Monday, 14 March 2016

Entertainment stuff from the week 7-13/3/16

Hi polymorphs,

So, it's all over. The filming of Red Dwarf series XII has finished, roughly 28 years (plus a month) since Red Dwarf was first broadcast, on TV.

'DwarfCast 68 – Red Dwarf XII – Episode 6 – Set Report'

This autumn, we'll get to see the first of series XI, on the small screen. It's quite possible that we won't see a series XIII, so let's make the most of it, when it comes.

There are only so many places Craig Charles can secrete a pen, so many times Chris Barrie can do impressions of Kenneth Williams, number of set-ups for Danny John-Jules to say "fish", and number of styles in which Robert Llewellyn can dry-hump the warm-up guy, before it all starts to get a bit samey...

Oh, what the smeg, no there isn't. Here's to series XIV :-D

Speaking of 'smeg', here's a Herringian production that's approximately ten series behind...

'Richard Herring As It Occurs To Me - Kickstarter Video'

Ah, it all comes surging back. I guess i shouldn't have eaten that mint cumpkin ;-)

"Investment in science is as important for the long-term prosperity and security of the UK as investment in infrastructure projects, farming or manufacturing; and the free movement of scientists is as important for science as free trade is for market economics"

So says a letter of 150 signatories, who are all fellows of the Royal Society, one of Britain's leading scientific institutions.

'Stephen Hawking says Britain leaving EU would damage science'

The importance of research is perpetually, and heinously, underestimated by pollies. To them (Humanities graduates all) Science is a folly - a frivolity - a facetious and expendable pastime.

But it's not. Science contains knowledge - knowledge upon-which all of your decisions should be made.

Through Science, we know that drug prohibition is destructive; we know that immigration benefits the UK by £20 billion per decade; we know that absence of air pollution regulation costs thousands of lives per year; we know that rejection of the EU's alcohol price regulation has caused a tripling in liver disease, and thousands more deaths per year, as well as the closure of many pubs in local communities.

Through Science, we know much, much more than this. Unfortunately, many pollies aren't going to care, that well-informed people know they're wrong, because they don't think that that's important.

What they do think is important, is when lots of people (in their electorate) disagree with them. Especially if that disagreement is a vote-breaker.

The importance of this letter, from Stephen Hawking et al, is not to change MPs' minds, but to change the minds of people who might vote 'anti-social' this summer.

Risible pseudo-research pseudoscience of the week: a publication in the dodgily-named 'Psychology of Women Quarterly'

I've noticed an odd abundance of sexist and racist press releases on Phys Org, this week. I wonder whether there's a systematic bias behind that. But this particular pile of bovine excretion caught my mind most firmly:

'How have gender stereotypes changed in the last 30 years?'

Leaving the absurdly sexist nature of the journal aside, my first point is on the subject of the 'researchers'' study - 'gender stereotypes'.

Translating that into English - 'sex stereotypes' - we realise that they weren't actually studying people's expectations of the sexes, to compare and contrast with the real properties of those sexes. Oh no!

Instead, they just asked a small bunch of young adults what they prejudicially perceived in men and women, to compare with the prejudices of another small bunch of young adults, 30 years ago.

And their conclusions involved these notions:

- Men and women still correctly think that average men and average women are different, in degrees of competitiveness and 'kindness'

- Men and women still correctly think that average men and average women do different amounts of housework

- Men and women still correctly think that average men and average women do different jobs

- Men and women still correctly think that men and women are different, in degrees of 'delicateness' and 'butchness' (having a deep voice)

- Men and women have the same perceptions of men and women, in 2014, relating to 'psychological traits' and 'physical characteristics for males'. In other words, they think men and women make different choices, and men are tall and furry (?)

- Men and women of 2014 think that other men and women are more equally engaged in 'financial obligations', '[making] major decisions', and '[handling] financial matters' than the men and women of 1983 thought that other men and women were equal in being engaged in those same things. Are you following these sentences? :-P

- Men and women still correctly perceive that men are more likely to enjoy bodging around in cars, than women are; but are more likely to correctly think that men engage less in 'womany' things like housework and childcare

- Men are more likely to believe 'stereotypes' about men, and women are more likely to believe 'stereotypes' about women

Given all of the other points, i'm chinny-reckoning what that last one could mean. The 'researchers' don't seem to understand what the word 'stereotype' means!

'Stereotype' is not a synonym for 'prejudice'. And even if it were, the word still wouldn't apply to any of the points surveyed... in less than 200 people.

Men and women are genuinely different, in all of the above ways - they're not apparitions of sexist stereotypes. People don't believe that men do more tinkering in their toy cars, through bloody-minded confirmation bias - they genuinely do do more vehicle-tickling :-D

Cue quote: "unconscious bias may distort the way in which people perceive and thus remember gender atypical behavior"

Unconscious bias does distort the way in which people perceive each other. But your research didn't quantify the amount of difference that people perceived, and it didn't compare it to real life, to distinguish true beliefs from false ones.

Male humans genuinely have deeper voices than female ones. By about an octave, and with substantial variance across the two populations.

And at the end of the press release, all we have is some vacuous remarks about how it's important to have "increased awareness of gender stereotypes" while simultaneously bringing about "the elimination of gendered criteria on job descriptions". Your 'research' wasn't related to anything about job applications!

What was the point of this 'research'? It wasn't practice-related at all. 80s prejudice v. 10s prejudice; which will win? Computer says "neither".

If anything, the only valuable evidence that this study has brought to the world, is that studies run by all-women teams can shart research funding up the wall, just as effectively as a Straight White Male, bearing an obsession with magic dogs.

Psychology of Women Quarterly, indeed... tsk tsk.

"Psychology of Women Quarterly (PWQ) is a feminist, scientific, peer-reviewed journal..."

I smell an oxymoron, in there! But that explains the whole miserable pile :-D

The trouble is, that the above study comes under 'social science' which is in turn, often subjugated to the Humanities departments of Universities. This means that, instead of being treated like a Science i.e. evidence-based, it's treated like a Humanity i.e. narrative-based.

I've always considered it odd, that a subject with the word 'science' in the title could be treated like a Humanity. But unfortunately, like with Philosophy, there's a lot of bullshit that gets spuriously titled 'social science', with the result of making the entire field seem vacuous, at the expense of the genuine sociologists, who actually do scientific investigations in society.

For example, the meta-analyses featured in this article:

'When good intentions aren't supported by social science evidence'

"Taking into account all of the available research on corporate boards and diversity of task groups, the net effects [of artificially enhancing 'gender' and 'race' diversity] are very close to a null, or zero, average. Also, economists' studies that carefully evaluate causal relations have typically failed to find that women cause superior corporate performance. The most valid conclusion at this point is that, on average, diversity neither helps nor harms these important outcomes."

I wouldn't expect genetics to make any difference to people's performance, in a company. Why, would you? You think sex makes a difference? You think arbitrary pseudo-ancestral categories (race) makes a difference? You must be sexist or racist, or summat.

I find it utterly unsurprising that irrelevant factors are irrelevant. As i've said before, about pseudoscientifically sexist get-into-universities marketing campaigns:

"Science doesn't need women. Science doesn't need men. Science needs scientists - enthusiasts for the application of the scientific method. Whether they're man or woman or amphibian. Or reptile." - me, here

If your movement is predicated on sloppy, superstitious pseudo-social-science, then it's not going to be a force for good, in the world. You're inevitably going to make wild claims, of threat, and worse, of egregious solution, akin to Sarkeesian herself.

"Social scientists... should not silently tolerate distortions of available scientific knowledge to fit advocacy goals".

Hear, hear.

'Anita Sarkeesians dirty little secret!'

The founder of that closing petition, by the way, is better known as 'The Amazing Atheist' - someone much loathed by the feminist movement.

'Extraordinary People: Daring To Actually Help Women'


235 years ago, on the 13th of March 1781, astronomer Frederick William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus

The 14th of March is Pi Day... as long as you write the time and date the wrong way around :-P

And the 15th of March is the probable 45th anniversary of the release of the first internet virus, called 'Creeper'

In other news:

What's the point of polymorphism? A polymorph is not just a fictional shape-shifter, engineered to do so by humans, in the Red Dwarf universe. A polymorphic species is one that has evolved to have markedly different appearances, such as with white and black peppered moths. Biologists publishing in Scientific Reports, have found the answer: it makes predation more difficult. While hunting for one form, it's just more difficult to find the other.

Also published in Scientific Reports, is the identification of a new (old) reptile, that lived in the south of Brazil (near to my home! LOL) about 252 million years ago, after the P-T extinction. Having lived at this time, it was a member of the evolutionary group, that diversified into dinosaurs, pterosaurs, crocodiles and birds. It was an intermediate between the archosauromorphs, and the archosauroforms, that are most famous for diversifying into the dinosaur megafauna of terrestrial Earth during the Mesozoic Era.
{Tapejarids originated in, and are named after, the region 'Tapejara' which is the southernmost municipality of Brazil}

What would it be like, to eat a dinosaur drumstick? Unlike in a chicken's leg, where the fibula is reduced to a spine, dinosaurs' fibulas were hollow bones that extended all the way down to the ankle. It's long been known that embryonic birds initially develop with this long, tubular fibula, but that it atrophies, relative to the tibia, as the bird grows. Researchers at the University of Chile have found that inhibition of maturation genes can cause the fibula to grow fully, down to the ankle, as in ancestral non-avian dinosaurs. The research also found that the culcaneum - a bone in the ankle - that connects to the fibula, produced growth hormones, influencing the fibula's development. It also found that the attachment of the fibula to the culcaneum limited growth of the tibia, meaning the birds ended up with shorter legs. Fossil records apparently show concordance with this path of development, as non-avian birds evolved toward avian morphology.

It's the third amber story of the year. First, it was an insect, then it was a plant, now it's a chameleon. It's 78 million years older than the previous oldest known amber-encased chameleon specimen, at 100 million years old. It, amongst 11 other reptilian specimens, provides more beautiful evidence, filling out the evolutionary tree.

A newly-nomenclatured species of spider, has been named after a co-founder of the local World Science Festival - physicist Brian Greene. Dolomedes briangreenei is a species of water spider, that uses vibrations on the surfaces of ponds and lakes to hunt for prey, moving around in the water below; so it was considered particularly apposite, to give it a physicist's name, in the wake of the discovery of gravitational waves.

It might look fearsome, but this species of piranha-lookalike is actually a seed eater. For years, its ancestry was unclear, and so it was not definitively classified in the taxonomical tree of life. But now, it's been deemed clear that this 'pacu' as it's known colloquially, aong with other similar-looking fish, belongs to its own species. Myloplus zorroi has been named after Mauricio Camargo-Zorro, a researcher at the Instituto Federal de Educacao, Ciencia e Tecnologia, officially; but unofficially, in reference to the fictional character who is famous for hiding their identity.

Last week, there were three different goings-on related to Facebook. Two of which, involved German courts. This one also does, with a specific reference to 'Like' buttons on other websites to You'll likely have seen them, usually in 'sharing' boxes at the bottoms of articles, but what you don't know, is what concerns the German courts. If you click on them, information about your is recorded and shared, without your consent. A 'fashion' site, run by the Peek & Cloppenburg brand, has been warned that it could be fined €250,000 for every breach of an order not to use people's personal data without consent.

The US Supreme Court has upheld a ruling from 2013, that Apple was part of a price-fixing conspiracy for electronic books, clearing the way for a $450 million settlement to be paid. It was in July 2013 that US District Judge Denise Cote ruled that Apple was liable for conspiring with five book publishers to fix e-book prices.

ESA's eLISA Pathfinder has completed its tests, and is now testing its free-falling 2 kg gold–platinum cubes for whether they're really only moving under gravity. If it's clear that the solar wind, nor anything else, is perturbing the motions of the blocks, then the system will have been demonstrated reliable for development into the species' biggest ever experiment. eLISA is planned to be launched in the 2030s, and will form a 5 million kilometre plus wide laboratory, to test for the presence of gravitational waves.

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

'The Whirlpool Galaxy (Messier 51) - Deep Sky Videos'

'Elemental Extractions #1: Hydrogen'

'Lab Tour!'

'LIGO Feel That Space (The Weeknd parody) | A Capella Science'

'The Trouble with Transporters'

'Dawn's first year at Ceres—a mountain emerges'

'Image: Spooky lightning from orbit'

'Image: Tenerife from Proba-V'

'Image: Cyprus from Sentinel 2A'
For more:

'Cities at Night'

'Lunar Shadow Transit'
For more:

'Bad PR - TLoNs Podcast #120'


'World's First 360° Sports Highlights - Formula E (Buenos Aires ePrix)'

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

Word Of The Week: ecru -- the light fawn colour of unbleached linen

Bad Parenting Story Of The Week: 'Father unhappy after teacher told children that the Easter Bunny isn’t real'

Ambiguously Dramatic Statement Of The Week: "Crews reported a large swarm of aggressive bees from two hives in the attic of the house. One of them weighed 70 pounds" That's one big bee :-D

Probabilities Of The Week: chance of winning the Swiss Lotto - 1 in 5,294,943; chance of a muon decaying into one electron and one photon of light - 1 in 2,400,000,000,000 (2.4 trillion)

Quote Of The Week: "There is no harmony between religion and science. When science was a child, religion sought to strangle it in the cradle. Now that science has attained its youth, and superstition is in its dotage, the trembling, palsied wreck says to the athlete: “Let us be friends” It reminds me of the bargain the cock wished to make with the horse: “Let us agree not to step on each other’s feet”" - Robert Green Ingersoll

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

'ATP TENNIS - Top 10 Most Insane Points of 2014 Full HD'

'Roger Federer - Top 100 Best Shots Ever'

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