Sunday, 22 May 2016

Entertainment stuff from the week 16-22/5/16

Hi ralliers,

'Is this the end of the death penalty in the United States?'

Pfizer - the last company to willingly supply the drugs for executions by injection - has now said it will not be supplying those drugs.

Many are hoping (of course) that State-sanctioned murder will cease to be a thing, in the States that currently conduct it. But the worry is that they'll simply transfer to a less moral way of doing it. Some have previously threatened to use firing squads instead; but threats and actualities are not the same.

Are we seeing mimicry of the standoff between Apple and the CIA? And what might the ramifications be?

Remember what i said about it being much more difficult to glomp things than the movies make it seem? Well, here's NurdRage going scientific on a Hard Drive's ass... orted parts :-P

'Dissolve Hard Drives with Acid'

Notice the timescale that's required. Hours!

'Corrections and additions | Fully Charged'

This is more like an 'update' than a corrections episode. But i like the format.

'Reason Rally, and American Humanist Ass. SJW infestation!'

It looks like the Reason Rally's kicking itself out of Rationalism.

Sorry, guys, but you don't define what rationality is. If you start embracing irrationality, it is you who is leaving the Rationalist movement.

A comment under this video led me to write a response on the subject of 'gender identity' and the suggestion that it is 'fluid'. I might as well take this opportunity to develop the point here {echoes of January}

GI is 'fluid' because it's nonsense. Defining a 'gender identity' is like saying what colour an 'aura' is or where the acupunture 'meridians' are. They're not there. It's just random guesswork. Ideas of 'masculine/feminine differences' that do not relate to biological reality are the definition of sexism: unfounded beliefs about what constitutes sexual dimorphism in the species homo sapiens.

I don't have a female 'gender identity' just because i don't like beer, and football, and street violence. My sex is an empirically-establishable objective fact. My 'gender identity' would be based entirely on sexist prejudice.

Genderism is the product of regurgitated sexist stereotypes, and bitter loathing of human sexuality. Hence the abuse of the word 'gender' as the pervert's cop-out from saying 'sex'.

Gender doesn't have anything to do with people. Not their bodies; not their minds; not their relationships; and not feminists' sexist perceptions of them. Nothing.

Genders are properties of languages, that differentiate nouns according to their 'gender'. The most common genders are 'masculine', 'feminine' and 'neuter' but languages such as German have many more genders, for plurals, and other complicated situations.

The fact that the gender of the word 'papillon' in French is masculine, says nothing about the actual butterflies that actually exist; and the fact that collective nouns for animals in arabic are all feminine, says nothing about the validity of Islamic dogma.

The only utility for using the word 'gender' beyond linguistics, is to sidestep use of the correct word 'sex'. So is it really much of a surprise that it's anti-sexualist perverts like religionists and feminists that advocate its abuse? Each with their fears of the wrong kinds of sexuality - be it heterosexual or homosexual, or both.

But 'genderism' as i have chosen to call it (being an ideology predicated on incorrect understanding of gender) presents an illusion that this sexuophobia is OK, and that other sexist beliefs are OK as long as they're called 'gender identity'.

Is map-reading contributing to your 'gender identity'? Is interest in sport/beer/violence contributing to your 'gender identity'? Is an inability to reverse-park contributing to your 'gender identity'? is your struggle to select the right facepaint in the morning contributing to your 'gender identity'? Is the length of your hair contributing to your 'gender identity'?

Sexism can't be eradicated, without eradicating this genderist bullshit too. GI is just an excuse to continue being sexist.

'Police apologise for naked murder victim crime scene sandcastle'

A local councillor has obliged the police force in Cornwall, UK, to apologise for a work of art that won a frivolous competition, because it featured a sexy-looking woman.

This smells suspiciously SJWy to me. Sandcastles are not going to encourage real crimes, no matter how much sexyness (or "level of sexual stereotyping" as she said) certain councillors might think them to exhibit.

This is the kind of thing the police should really be apologising for:

'Senior policewoman suspended after 'row with colleague over who has most attractive breasts''

So what happened was this: they went to a sexist (women only) meeting, where lots of senior {read: 'mature'? No} women in the police got together for a nosh-up and a drinky-poos, while the boys back in the office got on with the work.

And while there, they probably drank slightly too much, and then started getting competitive about how beatiful their baps were. And so they decided to put the puppies on display, to bark for themselves.

Talk about 'sexual stereotyping' eh? Real women don't lie on beaches, with their sandy boobs out - they go to 'conferences' at which they get their unsandy boobs out :-D

Honestly, this story reads like a teenage boy's wet dream: sexy milf policewomen, drinking at a bar, chatting about their boobs, and eventually unholstering them in the lead-up to a climactic girlfight. Possibly with pillows :-D

But to be honest, though, baring body parts is not what i consider to be a horrible crime. Like they say "we all come into the world naked; what have we got to be ashamed of?"

The fact that this was a sex-segregated women-only conference. That's what they've got to be ashamed of. That is what the police should really be apologising for. Sexism in the police? It appears to be mandated.


The 25th of May will be Towel Day, in memory of Douglas Adams, and in celebration of his work

The 27th of May will be Tapejara Day, when this blog celebrates its 4th anniversary. How time tapejarids ;-)

Rather belatedly, we find out that the 16th of May featured the ISS's 100,000th orbit of the Earth. That means it's travelled about 4.2 billion kilometres, in the last 17 years

In other news:

As promised, here are all those articles that got deferred, due to prioritisation...

According to the BBC, bedbugs prefer some coloured sheets to others. The cited 'research' comes courtesy of a funder with a vested interested in persuading people that they have knowledge about pests (whether they really do or don't) namely the Florida Pest Management Association, which is the industry representative for Florida's pest control companies. According to the 'study' bedbugs prefer red and black sheets, to yellow and green ones. They also have colour preferences according to their sex, according to their age, and according to how hungry they are! Putting this metaphorical jigsaw together, the picture looks more plausible to be a chance outcome of a poorly-conducted industry-propaganda pseudo-study, than a genuine outcome, demonstrating that males prefer pink to blue, but only when they're hungry! This is just an industry front group, desparately trying to convince its market that it knows what it's doing. Neither the BBC's claim that bedbugs "hate yellow and green" nor the Fail's advice that you should "buy yellow sheets and avoid red carpets" is supported by evidence. NHS Choices awarded the Torygraph 'Shameless Clickbait Award Of The Day' for managing to crowbar four 'Fifty Shades of Grey' references into its first two paragraphs :-D

The Fail Online also claims that supplements enhance the effects of antidepressants. But then, this is the same Fail that failed to correctly identify the causation provided by CBT, and not antidepressants (or "happy pills" as the Fail called them) last year. These are also the same supplements that are quite rightly bracketed under the I-SCAM industry moniker (Integrative, Supplementary, Complementary and/or Alternative 'Medicine') so the odds are good that this claim is bullshit, through and through. The actual study was a meta-analysis of previous studies, in which the researchers reported (unsurprising) signs of publication bias, meaning the data claiming supplement efficacy can't be trusted without industry-independent replication. Despite this, they asserted that supplements (or nutraceuticals as the vendors deceptively call them) might be 'complementary' to genuine medicine. This could, however, be explained by six of the seven authors having financial interests in the supplements industry, by receivin money for doing expedient research, and providing themselves for convenient speaking and writing engagements. Essentially, they're bought academics. Unfortunately, this corruption of medicine, academia and science, is not a new problem; and it's something many academics deny even to be a problem. It is, however, outlined in detail, in Ben Goldacre's book 'Bad Pharma' if you want to know more about how problematic it is.

According to the Dependent (which is a 'liberal' newspaper - a note for all the conservatism-factionalists mentioned last week) yoga relieves the symptoms of asthma, improving patients' quality of life. They claimed this, despite the source being a Cochrane review of 15 RCTs; though frankly, i don't know how you can effectively randomize trial participants into the 'yoga' and 'non-yoga' groups. I think they'd notice whether they were doing the Lotus Position. Don't you? The self-reported quality of life was the only factor to change significantly; followed by the amount of salbutamol (asthma medication) taken. This is problematic, as research has already shown that asthma patients are eminently dupable, when it comes to their health. A study from a few years ago, comparing salbutamol to acupuncture to water (the sham control) found that patients given the water inhaler reported that they felt better, but objective testing showed them to be no better than if they'd taken nothing at all. It is for this reason, that self-reported 'evidence' of efficacy should be distrusted. Just because some trial participants perceived their asthma to be relieved, and consequently reduced their medication consumption, there hasn't necessarily been a benefit to them. In fact, the participants who have reduced their salbutamol use, are probably in greater danger, than they were before, because their conditions not being as well mitigated as it used be. This didn't stop the Daily Fail from claiming that Yoga could help people "get their breath back" and reduce the risk of asthma attacks. That's very dangerous health advice; but a profitable one for perpetrators of Yogic spiritualism!

Not to be outdone by themselves, the Daily Fail has also claimed that short bursts of intense exercise "produce similar results to traditional longer-duration workouts". They base this claim on a tiny study involving young, presumably-healthy (aren't most 27-year-olds?) men, and... proxy variables. Oh yes. It's been a couple of years since they last got an explicit mention on this blog. A proxy is a value that stands in for another value, usually because that one's more difficult to measure. But the problem is that proxies can give misleading correlations. For example, you can use the number of brollies you see, as a proxy for what the weather's been like (more brollies = more rain) but in the summer, people use parasols to shield themselves from the sun. So if you saw them, you'd reach a false conclusion. A salient example, is that of cholesterol and heart health. Flora still markets its magic-butter as cholesterol-reducing, which it purports to mean 'our product prevents heart attacks' but that isn't true. Let's put aside, for now, the fact that Flora has been shown to be ineffective at reducing cholesterol! Even if it worked, a reduction in cholesterol might not achieve anything at all. If you really want to know whether something prevents heart attacks, correlate it against frequency of heart attacks - not a proxy variable - if you can afford to. P.S. other research has shown that extended periods of mild exercise is more effective at maintaing fitness and a health weight, than short periods of 'feeling the burn'.

The Ocean Dilemma, in contrast to proxy values, got mentioned very recently - just last week. That is the concept that relates to this story. A large (and sexist) study in Sweden, has found that girls (only girls were studied) are more likely to exhibit (or at least be diagnosed with) eating disorders, if their parents have a "higher education", and if the proportion of girls in the school population around them is higher. I shall quote NHS Choices: "The researchers found the probability of a girl having an eating disorder at a school where 75% of the pupils were female and 75% of the pupils had parents with a "higher education" was 3.3%. This is more than double that of a girl attending a school where 25% of the pupils were female and 25% had parents with a higher education. The researchers were careful not to state that they had uncovered reasons for this trend, unlike the media". The masculist Torygraph condemned all-girls schools for 'body-shaming' (even though mixed-sex school also demonstrated the correlation) and the Fail blamed highly educated "pushy parents" who encourage perfectionism... and produce people who are less likely to read the Dail Fail. Or maybe that's just the perception of the editors. Unfortunately, it's just not known what causes the substantial variations in abundance of eating disorders seen - the correlation could be produced by causation, or consequence, or it could just be a coincidence, produced by chance.

The Dependent and the Fail have both reported on a "groundbreaking" development in oncology, leading to 'personalised' cancer treatments. Have they? Well, kind of. A genetic study of 556 women and 4 men with breast cancer has used tumour samples to identify 93 genes that distinguish them from healthy somatic (bodily) cells. Only 5 of these genes were previously unknown, but efforts like these are part of a general movement to increase understanding of cancers, which is necessary for combating them. As always, the continuous pitter-patter of science's steps of progress is misrepresented by the 'papers as a discontinuous 'breakthrough'. More worrying to me, however, is the insidious use of the term 'personalised medicine' which, if you've ever commissioned anything bespoke yourself, you will know is hugely more expensive than a generic alternative. Fitted clothes vs. off-the-rail bought, for example. Medicine has plenty of hugely-expensive drugs, that only work for some people - what patients need are medicines honed to their conditions. This means the treatments would be disease-alised, not person-alised. This distinction should be made, so that we aren't swamped with huge numbers of stratospherically priced drugs, because we didn't have the words to tell the difference!

In probably the most egregious case of journalists 'boldly going' where no research has gone before, the Torygraph has claimed that obesity is a pathogenic disease, saying it "could be contagious like superbug C diff". The research didn't even study obesity - only the tranmissibility of bacteria that often feature in the gut's microbiome. As if to really emphasise the Torygraph's scientific illiteracy, the study was in-vitro, not in-vivo, so it only shows how bacteria behave in petri dishes - not in real people, out in the world. Incidentally, obesity can seem to transfer by culture, because people spontaneously mimic each other, and look for commonality in their peers. This means that people who eat a lot/little pass their habits to others, and unconsciously select other people with similar bodyshapes to themselves, to socialise with. But obesity as a pathogenic disease of its own? I don't think so, LOL.

According to a study published in Science Advances, and funded by various forestry research groups, asserts that 'secondary forests' that regrow in cleared land should not be underestimated as sequesterers of CO2 from the atmosphere. They're much more pragmatic than the initiatives purported by fossil fuel industry companies, that's for sure - but less profitable for those same fossil fuel companies. What these researchers don't mention, however, is that primary forests are much denser, with more plant per unit area, and so store much more carbon than the secondary forests that might replace them. This means the first prioritisation should be to preserve extant forests, then to regrow cleared ones, and then to think about artificial mechanisms of CO2eq sequestration. And the last one should only be considered when it's not pouring money into the same energy companies that produced the problem in the first place.

Chalk bass (Serranus tortugarum) are small sea bass in the grouper family, most noteable for being 'simultaneous' hermaphrodites. Nematodes - Caenorhabditis elegans - are hermaphroditic, but they generally only reproduce heterosexually. C. elegans has males and hermaphrodites, who can be fertilised by the former but not the other way around. In S. tortugarum, both reproductive partners can fertilise and be fertilised, with pairs of fish engaging in a process known as 'egg parcelling' wherein they hand over parcels of eggs to be fertilised by their partner, and in return they receive a parcel of eggs to fertilise, themselves. Most sex took this form in the Chalk Bass; with the occasional non-monogamous 'streaking' where a fish would spray sperm toward another mating couple, as they swam past. It seems that this species' evolutionary past has given it motive to evolve into a form benefitting from collaboration as well as homogeneity in reproductive function. Maybe the pressures of having small populations for a long time? But that's pure speculation.

Do you have any idea how pathogenic diseases colonize your body, without getting in through cuts? Well, they generally have a mechanism to cope with the body's generic responses to their presence. You probably don't notice swallowing, all day long, but that's actually part of your physical defence against pathogens. The exfoliation of surface cells, from the mucosa in your threat, and the subsequent swallowing, sends the attached bacteria into your stomach acid, to be digested. But obviously, that doesn't always work, or we'd never get a cold, or flu, or anything like that. This research, using benign E. coli, has found that when they're genetically engineered to produce Opa proteins, the way non-synthetic pathogens do, they can bind to somatic CEACAM proteins, making them more sticky, and also suppress environmental exfoliation, meaning the region they're in is less effectively cleared of pathogens. This knowledge could help develop treatments to mitigate/prevent infections, in future, by encouraging exfoliation of cells, even when they've got CEACAM-manipulating defences.

In a similar study, a protein called 'usher' has been found to be deployed by UTIs - pathogens that infect the bladder. By blocking a protein called TAM, in E. coli (yes, them again) usher could not be made. This is important, because usher forms proteinous filaments that anchor the bacteria to the urinary tract wall, preventing it from being flushed away during urination. Blocking TAM debilitates usher production, slowing it from 2 minutes to 4 hours, making it much less likely to survive the next urination, and therefore not infecting the host. Treatments to arrest TAM could limit developing cases, making them easier to treat.

Heat waves that are currently considered to be 'extreme' and therefore are considered to be unusual, could become the norm, with one of comparable extremity occurring every year, in Africa, by the year 2040. That's projected according to a 2 degrees rise in global average temperature. Of course, there will be regional variations from this average, but the researchers will have accounted for that. Unfortunately, as i said last week, predictions of increase in temperature are chronically cautious, so this environmental devastation is more 'to be expected' than just 'possible'.

According to the RSPCA and the Soil Association, animal welfare requirements imposed on the egg (chicken) industry, by them, work really really well. The study providing the basis for these claims was conducted by the University of Bath, but i don't see why they couldn't have kept the study itself independent of the people who conduct the schemes that are being tested. There's an obvious conflict of interest there. Obviously, the RSPCA and the Soil Association like to think that their current methods are working; and researchers, being human, are biasable by their colleagues' expectations and aspirations. It's hardly an industrial cover-up, but there are millions of avian lives at stake, so the academics should really be more careful. Or maybe it's just the press release writers who've made the study look less reliable than it really was. Or maybe that's me searching for an excuse, for the organisation that i work for, myself :-D

Spanish region Castilla y Leon has banned the killing of bulls during traditional festivals. But only festivals. This is not just academic, as Castilla y Leon is home to the Toro de la Vega bull run, which takes place every year in the town of Tordesillas. Activists have been trying to get the medieval blood sport banned for a long, long time. But the ban won't affect bullfighting, that despite the region's government looking to "accommodate the demands of current society" still sees as "art, emotion, beauty... and harmony". It's this cultural sociopathy that anti-blood sport campaigners around the world are really fighting against. They've only admitted morality for festivals, because their bloodlust is so massively unpopular.

Here's a slap in the face for anti-GM superstitionists and anti-Monsanto conspiracy superstitionists: the UN recently declared glyphosate, which is a weedkiller manufactured by Monsanto to be "unlikely" to cause cancer. This comes after the WHO's classification of glyphosate as only "probably" causing cancer. As i've said before, what this means is that there is no evidence in the world that glyphosate is the 'Juice of Satan', that paranoid Greenpeace activists seem to think it is. Water isn't 'probably' wet - it is wet. The word 'probably' is only there, because no-one has ever seen glyphosate be metaphorically wet.

Bayer has recently engaged in negotiations with Monsanto, to take it over, so will the conspiracy 'theorists' advance Bayer to Hyper-Illuminati level in their belief-systems? Regardless of their deranged superstitions, the oligopolisation that would result from this takeover being permitted, would be exactly the problem that anti-GM campaigners have been obfuscating for decades. Genetic engineering is not a problem. The concentration of power in small numbers of businesses is a known problem, for which competition commissions have been founded, around the world. Just because it's Monsanto being bought, doesn't mean it's an acceptable thing.

The full cache of documents whistleblown by former US spying contractor Edward Snowden is being made available to other journalists from around the world by The Intercept, which was the first to interview Snowden, back in 2013. French daily Le Monde is one of the first to benefit from access to this information, which reveals various activities, including the NSA's involvement with Guantanamo Bay.

After rewarding USAian conservatism-factionalists with undeserved sympathy, all of the continent's most nauseating people have been claiming great leaps, in corrupting Zuckerberg, in person. People such as the fake-atheist S.E.Cupp. Other invitees were Zac Moffatt (former consultant to Mitt Romney) Arthur Brooks (president of the American Enterprise Institute) Barry Bennett (advisor to Donald Trump) Dana Morino and Glenn Beck. Yes, that Glenn Beck. This is who Zuckerberg likes to spend his time with, these days. Bloody hell, Harry; bloody hell.

A Swiss town, known colloquially as 'Crypto Valley' because of its 15 companies involved in the 'digital currency' business, has been the first to convince local government to approve a Bitcoin scheme. The local town council has been taking SF200 (about $200) per head, to register people on the scheme, with the local dentist already accepting payments in bitcoin.

Does forced surveillance of/by police reduce violent behaviour? Well, according to this study, yes it does. But only when the police in question turn their cameras on before they patrol, and leave them on. When they turned them on and off during their beats, violence reported to be perpetrated by those police officers went up. This could be intuitively explained by those coppers turning their cameras off, to hide their own violent behaviour. But more interestingly, since camera recording has been used, more violence against the police has been measured. Historically, violence committed by police officers on the public, has been the focus of people's attention; but surveilling cameras pick up violence going the other way, just as well. So it could be that measurement bias has led to an underestimation of the amount of violence police officers used to suffer, during their jobs, that is now being refuted by undeniable video evidence. Rates of reported assault against officers wearing cameras on their shift were an average of 15% higher, compared to shifts without cameras. It could be that some policepeople are just too proud/embarrassed to report when they've been assaulted by members of the public, but will admit it when the evidence is there to deny.

Solar Impulse 2 has completed its next leg across North America, travelling from Oklahoma to Ohio in ~18 hours and 10 minutes.

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

'More Fontus, self-filling laughs bottle!'

'Lithium (new) - Periodic Table of Videos'
If you like bombs, you'll like this video :-P

'Figure It Out: How They Kept the Hubble Space Telescope Working'

'SFN #163: Kepler Confirmed Exoplanets Doubled! Here's How They Did It'

'Video: IRIS releases new imagery of Mercury transit'

'Image: Cut crater in Memnonia Fossae'

[image] 'New study maps rate of New Orleans sinking'

'Image: Water etchings in Western Mexico sands'

'Image: African mosaic from Copernicus Sentinel data'

'Everything is a Remix: The Force Awakens'
This is a sequel to the 'Everything Is A Remix' series. If you haven't seen it, there's a link to it, below

'Melanie’s Marvellous Measles – Myles Reviews'

'Top 10 Reasons Jesus Hasn't Returned'

'FRANCHEMENT - L’interrogatoire'
Put Suricate on the job, and you get the first funny sketch in a year. MDR :-D

'"Someday (We Shall Overcome)" by Roy Zimmerman'

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

Word Of The Week: capital -- as a noun: a settlement that has been selected to officially represent a region, often for the purpose of governance; a settlement deemed to be the 'centre' of an industry, usually for exhibiting more activity than any other; wealth, in the form of physical, tangible and intangible assets, as well as money; a generalised idea of non-monetary wealth, that can be traded for gain e.g. political capital; an upper-case letter, in typography; the top part of a pillar or column. As an adjective: principal, first or foremost; very good; extremely severe; involving death; relating to financial assets; relating to upper-case letters; and a generalised application to anything that relates to numbers of people, by frequency/rate, as the word 'capital' comes from C13 latin, meaning 'pertaining to the head' e.g. "New Zealand has 22 sheep per capita"

Etymology Of The Week: urchin -- generally referring to the phylum of echinoderms, which are marine animals; comes from the Middle English (11th-15th century CE) word for hedgehogs. Because of this origin, 'sea hedgehogs' is an archaic term for echinoid urchins; and various things, including children, have been referred to as urchins, for appearing/behaving like hedgehogs. To this day, the word 'urcheon' continues to be used to refer to hedgehogs, in heraldry.

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

'La ilusión óptica del año' (optical illusion of the year)

'The Device' (sci-fi short)
Via Cibermitanios

'Everything is a Remix Remastered (2015 HD)'

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