been proved to be vacuous. You can always trust a Tory to do what's wrong!

Hoverboards are back! You might remember one or both of the media-magic hoverboard scams, last year, from HUVr and Hendo chronologically. You might also remember Thunderf00t taking great pleasure in demonstrating quite how pseudoscientific the claims being made, happened to be. Unfortunately, or fortunately, this one's not quite so risible. Lexus has brought out a hoverboard, but less fraudulently marketed - it's a superconducting board, that can only work over a non-ferromagnetic surface, and they seem to be honest about this. So if you've got some liquid nitrogen hanging around, and huge amounts of dosh for building yourself a track, then maybe this could be for you. Fallacious references to Back to the Future don't seem to be beneath them, however. But i can assure you that this one is at least able to work as depicted.

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

'The Chaser's Media Circus - Season 2 Episode 1'

'ScienceCasts: NASA Spacecraft takes Space GPS to New Heights'

'Shooting Self in face... high speed science experiment!'

'What IF Anita Sarkeesian was right about video games?'

'Petrified Sand Dunes on Mars'

'New Pluto images from NASA's New Horizons'

'Image: The Magellanic Clouds and an interstellar filament'

For some reason, it all stops here, this week. I expect we'll be back to normal (if that's a word that can apply to this blog) next week. TTFN.

Actually, you can have 'murine' as the Word Of The Week (see above) :-P

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