Sunday, 8 May 2016

Entertainment stuff from the week 2-8/5/16

Hello fools and men,

I had two things to talk about, this week: a film, and an election.

And then i had this. The Daily Fail's front pages, two days in a row: 3/5/16, 4/5/16

"As the Mail's legendary astrologer dies at 58, the incredible final prediction that proves his genius" and "The incomparable Cainer and why only fools (and men) mock horoscopes"

The latter was written by Sarah Vine - the idiot wife of her idiot husband, Michael Gove. He is best known for telling a room full of teachers and headmasters that the problem with education in the UK, was all the teachers and headmasters, and then reacting with surprise when they acted perturbed!

He has also said this: “What [students] need is a rooting in the basic scientific principles - Newton’s laws of thermodynamics and Boyle’s law.”

That was his finest moment. But in comparison with his wife, it makes him look like a genius.

I mean, you might have expected that the idiot wife of an idiot MP would be a feminist misandrist, wouldn't you! In issue 1409, Private Eye awarded her the title 'Feminist of the year' for this remark:

"Womankind has had much to to celebrate in 2015. The Queen became the longest reigning monarch in Britain's history, delightful Nadiya Hussein won Bake Off and the Duchess of Cambridge produced another picture-perfect child"
- Daily Mail, 31st of December 2015

Only a sadistic novelist could make it up :-D

Jonathan Cainer was born on the 18th of December (not 2015). This is an awkward date for an astrologer, because according to the actual stars, that you can actually see, the Sun's ecliptic passes through Ophiuchus for that date.

Astrologers leave Ophiuchus out of their arbitrary calendar, because that makes 13 starsigns, and dividing by 13 is hard. "Urrrgh, murrr brainnnnn, urrrgh"

So to him, his starsign was Sagittarius. And to sane people, it was absent. That might explain how he failed to predict his doom.

The closest he got, according to his own archives, was this statement on the 28th of April:

"A few centuries ago, an astrologer, if asked to predict the date of someone's demise, might have happily obliged. Attitudes were very different and the idea of 'self-fulfilling prophecy' was unheard of. Some of these experts even left technical notes about the best techniques to use. Modern astrologers studiously ignore such instructions! Even if our predecessors had genuine knowledge, they were unaware of the slow-moving outer planets that have been discovered since 1781. If there is an astrological explanation for the recent sorry spate of celebrity deaths, I suspect it is linked to something in these cycles."

He appears to be accusing other astrologers of killing him off, doesn't he. Or maybe isn't, because accusing others of killing him off, would mean that people were trying to kill him off, as part of a self-fulfilling prophecy. According to his illogic, anyway.

Either way, he is dead now, making the adjective 'legendary' genuinely valid. The only benefit being that the Daily Fail now gets to stop wasting the huge amounts of money he's extorted out of them, over the years.

There's always another charlatan to fill the gap.

Speaking of narcissistic glory-whores...

The people of the UK took to the voting booths, this week, to elect Police Crime Commissioners, who are respnosible for providing feedback to regional police forces, and have the power to fire Police Constables for being shit at their jobs.

They are not government officials, however. They are meant to be independent of the politics that might corrupt their role, as representatives of the people. In fact, the information documents, that can be downloaded from the PCC website, say:

"PCCs are required to swear an oath of impartiality when they are elected to office. The oath... makes clear that they are there to serve the people, *not a political party* or any one section of their electorate."

Five of the six candidates in the county of my abode, are officially Party partizan. And that's a pattern that is replicated across the country. It's a funny old world, isn't it.

The majority of candidates, to a position for which they are required to be non-partizan, have pre-failed their obligations to the people they might hypothetically represent, if they took office!

This has only happened because of the government factions' (Political Parties') crazed lust for power. Like tobacco companies vying for addicts, any market is a potential market, with factionalised government politics.

The best option would be to forbid members of political parties from being candidates in these elections. In fact, given the way they've corrupted parliamentary elections, it would be a good idea to do the same with them too.

Governmental factions appeal to base politics, and institutionalise ideological conservatism, by imposing systemic authoritarianism, and requiring members to have to suck up to the 'leaders' in order to get anywhere within the Party.

Success within the Party, is sold to aspiring pollies, as being the same as success within Democracy/Parliament, and due to the Party Politics stranglehold, which has lasted for centuries, this illusion is difficult to distinguish from truth.

"Want to cover your deposit, when you decide to run as a candidate? Well, you'll need help with that. Sign here, on the dotted line. We'll cover your expenses, airbush your face, put you on posters, and tell you what to say (and what to think) and all you have to give us in return is your immortal soul"

Parties have Whips for a reason - to corrupt democracy. To make sure that the votes that are cast in Parliament, are not those of rationally informed citizens, but instead are those of drones, following an arbitrary Party dogma.

It's much more difficult for corruptive organisations, such as industry front groups, to persuade hundreds of individuals to vote against their consciences, than it is to persuade a single 'leader' to do so, and watch the genericised members fall in line.

This is what makes democracy in the USA so staggeringly corrupt, when it comes to regulating corporations. Instead of paying off thousands of people, they just have to buy (by sponsorship) one or both of the only two Parties that were in contention for electoral wins, and they're sitting pretty.

Abolition of Party politics would make governments more corruption proof, by increasing the scale of operation that would be necessary, for corrupting parties to perform it.

It would also make it more difficult for small numbers of deranged idiots (fascists, communists, etc) to take control, by hiding behing one idolized leader, as all individuals would have to justify themselves, one by one.

Humans are notorious for making assumptions about each other, through false kinship.

"Oh, he's a Christian, he must be all right" "Oh, she's a feminist, she must be all right" "Oh, they're an astrologer, their heart's definitely in the right place" "Oh, he's a Ukipper, he must be a damn fine chap" "What them? Don't be ridiculous - they're a conservative!" "I don't believe anyone who believes in God could do a thing like that" "They won't just give in, as soon as a shot's fired!? We can always rely on Italians"

One of the major problems with factionalism, is that it causes people to make assumptions about each other, based purely on prejudices connected to the prevailing group ideology - the faction's dogma.

If the current Cabinet of the UK government had to justify themselves, for each of their positions, individually, then none of them would qualify. I mean, if Jeremy Hunt can be Health Minister, then i can be a thoracic surgeon at Guy's And St. Thomas'.

But people don't vote for individuals - they vote for Parties - and so they get whatever they're given. This is not the essence of Democracy.

So with that seriousness out of the way, let's get to the amusement of viciously interrogating a film made for children. And very possibly by children, too.

Last week, i saw the new, not-live-action remake of The Jungle Book. I was disappointed to find that The Beatles weren't in this one, either ;-)

But i'm not sure i could say i was disappointed by the rest of the film. The thought that i left the cinema with was "well, that was a funny film"

I should point out, at this stage, that there are two jokes in it. I'm sure you can deduce the definition of 'funny' that my mind was utilising, at the time.

I won't be giving much away, to say that the film opens with a scene where the animals have gathered at a watering hole, under a truce, so that they don't eat each other while they're parched of thirst and waiting for the rains to return.

But this immediately provoked me to wonder what had really inspired the film: The Jungle Book 1, or The Animals of Farthing Wood? Later on, an oath is actually recited. Or maybe it's actually inspired by Animal Farm? Mowgli is at one point berated for walking on two legs.

Two little Indian legs, i should say. He is (at least cast as) an Indian boy. The story is set in India. Like the original. And the first film.

Unfortunately, i'm not sure i could say the castlist reflected this. Jerboas are not generally associated with India. The water buffalo seem to have been crossed with african buffalo, for some reason. The elephants seem similarly continentally-confused. Baloo seems to have been Americanised so that whiny kids don't complain that that's not what a bear looks like. Hystrix porcupines, the kind presented, are not found in India at all. And pangolins!? They live in South America, don't they?!

{Actually, looking them up, i found four species of pangolin that do live in or around India. But all four of them are endangered. No wonder i hadn't heard of an Indian pangolin before!}

Oh, and the less said about the biological feasibility of King Louie's reincarnation, the better [coughs "King Kong"]

I'm not surprised about any of this, though. In retrospect. The people who produced it have claimed to be inspired by Westerns and Gangster movies. Maybe that's also how the 3000-year-old temple that Louie lives in, seems to be made of polystyrene blocks. Inspired by Star Trek??

But what's most annoying about the animals, is how they change size. From shot to shot, they get bigger and smaller, relative to Mowgli, in a way that seems to bear no relation to perspective whatsoever. That's just weird. Especially when you're watching it in 3D.

When it comes to the 3d-yness of the film, the best's left to last. The 'book bit' in the closing credits looks excellent. So if you haven't seen it, and want to, at least you've got something to look forward to :-D

P.S. Lady tigers are physically dominant, so Shere Khan should have been recast as a woman. Shere Khan was actually played by an English man (Idris Elba) which is very stereotypical of the USAian film industry, considering that they're the baddy. The pachydermus ex machina seems belated. And why the hell can't the monkeys speak?

These are of course rhetorical questions. I think the slogan in the Fiction trade is "suspend your disbelief". All i'm going to say, is that i prefer it when i don't have to do work, in order to enjoy something. And i think i'm not alone :-P

'The secret life of David Berglas'
It was certainly secret to me!

'Fanciful 'Boaty McBoatface' passed over for vessel name'

Damnit! LOL. I was betting on that name :-P

Ocean Dilemma of the week:

'Delayed onset adulthood keeps young Brits away from ballot box'

This researcher has noticed that if cocky young people (humans under 25, i presume) were as willing to vote as those 80 years ago, then voter turnout among 'young people' in the UK would be 12 percentage points higher.

They attribute this, however, to lack of 'maturity', which they evaluate by measuring age of school-leaving, age of first employment, age of first marriage, age of first house-purchase, and age of first biological reproduction.

The problem, of course, is that these don't necessarily have anything to do with maturity. It could be that young people are less likely to bother to vote now, compared to 80 years ago, because they are more mature.

It could be that their estrangement from house-ownership and employment, and freedom from marriage and babies, is unconnected to their uninterest with voting for airbrushed narcissists. Or the people who don't vote but would have done, might see rejection of voting as an additional rejection of a world that seems to have rejected them.

It's one thing to observe a disparity - that fewer 'young people' vote now, than equivalently-aged people 80 years ago - but it's another thing to draw superstitious connections, and then propose a mechanism for how that disparity arises.

One is science without policy; the other is policy without science.

Moral of the story: if you do science without policy, at least you're doing something right; if you do policy without science, you're just making a gigantic tit of yourself!

In other news:

Why so patronising? The Fail, Torygraph, Sun and Old Times have all declared that rates of men being newly diagnosed with dementia have fallen because they're 'behaving themselves'. Is the implication that the women in the study didn't experience such a sharp fall, because they were not behaving themselves? "Naughty girls, naughty! Now finish your dinner, do your homework, and remember to vote fascist for a third glorious decade of total law enforcement". The study itself is pretty good as evidence goes, finding a fall in new diagnoses between the '89-93 period and the '08-11 period; but lack of men in the oldest age bracket does undermine its realibility for judging the generations. The Ocean Dilemma is, of course, ever present, as the study does not establish what might have caused the change in rates. It might be, for example, that the rates in the '89-93 period came off the back of an improvement in diagnosis techniques, thereby finding more people than proportionate for the time. But health advice remains the same: prevention of vascular dementia can be achieved by avoiding obesity, getting frequent exercise, and not sucking smoke.

"Managers who pressurise their staff to go that extra mile risk harming their employees' health" declares the Daily Fail. This might be one of those chance occasions when they're accidentally not wrong! 'Transformational leadership' is a Steve Jobs-style approach to bullying... sorry, management... which the perpetrators would probably call 'motivation'. It's associated with something called 'presenteeism' in which people turn up at the workplace, even though they're sick, which can make them worse, and pass pathogenic illness on to other members of staff. This means that although there appears to be a short-term benefit from 'transformational leadership' the overall trend is a downward one. The research behind the press release was a publicly funded international study, using data relating to Danish postal workers. They found that people who were most likely to work when ill, were worst affected by the scheme. But the study has two major limitations for application: the number of sick days were self-reported by survey, making them prone to bias; and postal careers are active outdoor jobs, that might be unrepresentative of most people's inactive, indoor, office jobs.

Did you know that you can't detect humidity? In fact, you can't detect wetness at all. When you think you're wet, you're actually detecting a temperature change - water having a high specific heat density means that it's generally cooler than you are... when it's thrown over you. Or you might detect it by its mass, pushing against you. But if your hand's slowly immersed in water that's deliberately matched to your hand's temperature (without you looking) you won't notice a thing. But fruit flies can detect humidity, using small sacs in their antennae. But the specific mechanism is not entirely known. It's suspected that the flies use a trick, in which the length of a hair varies according to its moisture content. Humans have used this trick for a long time, but fruit flies have a specialised hair called a sacculus, inside their antennal sacs, alongside three receptors called IR25a, IR93a, and IR40a. Small insects like fruit flies and mosquitoes need to know about moisture, because if they get too dry, they can easily die; and high moisture can lead to rain/mist, which makes travel very difficult. And if water tension on a droplet embraces them, well, they're done for!

Evolution is adaptation to circumstance, by replication, mutation, and selection. This means that when one species changes, other species might need to adapt to it, resulting in biome-wide transformation. Research by The Cleveland Museum of Natural History has investigated the evolution of scarab (dung) beetles, using a dataset of 450 species. They've found that the evolution of herbivorous scarabs parallels the evolution of angiosperms - flowering plants - and that the evolution of saprophagous scarabs (dead-matter eating, including dung) occurred over a similar timeframe, appearing at 115-130 million years ago. This suggests that a flowering-plant-based diet was the first one that made the dung beetles' lives viable. But dung doesn't come straight from plants - the plants have to go through animals first. Dung beetle fossils show associations with dinosaur coprolites (fossilised dung) so it seems plausible that dinosaurs' adaptation to ingest flowering plants, led to scarabs' adaptation to ingesting the dung of dinosaurs that had adapated to eat flowering plants - the plant species that had themselves adapted flowering, to outcompete other plant species. Adaptation causes adaptation causes adaptation.

Atopodenatus unicus was a crocodile-sized sea-dwelling reptile that lived 242 million years ago, in what is now southern China. As you can see in the picture, it had a hammerhead-like beak, and it's actually the oldest known herbivorous marine reptile. The researchers have concluded that it used its peg-like outer teeth to strip vegetation from seafloor rocks, and its pin-like inner teeth to hold the vegetation in its mouth while it spat the seawater out, much like modern whales do with their baleen plates.

Nepal has now gone two consecutive calendar years without a single rhinoceros being poached there. This is part of a pattern that has helped the local rhino population to rise to 645, which is still not very much, but higher than any figure accuretely counted so far.

If only the same could be said for neighbouring India, where the publicity brought by monarchists, to two people from England's holiday there, resulted in the rhino they met being killed for its horn. Four forest guards have now been arrested on suspicion of assisting poachers in a killing that occurred last year. Kaziranga National Park has fought a sustained battle against rhino poachers, who sell the horns to quacks in China and Vietnam, where they are falsely claimed to have aphrodisiac and cancer-curing qualities.

It's a new world record. A stick insect found in southern China has been measured to 62.4cm in length, surpassing the previous insect-size record of a Malaysian stick insect, now in London's Natural History Museum, which measures 56.7cm. Stick insects are the largest that can survive in 21% oxygen, as their thin shape allows it to reach all parts of their body. Insects don't have lungs, so they rely on spiracles to squeeze air in and out.

New Horizons' data, from studying Pluto during its flyby last year, has revealed a peculiar atmospheric interaction with the solar wind. The solar wind is made of plasma and charged particles, emitted by the Sun in all directions, and bathing all the planets, dwarf-planets, comets and asteroids alike. As bodies pass through the solar wind, or the solar wind flows past them (it's all relative) bigger objects produce different turbulence to smaller ones. Planets's strong atmospheres produce large bow-waves, diverting the wind sharply, and near magnetic poles pull some charged particles in, producing aurorae. Small objects like comets, that lack atmospheres, have a gentler slowing effect on the wind, leaving a cone of rarefied particles on the side facing away from the Sun. But Pluto, being part-way between planet and comet, produces an effect between those of planets and comets. It has a bow wave and a cone of slowed wind, loaded with ions from the atmosphere; and out the front of the planet, the atmosphere pushes the wind back only about a couple of planetary radii (2,968 kilometers) which is not very much, relatively speaking.

In the wake of Exxon's exposure, as a key turncoat on climate change, it seems their PR department's been given some work to do. And this is what they've come up with: a carbon capture scheme. Boring, really - they're nothing new. Many fossil fuel companies have decided that far from absolve themselves from existence, and re-employ everyone as workers in a renewable energy company, they must come up with a way of conning people into thinking they're the solution to the problem, rather than the problem itself. And so, if we sign up to a fossil fuel industry owned carbon capture scheme, this is what will happen: we will pay them to provide energy while pumping CO2eq into the atmosphere, and then we will pay them even more money, to suck a tiny proportion of it out again. So the problem won't go away, but they will get a lot richer. All i can say is: "bastards"

Solar Impulse 2 is currently in Arizona, having flown there from California, last week. Its next destination, in the USA, is apparently yet to be decided.

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

'Self-filling water bottle: BUSTED!'

'First global topographic model of Mercury among MESSENGER's latest delivery to the planetary data system'

'Image: Enceladus and Saturn's rings'

'Image: Zachariae glacier'

'Violet sea cucumber swims above sea floor near Mariana trench'

'"Jack-o'-lantern" jellyfish seen above Mariana trench'

'Subtracting Paperclips - Numberphile'

'inFact: Do Pit Bulls Attack?'

'Bir Tawil - the land that nobody wants'

'Dad³ Vlogs! - They See Me Mowing...'

'Entropic Time (Backwards Billy Joel Parody) | A Capella Science'

Fantastic video :-)

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

Word Of The Week: cockade -- a knot of ribbons, or other circular, or oval-shaped, symbol of distinctive colors, which is usually worn on a hat; it is not a fizzy drink!

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

'Instrucciones para desperdiciar 15 horas de tu vida' (How to waste 15 hoursof your life)
All of these films are real, by the way :-D

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