Thursday, 31 December 2015

Entertainment stuff from the week-and-a-bit 21-31/12/15 (END OF 2015)

Hi Dozenalians,

This will be the last post of the arbitrary temporal period known to many as '2015'. But to some, it's known quite differently, including to the Dozenals...

'2016 - The start of a new (dozenal) century'

So, it's still technically Christmas Time. The time of giving. Of giving gifts to other people; and of belts giving way under the increasing strain.

It's no coincidence therefore, that charities step up their bids for advertising slots, on TV, at this time of year. And step up their do-you-know-about-this campaigns.

But you know when a charity turns out to not be so charitable? Well, like many, i've been bitten by that too.

When i signed a petition on, a while ago, the site asked whether i'd like to receive further mail from them. I said, quite assuredly: "no"

Nine months later, and they've just sent me their 100th e-mail!

{Sumofus is not the only 'positive' organisation that seems to need 'consent training'}

The trouble is, is one of those looney-left faux-charities that gets its ideas of right and wrong from Alan Jones and The Health Deranger, on Natural News.

This is the 100th petition sent to me, and it's a corker:

'What is Monsanto's carcinogenic herbicide doing in tampons?'

Well, having been subscribed to Myles Power for... well it seems like forever... i happen to know that Monsanto is a business like any other, worthy of demonisation as much as any other.

I also happen to know that the "carcinogenic herbicide" to which they refer - Roundup - is not anywhere near as harmful as they make out.

In fact, the only evidence presented by the anti-GMO mob seems to suggest that Roundup makes people (rats, at least) live longer than those without it in their diet.

The fraudulent (and now retracted) Seralini paper, that purported to show increased fatality from cancer, due to GMO/Roundup consumption, actually showed rats fed with water to die younger than those fed on Roundup!#

Maybe Holly Lewis of has finally found the explanation for female humans living years longer than male ones -- the matriarchy is making them live longer, by dousing their 'feminine' products in it :-D

'Bad science in the paper 'Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant GM maize''

The only real utility for this petition, is to induce Daily Fail-like fearful paranoia.

Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to to suffering. Suffering leads to the Dark Side :-P

What it actually leads to is hysterics, and increased manipulability. Just take a look at the quotes, by petition signatories. They're quite risible:

"Monsanto is evil and causing terrible harm to our planet with untested and unproven GMOs and chemicals - with our government regulators in their revolving door pay" - Dan D.

Yes, i agree. Regulators should never get paid in revolving doors. Money works much better as a medium of exchange.

But the "Monsanto is evil", "unproven GMOs" and chemophobic crap is just deranged.

But not as deranged as the top quoted "Reason" for signing:

"I have 3 daughters - this is unacceptable for them and all women" - Julie M.

Well, if you can't manage to look after that many daughters, that's your fault, isn't it Julie. But i don't see what all other women have got to do with it!?

Whether you consider Julie M's having three daughters to be acceptable or not, this petition is frankly lunatic. I don't see how any petition site can be considered worth its bytes when it deliberately hosts this crap.

Oh, btw, when i said they get their ideas of right and wrong from Natural News, i wasn't being facetious. The image they feature atop the petition page is tagged ""!

#And don't go drinking Roundup to live longer - the whole study was balderdollocks, so that conclusion isn't valid either. Just sayin'. I don't want people thinking that was medical advice :-P

Some roundup things of 2015:

{Did you see what i did there? Roundup/roundup :o) }

'The Top 5 Science Discoveries of 2015 - A Week in Science'

'The Nerd³ Awards! Poop Games of 2015'

'The Nerd³ Awards! Steaming Poop Games of 2015'

'The Nerd³ Awards! Totally Not Poop Games of 2015'

'2015 In 10 Fake Photos'

'Updated: Top 10 Worst Anti-Science Web Sites'

'Science of Christmas | Shedload of Science'

'Did the 1914 Christmas Truce Really Happen?'

In other news:

So, as mentioned in last week's pre-XMAS article, parthenogenesis does not happen in mammals; but in some reptiles it does happen. And in some species, females can give birth to males, because their sex-determination involves temperature. In other words, you can change the proportions of males to females, by changing the temperature of the nest. But how does this work, in practice? Well, biologists from Japan and the USA have found that, in their research of American alligators, a thermosensitive protein called TRPV4 is present within the developing alligator gonad inside the egg. Alligator TRPV4 is responsive to warm temperatures near mid-30s, and can activate cell signaling by inducing calcium ion influx. Inhibition of the TPRV4 protein function in the developing egg, results in partial feminisation of males, pointing at one molecular sex-determination pathway in the alligator.

Like reptiles, slipper limpets are also not mammals, but they too have a process of sexual dimorphism that differs from mammals'. Being sea snails, they're molluscs, but what makes them interesting in this context, is that the species exhibits sequential hermaphroditism - they're born male, and become female as they age. What this research has shown, is that physical contact influences that rate of change - bigger limpets progress to femaleness faster when put in physical contact with smaller limpets, and the smaller limpets' progression is slowed by contact with bigger limpets. The cause for the development of this system, is their physical nature. Young, and therefore small, males might have huge penises, but they have relatively little room for eggs, which would take up much more space. So when young and small, the limpets produce their itsy-bitsy sperm, and when older and bigger, the penis shrinks away and sperm production shifts to the production of eggs, which can be more easily accommodated in their larger bodies. A beautful system :-D

Hooray, success in upland India! Or is it? This press release from Bangor University presents a 'new technique' of developing "food security" in the uplands of East and West India, but really it's only an advert for 'Client Oriented Breeding' which is basically just "the farmers tell us what they want, and then we do it". This is exactly the problem with historical genetic modification, by artificial selection - the same process used in this circumstance. The farmers brag about how wealthy they've become, but Bangor University's press release tells us nothing about the health of their customers. Good GM means developing foods that help; bad GM means making foods that harm - i count extracting wealth from poor regions as a harm. While the horizontal gene transfer of genetic engineering is being used to make more nutritious foods that make people healthier and happier, these people are using the old dinosaur of genetic modification - vertical gene transfer manipulation - to make farmers richer, without any regard for the people's health. So sorry, i'm not putting this down as a success story.

Lace bugs. There are more than 2000 known species of them, they've been found in amber deposits dating back millions of years, they look beautiful under a scope, and they wield a stinging bite. The most recent finds, in the Eocene Green River Formation of central USA, show four lace bugs, wielding golf-club shaped antennae. Although members of a different taxonomical family, it's that these clubs would have been used akin to modern leaf-footed bugs - playing a role in sexual selection, and male-male competition.

A crematorium has become the first in Britain to secure a licence to sell booze. They self-advertise, with the claim that they want "a simple, dignified event" Yeah, right! Every funeral i've been to has been lined with people overflowing with sorrows. What's the chance that they're going to try to drown them in a 'dignified' way? The grieving are already systematically exploited by superstitionists - the last thing they need is the alcohol industry gutting them as well. Two years ago, we heard about the first Motorway Service Station pub. Governments really are lax at resisting alcohol industry lobbying, it seems!

For the first time, the Indonesian government has actually sought ramifications against more than twenty companies that have started forest fires there, to clear rainforest land for palm oil, pulp and paper plantations. The smoke has caused more than half a million acute respiratory infections in Indonesia alone (with neighbouring countries also affected) and $16 billion of damage has been done, medically and to nearby farmland. Three companies have had their licences revoked, fourteen have had their accounts frozen, 23 sanctioned in all, with 33 more under current investigation. 276 companies have been on the list for investigation since September, when the fires were started.

The Australian government, in contrast, just encouraged an environmental disaster, by approving the dredging of 1.1 million cubic metres of soil, to build a port for the coal industry. Both the construction process and the industry itself (not least the CO2eq emissions) are expected to have seriously deleterious effects on the Great Barrier Reef, which is highly sensitive to environmental change, and soil pollution. The coal industry has a lot of influence in Australia, where evidence has been presented that shows Australia as being perfectly capable of surviving without any coal industry at all. Pollies there are just too weak-kneed to say no to polluters, it seems.

China's Chang'e-3 mission touched down on the Moon in 2013, in an area never-before studied, either by the American Apollo or Russian Luna missions. This mission has been the first for 40 years, to be able to send back data about regolith (rock) away from the surface of the Moon. What this data has done, is to demonstrate more of the heterogeneity of the lunar crust and mantle - it's a lot more heterogeneous than Earth's. Change'e-3's Yutu (Jade Rabbit) rover has helped explain mysteries about the formation of the 'seas' on the surface of the Moon, that are formed by cooling magma upwellings after asteroid impacts. Further roving will provide even more insight into how the Moon came to be.

Want to see what Pluto would look like through a stained glass window, looking only in infrared? Then watch the video embedded in this article. The red-blue section shows what Pluto looked like to LEISA - New Horizons' infrared imaging spectrometer - on the 14th of July, in infrared light, of wavelengths from 2.5 to 1.25 microns. The brown band on the right shows a finer measurement of the spectrum from 2.1 to 2.25 microns. The result is a constantly changing image, as you see each vertical band of Pluto in a different wavelength of light, translated into an optical rainbow (because of course, humans can't see infrared). Wonderful :-)

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

'If God Exists'

'.44 Magnum vs iphone....'

'ScienceCasts: Return of the Blue Marble'

'Stress in Space - Judging an Astronaut's Mental State'

'Project Apollo: Shooting for the Moon'

'Hypergolic Fuels – The Chemistry of a Rocket Launch'
6-year-old hypergolics on Periodic Videos:

'Why December Has The Longest Days'

'Little Swimmers - Sixty Symbols'

'Freaky Dot Patterns - Numberphile'

'inFact: Vinyl vs Digital'

'Vaccines: Too Many Too Soon?'

'Tui One'
'Tui Tui'

'Lowdown on Ceres: Images from Dawn's closest orbit'

'RIP William 'Bill' Fink < END OF LINE >'

'Animalia Chorus! (A Capella Science)'

Simply fantastic. But i didn't spot Ornithodira. I feel spurned :-D

'Rollin' Christmas 360° -The Nativity Scene-'

'Can the Worlds Best Total War Player Save CHRISTMAS?!'

'Total War Christmas Special - Santa Races!'

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

Word Of The Week: immaculate -- clean, tidy, unblemished, free from fault or flaw, homogeneous; in the context of biology, a uniform colour, without spots or other markings

Numerical Etymology Of The Week: dozen -- meaning 'twelve' from Old French 'doze' (modern french 'douze' means 'twelve'); in the expression 'baker's dozen' the number alluded to is thirteen instead, due to a statute of the time of Henry III of England, intended to prevent customers being sold short. As weight was the important thing, bakers would often throw a thirteenth (or even fourteenth) loaf in with the others, to make sure they wouldn't get penalised.

Religious Etymology Of The Week: XMAS/Xmas -- derived by contractions of 'Christmas' as 'Christ' begins with an 'X' in Greek; sometimes pronounced the same as 'Christmas' other times pronounced as in 'ekks-mas'. The paranoid conspiracy theorising element in the Christian memome originated the idea that the term 'Xmas' were a secular attempt to eliminate Christianity from the not-really-Christian annual festival, but this is not true - the term has been used since the 16th century, through the aforementioned cause.

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

'Like A Furious Scotch Egg...'

'Red Dwarf Spellchucker'

'Spiked Drink'

^ That last one should put you in a zoological frame of mind, to prepare you for this sketch... :-P

'The detectives rhyming slang'

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