Monday, 18 July 2016

Entertainment stuff from the week 11-17/7/16

Hi catchers,

As the great entertainer, Casanova, once said of fun-derived illnesses: "Gotta catch 'em all"

That (fictional) catchphrase was (not) plagiarised by Nintendo, to market Pokémon, 20 years ago. But now they're back :-P

'Pokémon GO Explained - Computerphile'

Pokémon GO is a game that encourages people to wander the real world, while hunting for fictional animals. The virtual locations are anchored to the real world by Satellite Navigation, so players have to actually go to places to catch the pokémon.

Basically, it's almost the same game that Nintendo first marketed two decades ago, but with more bemused strangers watching you play it. It's a game that's been met with mixed reviews, from gamers, god-botherers, Koreans, robbers, the police, museums, and even hospitals and road safety researchers.

"Each situation displayed an atmosphere of cooperation, whimsy and fun" - gamer

"I condemn this, I want it to be banned in Turkey" - the god-bothering head of the union for imams in Turkey, claiming that it insults Islam

"[don't] pounce on Pikachus or chase Charmanders at mosques, shopping centers, malls and oil installations" - paranoid god-botherers in Kuwait

"Local restaurants, hotels and businesses [in Sokcho] are trying to capitalize on the sudden craze by luring tourists with photos of Pikachu and other monsters in their backyard and promising free gifts" - South Koreans in the only city that's been mapped into the game, possibly by accident

"Lagos, with its seemingly suicidal motorcyclists, festering sewage and prowling thieves, doesn't appear to be the ideal place to go hunting virtual creatures. But some locals in the West African megacity think nothing of braving the chaos to catch them all" - good news for robbers

"whilst the Darwin Police Station may feature as a Pokestop, please be advised that you don't actually have to step inside in order to gain the pokeballs... Stay safe and catch 'em all!" - Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services

"I just don't think people should be playing a game where people remember people who suffered and were tortured and who died" - a visitor to the Holocaust Museum, in Washington, USA

"There is indeed a sick Pokemon at AMC, but we'll look after him well. Please don't visit him" - the Academic Medical Centre (AMC) in Amsterdam

"within just a few days Pokemon Go has shown the world how augmented reality works, providing us with a better language to explain our research" - someone at QUT who wants to use virtual reality to hone people's driving skills, to make it safer

Obviously, Pokémon GO is going to be a passing phenomenon, so can't be relied upon to get people fitter and healthier, in the long term. But the same can be said of the hazards: safety, trespassing, etc.

While it is popular, the problems with GO itself are largely derived from the design of the game. The algorithm, for example, picks places itself, which might be unwise places to go to.

And the other objections? Well, perpetrators of ideated superstition and paranoia have only themselves to blame.

According to the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, at the University of Birmingham, social media sites obstruct children's moral development... say parents.

'Social media sites obstruct children's moral development, say parents'

The first problem with this research, is that it is survey-based. Surveys only ever collect claims - they don't verify whether those claims are true.

For example, if a survey finds that 80% of people think they're above-average at something, that means 80% of people claim they're above-average at that thing. What the survey doesn't tell you, is how many genuinely are (although in this case it's numerically falsifiable) or what proportion of people are being sincere.

Asking parents what they think social media websites are doing to their children, is completely pointless, unless the study is of the parents, and not of the children/websites.

Was the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues studying the psychology of parents? No, it wasn't. "'The 'Parents and Media' project seeks to offer a more constructive outlook on how social media might impact on a person's character and moral values"

It was 'just reporting' (the typical excuse for crappy claim-making) what parents think is happening to their kids. And what is happening to their kids? Well, let's take a look at the claims:

"24% said forgiveness and self-control was least present, followed by honesty (21%), fairness (20%) and humility (18%)"

"60% of parents named anger and hostility as the most negative trait displayed, followed by arrogance (51%); ignorance (43%); bad judgment (41%); and hatred (36%)"

"72-per cent of respondents said they saw content with a positive moral message at least once a day. This figure is higher than the percentage of respondents who said they regularly saw negative moral messages, suggesting social media is not purely an environment for vice"

"The top five character strengths promoted at least once a month on social media sites were identified as; humour (52%); appreciation of beauty (51%); creativity (44%); love (39%); and courage (39%)"


"Anger, arrogance and hatred are among the top negative character traits... [and] the 'character strengths' promoted most regularly are humour, appreciation of beauty, creativity, love, courage and kindness"

So even though the parents reported more observations of niceness, than badness (to put it as vaguely as possible) the researcher, Blaire Morgan, still reported it as "social media sites obstruct children's moral development".

You might have noticed that this 'research' is completely vacuous. But what sort of an organisation would possibly promote this kind of fluff?

Well, judging by their website, the contributors are a bunch of cod philosophers, who're trying to work out how to be nice, without ever getting into an argument... which is completely impossible!

And who absorbs the vacuous cod philosophy? Well, according to their own Twitter feed, in chronological order: The Birmingham Post, ITV Education, a journalist who doesn't know whether he's awake, The Birmingham Mail, The Institue for the Study of Human Flourishing, and of course, the Daily Fail.

Judging by one of their YouTube videos, the methods they employ are what i'd expect - pseudo-psychological flim-flam. The kind that gets passed around at management courses, and pathologising-unemployment courses.

The trouble with them, is that the meanings of the nice-sounding terms, like 'kindness', 'self-discipline', and even 'virtue' and 'character' themselves, are left undefined. So the meanings that get presented to the presentees, are wholly down to the opinions of the presenter - the teacher.

On courses where you'd expect some kind of uniformity (what you'd expect, when there's a right answer) there is actually division. The definition of 'equality' for example, has been presented to me in three different ways, in my own first-person experiences alone: 'the right to be treated the same', 'the right to be treated the way i want to be', and maybe most strangely 'the right to be treated differently'.

This is what happens when you subjectivise a science, into nihilistic can't-we-all-get-along rhetoric. In reality, you can't teach right and wrong, without people who are wrong, whining that their wrongness is right, and your rightness is wrong.

It's exactly the kind of subjectivism that i'd expect to go along with 'meditation', 'mindfulness', and 'reflection'. And that's exactly what the Birmingham school, featured in the video linked above, does with its time. They start the day with 'mindfulness', and they end it with 'reflection'. They even study procrastination; presumably with the intent of becoming less good at it.

There is no evidence that any of this kind of thing achieves anything different to 'conventional' schooling.

That is always the crux of the matter - you're just poking around in the dark, if you don't do any genuine research. Asking ignorant parents for their valueless opinions achieves nothing. Testing pedagogical methods, on thousands of children, over a period of years, for the nuances in learning style and teaching effectiveness, is the only thing that can really inform teachers, school governors, and so on, as to how they can do their jobs better.

Science without politics is alright, but politics without science is often disastrous.

Here'a little light relief, from the world of pseudo-psychology:

'Negative stereotypes affect female soccer performance'

A study of 36 15-year-old girls has found that when they read about female athletic inferiority before exercising, they take slightly longer to dribble a ball along a course. Wowzers!

But strangely (/s) their 'flow' and 'worry' (psychological states equating to happiness) were not affected by reading about soccer, whether the literature were aspirational or not.

Who wants to put money on this result being unreplicatable? LOL. Complete bullcrap.


Today, the 17th of July, is the 76th anniversary of Tim Brooke-Taylor's birth. Probably best known for The Goodies, and ISIHAC, he also got a part as a researcher, in the original 1971 film 'Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory'

In other news:

The USAian FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has ruled that quack pyramid scheme company Herbalife must pay $200 million to customers to settle charges of unfair business practices. Strangely, Herbalife has not been prosecuted for being a pyramid scheme, which is generally acknowledged as a crime, nor for rank quackery - 'diet' snacks, food woo, and bullshit aesthetic insecurity products - which are not. What it has been prosecuted for, is a failure to track its sales in the USA, and a refusal to ensure that at least two-thirds of the rewards were based on retail sales. Herbalife has been under investigation by multiple bodies, since the 1980s!

From the annals of overenthusiasm, comes the story that censors in China have eliminated references to a beetle, named in dedication to the President of the People's Republic of China, Xi Jinping. The reason for censorship in this case is not known, at least to me, but one extemporisation is that the idea of the President being associated with a 'stinkbug'. Rhyzodiastes xii is (relatively) closely related to bombardier beetles, but is not one, itself.

A study of the microclimates around solar panels has found that they make a subtle difference to their environment. Most noteably, they make a 5 degree difference in temperature, in the summer, underneath them. I think that phenomenon's technically known as 'being in the shade'. But this general phenomenon strikes me as a parallel to wind 'farms' that take kinetic energy out of the air, thereby slowing the wind. Solar 'farms' take thermal energy out of the air and ground, thereby cooling it down. With advancing climatic change, and many species struggling to keep up with the pace of change, solar farms could become hotspots of biodiversity - a kind of White Deer Park for species evicted by climatic changes, where they used to live.

Ducklings, it has been found, are intelligent enough (at least, in the first 15 minutes of life) to work with abstract concepts, specifically 'different' and 'same'. In the first 15 minutes of life, chicks are motivated to do a thing called 'imprinting' which means a strong emotional association, identifying something as a parent. Fascinatingly, chicks can be imprinted on pretty much anything. In this study, they were imprinted on two spheres, held right next to each other, and when later presented with two options for parents to follow, they picked the most-similar option. So when presented with two cubes, and a cube and a cuboid, they show preference for the two cubes, because the abstract notion of 'same' has been imprinted on them, and although the two cubes aren't spheres, they are still the same as each other. Interesting, eh? You can see a video, at the link:

Non-avian dinosaurs, it has been extemporised, might have communicated a lot more with closed mouths than is commonly projected in fiction. Closed-mouth vocalization, these researchers claim, has evolved at least 16 times, in archosaurs - that means dinosaurs, crocodiles, etc. When pigeons coo, they're engaging in closed-mouth vocalization. But it's more common in larger organisms - probably because it's relatively quiet, and deep - which means the larger dinosaurs would have been very able to evolve an ability to perform closed-mouth vocalizations for communication and sexual display.

According to the latest study of the K-Pg extinction - the one that wiped out the non-avian dinosaurs - the Gulf of Mexico's oil reserves might have contributed to the effect size of the asteroid impact. It's been previously hypothesised that wildfires contributed to the soot in the geological layer left by the event, but the asteroid impact could also have released oil that had been forming under the Gulf's bedrock for more than a hundred million years. This would have burned too, contributing to the atmospheric pollution, and the pace of climatic change, that ultimately doomed 100% of non-avian dinosaurs, and 90% of mammals.

Rather shockingly, the Daily Fail has managed to report on a scientific subject, without getting it in the slightest bit wrong. The BMJ (British Medical Journal) has published a study of antibiotic prescription for RTIs (Respiratory Tract Infections) across the UK, demonstrating that the number of infections is unaffected by restricted antibiotic prescription. Over-prescription of antibiotics is a big problem in many regions of the world, where patients demand treatment for an RTI, that is usually viral - a Cold or the Flu. Antibiotics can't help with them, but can produce an environment in which antibiotic-resistant bacteria can evolve.

The Fail, Torygraph, and Beeb, however, have managed to misreport a study by researchers in New Zealand, incorrectly claiming that children who suck their thumbs and bite their nails have fewer allergies. The research did not in fact warrant these claims, as the results were patchy and inconsistent - certainly not good enough to be taken as clear evidence of allergy-suppression.

A report in the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, part of the BMJ publishing group, provided an opportunity for the Beeb to compensate slightly, by reaffirming the conclusion that commercial supplements are more trouble than they're worth (read: overcharged for) and that only Folic acid and Vitamin D are advised for pregnant people. Folic acid is known to reduce the risks of birth defects, such as spina bifida, and vitamin D helps with the mother's and baby's bone and muscle health. The trouble with multivitamins, is on top of the general problem with single supplements - the doses are huge and/or ineffectual. Iron pills tend to contain massive overdoses, making it easy to take too much. And because multivitamins contain lots of different things, that should be consumed in different amounts, if you're getting the right dose of one, you're almost certainly getting too little/much of something else. It's far more practical just to eat a healthy, balanced diet, than it is to worry about carving the pills up, every morning!

The new EU deal with the USA is active. Motivated by Edward Snowden's 2013 release of data exposing the NSA's global surveillance, the European Court of Justice declared the old 'Safe Harbour' agreement invalid. That one was a statement that the EU and USA do things similarly, so they wouldn't bother to make specific legislation. The new legislation forbids USAian companies from porting surveilled data from the EU to the USA, unless they sign up to the new 'Privacy Shield' protection legislation. Critics have said that the new legislation is still too convenient for the USAian State and USAian companies like Facebook, Google and Microsoft, that have stockpiled vast amounts of personal data about USA and non-USA citizens. Google, for a recent example, has been in hot water over its use of Deep Mind, hoarding millions of people's private medical records, while expecting people to treat their intents as philanthropic.

In an attempt to combat the air pollution problem in Mexico City, the Mexican government has pledged to fund the planting of 18 million trees, to reinforce the "green belt in the megalopolis". Efforts have been announced, to reduce the production of pollution too, with vehicle use restrictions, industrial activity restrictions, and replacing old driving stock with newer cars, buses and lorries.

Solar Impulse 2 has left Spain on Monday, on its way to Egypt, and landed in Cairo on Wednesday. It's next destination is going to be somewhere in the Middle-East, maybe Dubai.

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

Word Of The Week: diaphanous -- light, delicate, translucent, hazy; especially used to refer to the materials that underwear are made out of

Out-of-context Quote Of The Week: "I'm an avocado!" - GirlGamerGaB

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

'Why thermal cameras are AWESOME! (part 1)'

'Burning Iron in Liquid Oxygen - Periodic Table of Videos'

'Moon Meets Jupiter'

'Aurorae on Jupiter'

'NASA camera catches moon 'photobombing' Earth'

'Image: Cliffs of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko'

'Deepest ever look into Orion'

'Image: Sentinel-2A view of the Sundarbans in Bangladesh'

'SIX ENGINED Nuclear Airliner... BUSTED!'

'The Truth About Wasabi - Speaking of Chemistry'

'Rebecca Watson’s Dishonest Representation of Evolutionary Psychology'

'The Gun Industry's Killing in Killing'

'Cats Theresa May and the Human Rights Act'

'Killing matadors isn’t cruel it’s part of our culture, claim Spanish bulls'

'British humans enjoying final day of having rights'

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