Sunday, 19 June 2016

Entertainment stuff from the week 13-19/6/16

Hi anurids,

I was strolling on the internet one day...

Did you notice that capital letter slip away? I have to say that i didn't. But i can think of an i that should follow it :-P

'Is it Internet or internet? Debate rages on downshift'

This debate on an esoteric aspect of linguistics RAGES!!! It does because they say it does. LOL

'At E3, game makers introduce more diverse heroes'

No mention of diverse baddies, however. They're still all pasty pale men with English accents. Cue scathing refutation, LOL. Well, they are at least all bald :-P

But what's the point of 'diverse heroes'? I mean, unless you're the kind of person who thinks that fiction is all propaganda, then why would you care?

Casting certain people in a complimentary/derogatory light doesn't change people's prejudices about populations - they just regard the particular characters they're witnessing as exceptions.

People will generally find a way to excuse enjoyment of fiction, to preserve their prejudices. For example: even though the film Finding Nemo cast fish-keeping in a negative light, sales of clownfish (the kind Nemo is) soared after the success of the film.

{Aside: there is an obvious necessity for more of your human action heroes to be played by extinct flying reptiles. Especially really cute, colourful ones, like me. Not necessarily me but, y'know, someone like me. For example, me. GIVE ME ALL YOUR FAME AND GLORY!!!}

There really is no valid apologetic for forced diversity, that doesn't come from a demented ideologically-psychotic fictionalist standpoint. A standpoint exhibited by the kind of person that insists that all they have is chains, that Laci Green's a rapist, and that #KillAllWhiteMen is not genocidal hate speech.

From a writer's standpoint, there are two key things to keep in mind: write about what you know (or it'll be shit) and write something interesting (or it'll be shit i.e. no-one'll care)

These conflicting elements force writers to reach toward, and beyond, the edges of their knowledge. It means they have a motive to write on the basis of their prejudices.

From a reader/viewer's standpoint, we want to see something that we know (so it's familiar) and something interesting (so it's fun) so appealing to our prejudices works just as well as appealing to our knowledge.

And so a heck of a lot of fictive writing is actually established on utter bullshit!

Historically, the only genuine problem with 'diversity' in fiction, is producers/publishers refusing to acknowledge markets that are extant, but untapped.

People who live in slums will write stories about rising from the slums, and doing 'great' things despite their background. And people who recognise the slums/plot will find what they write interesting. There's no moral obligation on anyone to write it, but there is a market for it.

If producers/publishers only accept novels/screenplays from people who grew up in Chorleywood, then the only option for anyone, is to see stuff about growing up (and out of) Chorleywood.

Novels and screenplays about niche circumstances tend to be niche products, that end up being called 'cult classics' for example the film 'Bladerunner'.

If you want to write a 'pop classic' then it has to appeal to more people, which inevitably means it has to be more bland, to avoid putting people off. So how do you keep the characters interesting?

Well, you make the characters into caricatured stereotypes, of course. Stereotypes are all extensions of small numbers of much larger populations. Everyone thinks they already know the character a bit (appealing to familiarity) but this particular stereotyped character is not yet known. You initially present them as a stereotype, but you can then build them up with idiosyncracies.

A proportion of women really do stand on chairs whenever they see a mouse, a proportion of gay men float around the room like a fairy, a proportion of Mexicans eat vast quantities of beans, etc etc etc. Make your characters exhibit 'tired old stereotypes' and they will be a hit, because only the tiny minority of professionally-offended people are so egomanic that they assume that they are the subject of the writer's prejudices.

And so E3 proudly boasts a Mulatto war-veteran in New Orleans, a Black soccer player from England, a female Indian-American astronaut, and a Black hip-hop obsessed vigilante from Oakland.

If you're not from any of those places, you'll be thinking "oh, how exotic, how quaint", and if you are from any of those places, you'll be thinking "yup, met them before".

The key to 'successful' (popular) writing is to get the balance of familiarity and novelty right, while remembering the market you're appealing to.

But as a consumer, and especially as an industry critic, don't be fooled by the we-love-diversity routine - they're just trying to tap into more markets, to get more money out of people.

Case in point: nude underwear. They only care about your happiness, if it's a means to make them richer.


In celebration of the 134th anniversary of the last time the UK went entirely without coal-powered energy, both the UK and Spain let this number go to their heads. The UK had a few nights, in which hours were spent completely coalless; and Portugal spent 4 days entirely Renewables-based, and that's without complete infrastructure!

In celebration of the 200-millionth anniversary of the last time the British archipelago invented an icthyosaur, an honorary professor at the University of Manchester has identified a new species of icthyosaur from a specimen that was discovered 65 years ago.

In celebration of the 470 millionth anniversary of its arrival on Earth, a chondrite has been dug up from a quarry in Sweden, and identified as being rich in elements such as iridium, which makes it very rare for an Earth rock. It could play a part in distinguishing asteroids from the early Solar System from those that whizz around today.

In other news:

Microsoft's decided to make it easier for insular ideologues to create online echo chambers for their bigotry. Don't want any men, or Blacks, or Russians around? Make a group just for you. Or of course, you can find a group that requires members to be all of those things, and then troll the everliving fuck out of them. Your choice :-P

Here's the Daily Fail Of The Week. There were others, but i've chosen this one for its stand-out stupidity. And through an ulterior motive, which i will get onto later. According to the Daily Fail "Vaping is a gateway to smoking" based on a study of 300 17-year-old adolescents from California, who had vaped before, but never sucked tobacco smoke before. Now, you might have already spotted a problem with this. Yes, that's right: they deliberately selected people at the height of the 'experimental' phase of life, who have tried vaping, but not smoking. The methodology has been constructed to fail. For example, it is not possible for the study to find that smoking leads to vaping, because they deliberately selected vapers to begin with! It's like selecting housewives who've tried white wine, but not red, and then going back to them later and concluding that white wine is a 'gateway' to red wine. Bollocks! But it's not just the Daily Fail that cocked up - why was the study designed the way it was, in the first place? It was survey-based, and apparently designed to find the unfindable. They had data on teens who'd smoked tobacco but not vaped, but they deliberately rejected them from their study. I'd like to see their excuses for that. You can read the fully study yourself (it's open access) but all the researchers do is say "other studies found what we wanted to conclude, so we must have done it right". That's not good enough.

You might have had the misfortune of hearing feminists moan about women not being experimented on by evil scientists as much as men are, but there's actually a good reason for it. Historically, women have been avoided as test subjects for many drugs, in order to avoid complications from the menstrual cycle. Menstruation itself - the bleed - causes problems on its own, as it can shorten the biological half-life of whatever you put in them. But this rodent species - the Cairo Spiny Mouse (Acomys cahirinus) - has a menstrual cycle very similar to female humans' but shorter. It has a 9-day cycle instead of 28, but still spends about a third of that time menstruous. Use of this species in research could help greatly with specific conditions such as endometriosis, in which the endometrium (womb-lining) grows outside the womb.

For the first time, a specific methane leak has been observed from Outer Space, by the Hyperion spectrometer on NASA's EO-1 spacecraft. The observations were made consistently, on three overpasses, and verified by a closer sweep by aircraft. Technology like this is helping to pinpoint specific sources of pollution, and thereby pin blame on specific environmental wrongdoers. No wonder various industry lobbyists want climate research to be dislocated from policy! Imagine the bills they'd have to pay, if the long arm of the law could point a finger at them and say "that was you!"

According to data from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) military deaths have been increasing over recent years, breaking a trend by falling in 2015. 2014 hit 130,000 recorded deaths to armed conflict involving a state, conflicts between non-state actors, and one-sided violence against civilians, which is the highest figure since the mutual racist genocide in Rwanda, in 1994. In 2015, the figure fell to 118,000 deaths, largely due to the civil war in Syria. The number of States involved in fatal military action has continued to increase, however, from 102 to 121 over 2014 to 2015, which has been attributed to the actions of ISIS, and their Islamist allies, which number ~200.

The International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC) has released its database of wheat genetics, to wheat breeders and scientists around the world, with the stated aim of accelerating crop improvement programs and wheat genomics research. The resource, apparently, "accurately represents more than 90 percent of the highly complex bread wheat genome, contains over 97 percent of known genes, and assigns the data to the 21 wheat chromosomes". Cue damage control mode from the anti-GMO mob, who want to deceive each other into thinking that GMOs are tools of monopolisation by Big Agro, who will never release their data for the greater good. Detailed information on how to access the data is available on the IWGSC website.

The affects of droughts are long-lasting, especially on trees, according to research into the condition of trees across western Europe. British beech trees have been especially affected, by the 'great drought' of 1976, which has stalled their growth, even 40 years afterwards. As the climate continues to change, droughts are going to become more frequent and more severe, killing trees off and hampering their growth. This will reduce the amount of carbon stored in the forests of European boreal regions.

In other climate change news: Earth hits another record high in temperature, permafrosts are melting, and global warming goes genuinely global. This May has been declared the hottest May on record, by NASA, in a multiple-year period of tumbling records. 2016 is expected to set yet another record for hottest year on record, too. El Nino is only partly to blame, according to climatologists - the pattern is mostly the warming predicted by them, over the last half century. Advancing climatic change is starting to affect the permafrosts under Arctic lakes, where rates of warming are similar to those observed in terrestrial permafrost, that contains vast quantities of methane. Thawing permafrost would release this methane, causing a substantial short-term upsurge in global warming, making even pessimistic predictions look optimistic. But it's not just the Arctic that's seen dismal milestones - the atmosphere at the Geographic South Pole reached 400 ppm CO2 for the first time in 4 million years, on the 23rd of May. The Antarctic atmosphere is also setting records for how fast its CO2 proportion is increasing. The Antarctic is always expected to reach these highs last, due to its geographical distance from the sources of pollution.

Where does pink come from? Well, the word comes from the Dianthus plant's flowers, which are 'pink' in shape as well as colour. See 'of the weeks' for more. But in cheese, pink discolouration has been found to be caused by a heat-loving bacterium of a genus that's unsurprisingly called 'Thermus'. Thermus bacteria are more commonly observed in hot springs, and are known for their production of florid pigments like carotenoids.

Jackdaws, being corvids, are intelligent birds by repute - they know how to investigate their surroundings, and are prepared to embrace reaonable risks to achieve gains. This research has extended understanding of their intelligence. Like other species, including humans, jackdaws engage in cost-benefit analyses - if something's beneficial, it's only worth it if the costs aren't too great. What this research has found, is that jackdaws are more willing to look for food in dangerous places during breeding season, when they are competing with each other for mating rights, and the additional benefit of progeny is on the metaphorical table. At other times, they are more risk averse, because they don't have to embrace as much risk for self-preservation alone.

What's the price of a slice of pizza? Well, because of the way they're baked, there are often hidden environmental costs to pizzas and steaks, when they're cooked using wood burning ovens. A multi-University study in São Paulo, Brazil, has found that pollution peaks on Sundays, when the city's 8,000 pizza parlours are at their busiest, producing ~1,000,000 pizzas a day, and especially on Pizza Day, in July. More than 307,000 tonnes of wood is burned each year in pizzerias, and 7.5 hectares of Eucalyptus trees are cleared every month, just for pizzerias and steakhouses. The researchers are concerned that the polluting contribution of this share of the food industry has not been quantified, in a city where much has been done to reduce pollution from fossil-fuel powered vehicles. Pizzas could be mitigating much of the achievement of converting to biofuel, there.

As mentioned above, the success of the film 'Finding Nemo' caused a surge in fishing for clownfish around the Great Barrier Reef, despite the moral of the film. Well, the sequel, Finding Dory, is expected to have the same affect on the blue tang fish, a species that is currently less resilient than Nemo's. It is also less easy to look after, and this is what zoologists are hoping will be its saving grace. Reef fish zoologist Alastair Harborne presents these reasons not to get your own Dory: surgeonfish are so-called because of the scalpel-sharp, venomous spines at the base of their tails; they're much bigger, meaning they require a much bigger tank; they require saltwater, which is much more expensive to maintain; and also because they're saltwater fish, they require much more effort to be kept in good health.

It looks like the frogs are getting competitive. Humans are notorious for their sexual variability - they'll screw anything, by any method - but these frogs have added one more sex position to the anuran repertoire. The Bombay Night Frog, Nyctibatrachus humayuni, adopts a position similar to the 'axillary' orientation, but with the male hanging on to whatever they're both resting on, with his hands, instead of hanging onto the female. This means that unlike most amphibian sex positions, this one does not involve amplexus, which is where the male hangs on to squirt his sperm whenever he notices eggs. In the Bombay Night Frog, the male trickles his semen down the female's back, and she releases her eggs into the dribbling fluid, after he's hopped off. You can see a diagram of the process if you look at the diagram embedded in the linked article:

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

Word And Etymology Of The Week: pink -- from 1570s CE, a common name for Dianthus plants; the flowers of which have 'pinked' edges, and the term had extended to the colour of the flowers by the 1680s CE; the word 'pink' meaning 'peforated' goes at least as far back as the 12th century CE. Before 'pink' was used to refer to the colour, the word 'incarnate' was used (meaning 'like flesh' as in 'carnal') hence another flower name - carnation - which is still generally red/pink

Unwarranted-Precision-Through-Unit-Translation Of The Week: "A fast-moving mango, weighing 454 grams, fell into a family’s backyard..." That'll be about one pound then, right? :-D

Ironic Mis-spelling Of The Week: "The 45-year-old [Gujarat Minister] may not sound convincing on the misplaced "e" [in 'elephent'] but his party BJP asserts that he was trying to explain to students how certain words are spelt and pronounced differently"

{There should be two 'l's in 'spellt' as the 't' suffix makes it an alternative form to 'spelled'. 'Spelt' with one 'l' is a type of wheat. But then, why would a newspaper editor spot that? It's not like it's related to their profession, is it :-D }

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

'The Amazing Shapes of Ammonites'

'First mammal driven extinct by climate change'
The Bramble Cay melomys is the first mammal known to have gone extinct due to anthropogenic climatic change. Rising sea levels have caused its island home to become ecologically unviable

'The Age of Gravitational Waves is Here!; FU Orionis is a Pig; ExoMars First Light | SFN #167'

'Tim Peake's dizziness experiment'

'Some People Just Don’t Get the MSG'

'"To the Victims of This Tragedy We Send Our Thoughts and Prayers" by Roy Zimmerman'

'Mass Murder Flip Flop'
As far as i can see, the problem is one of the false 'good guy / bad guy' dichotomy. Being mistreated doesn't mean the mistreatment isn't reciprocated. There's no such thing as 'good guys' and 'bad guys'

'Image: Several fires burn in Arizona and New Mexico'

'Man demonstrates backwards swimming techniques'

'Lost Voice Guy answers some stupid questions in his new show, Disability For Dunces'

'Every Tube Station Song - LIVE VERSION'

'The Chaser's Election Desk (2016) Episode 1'

'The Chaser's Election Desk (2016) Episode 2'

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