Monday, 25 January 2016

Entertainment stuff from the week 18-24/1/16

Hi nonaplanetist primes,

Does the Solar System have nine planets, after all?

The pop 'science' story of the week has to be the claimed discovery of a ninth planet, orbiting Sol (the Sun) way out beyond Neptune.

Well, in reality, this is only a hypothesised planet - its claimed existence is supported only by computational modelling of the Solar System, intended to account for inconsistencies in the orbits of KBOs - Kuiper Belt Objects, orbiting the Sun far out, beyond Neptune.

Other computational models of the development of the Solar System have long been extrapolated to postdict the presence of a now-long-gone massive planet, in order to explain the observed distribution of planets and dwarf planets in this stellar system.

Without one, or some other mechanism, models consistently render our stellar system as infeasible. Either a ninth planet had to go, or the inner planets did.

That hypothesis of a ninth planet explains how Earth & Co are distributed the way they are, but it is a different hypothetical ninth to this hypothetical ninth planet.

While the planet-arranging hypothesis means a planet slingshotted off into interstellar space, by the kinetic energy imparted to it, this claimed ninth planet is very much predicted to be orbiting Sol, with a period of 10-20,000 years, and at a distance of ~20 times further out than Neptune.

It should be stressed that this supposed ninth planet has never been seen, and so the claim that a ninth planet has been 'observed' or 'discovered' is quite untrue.

If it were found to exist, however, it would tell us a lot more about the Solar System's orbits, but not necessarily its origins.

'SFN #150: Ninth Planet?; Brightest Galaxy Found Ripping Itself Apart; Brightest Eruption Ever Seen'

Rather unsurprisingly, the misreporting of the 'discovery' of a ninth planet, on the edges of the Solar System, has been used as a plot construct in conspiracy theorists' wet dreams, already.

Maybe it's even more unsurprising, when the research paper is titled 'EVIDENCE FOR A DISTANT GIANT PLANET IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM' but it's still a figment of their imagination, that it might be crashing to Earth in 2016!

The picklebrain who came up with the Nibiru nonsense - Zecharia Sitchin - now thinks that this ice giant is the planet he 'discovered' a long time ago.

Well, let's first point out that neither groups have discovered anything - but modelling the Solar System and finding a hole, is a lot closer than reading some Sumerian texts and concluding that there's a ninth planet out there.

Like they would have known.

Oh, sorry, did i say "ninth"? I meant to say "twelfth". Sitchin also states that his claimed 'discovery' has a 3600-year orbit, which is far too small, by about 10,000 years.

Oh yeah, and then there's the fact that the word 'Nibiru' in Sumerian, is their word for 'Jupiter' so um... yeah. The existence of Jupiter is not a mystery - it's not even a hypothetical planet in a model - it's evidenced directly.

Mimicry. We all do it. An inate propensity for it is exhibited by classes of vertebrate and invertebrate alike - mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, etc - and and it's in the news again.

'Study reveals how birds learn through imitation'

Birds and mammals are both noted for their propensity for learning to behave similarly to others, by being around their sights and sounds - they unconsciously copy behavioural patterns.

This is how peer pressure works - when you see someone else behaving in a particular way, your mimicry instinct encourages you to do the same as them... and they the same as you. Some people feel this stronger than others, and some are better than others at resisting it, but it's always there.

{Aside the 'mirror neurons' thing is a specifically delegated kind of neuron that has not been shown to exist in humans. So don't band on about mirror neurons and mimicry, in conversation ;-) }

This is also how stop-smoking and lose-weight groups work, as well - the beneficial application of peer pressure. The term is usually only used in negative circumstances.

So through this mechanism, both humans and monkeys conform to social norms. Even to the extent that physical defects can result in strained replications of an individual's limp, in an attempt to 'fit in'.

Some people call this 'fashion' or 'culture' but this is really just arbitrary mimicry of behavioural fluctuations.

It should be no surprise to hear, then, that humans' behavioural habits are slowly erased and rewritten, under exposure to different behavoural patterns.

'Migrant values adapt over just one generation'

"When in Rome, do as the Romans do" - an idiom modified from a 4th century source

The point of adaptation, here, is not necessarily reasonable, or even utilitarian - there might not even be a point at all.

People who get used to eating sitting down, or standing up, or eating different things, or at different times of day, have adapted to the culture they find themselves in, by mimicking it.

The problem of cultural difference is a transitory one - as two populations spend time near each other, they will share memes, as part of this biological tendency toward mimicry, and so their differences will wane over time.

When cultures adopt staunchly held arbitrary traits, such as widespread superstitious beliefs in gods, races, etc, then they are rendered less willing to partake in the exchange of 'values'.

The people involved start to resent their own drives to mimic others, and are divided into: those who wish to secure themselves away from the 'others'; those who wish to change the 'others' so that they aren't there to be mimicked; and those who weren't that enthusiastic about the arbitrary memes in the first place, and so don't see what the problem is.

Mimicking diets, and clothing styles, and things like that, happens in a relatively stress free way, because people are generally open to 'tasting the other dishes' but when it's contra-reasonable memetics that's on the table, coercion is bound to follow, and obliging people to eat tends to turn people's stomachs over!

I'm not bothered too much by migration. I see it as inevitable. It has been inevitable, it is inevitable, and it will continue to be inevitable, as the increasingly changing climate obliges people to leave their familiar homes, and go to live somewhere else.

I live where i do because of migration, and so does everyone else. And as we meet new cultural traits, we'll pick up new and arbitrary behaviours. Where those behaviours are destructive, they must be met as any other - their being exhibited by migrants makes not one jot of difference.

'How To Drink Your Own Urine – 2015 CHRISTMAS LECTURES'

Don't. And if you're found drinking it, you might need to protect your ass with a strategic covering device...

'Anita Sarkeesian and the BUTTS!'


The 21st of January marks the 120th anniversary of French scientist Henri Becquerel's accidental discovery of radiation, for which he received a Nobel prize

In other news:

Musician Adele's song 'Hello' has reached 1 billion views on YouTube, beating Psy's record for time taken to reach that number of views - 87 days instead of 158.

Google has promised to pay £130 million of tax, in lieu of the backlog that it really owes to the UK - more than £200m. Like with Apple Italia, mentioned a few weeks ago, this figure is way below the total sum, but is presumably intended to put R&C off further investigation. The company doesn't want to pay, and the Revenue doesn't want to work; so the shortfall is simply dismissed. Unitary Tax, anyone?

Google might be putting plenty of effort into tax evasion, but it seems to be putting even more into advert evasion. There seems to be an endless pit of serpents, willing to writhe their way up the corporation's legs. Inevitable, some ads will have been incorrectly dismissed, but according to this statement, last year, Google sidelined 780 million ads, on various grounds. More than 10,000 websites and 18,000 accounts were suspended for hawking counterfeit goods, 7000 phishing websites were taken down, 12.5 million quack and off-label ads were removed, and 17 million fake system warning ads were rejected. They might have more than 1000 people working on it, but that's still 780,000 ads per person.

So some students in the Netherlands have 'invented' a solution to urban air pollution, that can replace gas masks. Or have they? What they've done, is they've put a plant in a backpack, and hosed it up so that the air the user breathes is filtered through the roots, supposedly removing microparticles. This isn't a smog-solver - this is a sketch by The Chaser, back in 2007! It's not going to work better than a gas mask though, is it. And what if you want to carry a backpack, while you're carrying the plantpack? Risible.

So Buckingham Palace is now available for an internet tour, thanks to Google Expeditions. But it is still not consistently open to the public, despite being funded by public money, with other 'royal' palaces alike. The monarchistic squatting in all of these palaces (they're not necessarily even in them) is estimated to be worth ~£2 billion per year, by comparison to France's equivalents - a huge amount of money that UK residents miss out on, for the sake of having one of those spongers depicted on the money. If the civil list were scrapped, and publicly funded properties transferred to English Heritage and the National Trust, people could actually visit all of them, in all of their splendour, rather than having to make do with videos on their RoyoulTube channel.

Researchers of The University of Western Australia's Centre for Integrative Bee Research (CIBER) have found that male honey bee semen contains proteins that cause the Nosema apis fungus' spores to germinate prematurely, causing them to die, because they can't survive outside of their host's cells. In this way, males protect females from harm... thereby infantilising them, through their toxic masculinity. Fuck the Apiatriarchy! #malekindnessisevil <s> Sorry, i came over all sexist :-P

Don't throw dogs for sticks for dogs, say veterinarians. Throw dogs for sticks instead. No, don't - just throw a ball or something. Apparently, injuries when chomping on, or catching sticks, cause serious injury, that's sometimes life-threatening, with a mensery frequency (monthly) so stick to unswallowable balls in their place.

Whales, it seems, do not care about sirens. At least, not the ones employed by marinologists in an attempt to deter them from hazards along their migratory route, off the Sydney coast of Australia. Both simple and complex sounds failed to deter the migrating humpback whales, but might just be that to them, all the signal seemed to be saying was "bleh, bleh, bleh, bleh, blurrrrh" which wouldn't really say anything to me, either!

Yet another study into artificial selection, finding genetic modification... of wild species. Bighorn sheep are famous for their big horns (well, duh!) but they're genuinely not as big as they used to be, due to evolutionary selection pressure, imposed upon them by human hunters. By selecting against reproductive sheep with bigger horns, they're removing the genetic traits for large horn growrth from the population, and increasing the abundance of less-horny sheep in the population. Over the last 43 years, the size of the horns on sheep at Ram Mountain has reduced by more than a fifth. By the same size-selective hunting method, fishing practices have caused fish species to whither in size, over the generations. It's the same mechanism that's employed in livestock modification, and so it's very esy to impose it accidentally.

Another thing that evolves to adapt to humans, is pathogenic disease. In this case, the influenza that's broken out in Indiana, leading to the deaths of more than 400,000 turkeys and chickens on 10 farms there. As mentioned on this blog two weeks ago, for a virus to transfer from birds to mammals, it has to evolve a method of using the ANP32A protein to replicate itself. So avian flu, including this case, doesn't pose much of a threat to humans, except through its primary victims - the birds. Human businesses are threatened, and future disease resistance through biodiversity. Environmental organisations have found hundreds of wild birds to have been affected by this outbreak of avain flu alone.

Darwin missed many species of bird, living on the Atlantic islands, when he visited there in 1826, but that was not his fault. There have been many thousands of species of rail living in the Pacific, but today there are only 13 rallids living on the Macaronesian islands of the Atlantic. The reason is thought to be extinction, caused by humans, and the other mammals that they took with them, centuries before Darwin went there, in the 15th century. This study identifies five of those extinct species, that might have caused Darwin to list rails alongside starlings, wagtails, finches and blackbirds.

This newly-discovered bird species, however, is very much alive. It lives in the Indo-Chinese border region, west of Burma and north of Bangladesh, up in the mountains. It's been called the Himalayan Forest Thrush, and properly named Zoothera salimalii in tribute to Salim Ali, who apparently contributed greatly to ornithological pursuits in India. You can see some very high-quality pictures, if you follow the link:

And from an avian dinosaur to a non-avian dinosaur; and from the decidedly small to the very very big. Was Notocolossus the biggest land animal ever? Well, that wouldn't be a justified statement, because there might have been another whose fossils humans haven't found, or were never preserved; but more than that, the size-judgements of fossilised dinosaurs are often made on the basis of very few bones. This means that there's high uncertainty in size estimates, for species like the recently announced Notocolossus. This renders specific statements like "122 feet long" untrustworthy. David Attenborough actually got himself in trouble with paelontologists recently, for daring to extrapolate the dino's weight from the circumference of its femur, with too much certainty. While there is certainly a correlation between the two, as the result of a causal relationship, there is high uncertainty in the projection from one variable to the other. So Notocolossus was certainly a colossus, but longest, or heaviest ever found? That question simply can't be answered yet. Other sauropods have had their dimensions reevaluated in the last year - Dreadnoughtus for example - so we should expect the same to be possible, here.

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

'ScienceCasts: Historic Vegetable Moment on the Space Station'

'New World's Biggest Prime Number (PRINTED FULLY ON PAPER) - Numberphile'

'How they found the World's Biggest Prime Number - Numberphile'

You can hear an interview with Curtis Cooper on Matt Parker's own channel:

'First video of patients being treated for Parkinson's symptoms'
{The three main symptoms of Parkinson's are called Parkinsonism, whether they're caused by Parkinson's itself or not, so this video doesn't necessarily show Parkinson's Disease treatment}

'Worthington Ball Boost'

'Atomic Trampoline (HD reshoot)'


Well, this is a new one on me!

'Buddhist monk upset after treading on an insect jailed for resulting 162-car tyre-slashing spree'

'NASA image: Pluto's haze in bands of blue'

'Hubble image: Dazzling diamonds'

Star Cluster R136 Bursts Out'

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

Word Of The Week: eggcorn -- a misuse/misspelling of a word, due to mishearing, that still makes partial sense, as in "they woofed down their food" which should be "wolfed" but it kinda makes sense because domesticated dogs woof and eat rapidly like wolves do; the term eggcorn itself comes from a mishearing of 'acorn' which eggs look similar to, and so pose as a partially-effective replacement

Quote Of The Week: "You don't need a parachute to skydive. You need a parachute to skydive twice" - Anon

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

'Lip Service Love'


Woman: "Love is alive, in all its glory. Love is all you need to be happy, because everything can love"
Man: "Make love?"
Woman: "Unsubbed!"

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