Monday, 15 August 2016

Entertainment stuff from the week 8-14/8/16

Hi layabouts,

It's only taken a few years, and already the brainscoop girl has caught up with Tapejara.

Flower porn is genuinely a thing. LOL

'Finding the fairest way to judge the Olympic medal count'

So USAians think the best way to rank countries' successes, in the Olympics, is to add up a vulgar aggregate of medals, in contrast to Ozzies, who think the population of the country they represent should be taken into account.

Well, i've news for all of you. The Olympics isn't fair, and it never has been. Nationalists sicophantically claiming other people's achievements as their own, is never going to be fair either, whether you apportion 'credit' by aggregate or by capita.

But the proportion of medals that go to each nation faction, is interesting, in the sense that it gives us an idea of how unfair the system is.

Team GB, as it nauseatingly entitles itself, has a huge medal count, in this Olympics, that is far out of proportion to the population size of the UK. How is this achieved?

Well, many athletes who affiliate to Team GB have actually changed their nationality, so that they can access the UK's superior training equipment, and established sporting organisations, with their seasoned, experienced staff, and sporting histories.

All of these factors make it more likely that you'll win a medal, regardless of any of your personal features: genetics, personality, and health.

The last of these two are essentially environmental factors, but environment plays a part in the first too, though only through your parents and grandparents, epigenetically.

When you're watching the Olympics, you are watching freaks. They're not average people, who 'dreamed big' - they're people with convenient genes, who were born into an environment of sporting enthusiasm, and who have been assisted along their entire career by people who share their received enthusiasms. I've lost count of the number of interviews where it turns out that they first picked up a raquet, or kicked a ball, at 4.5 weeks old.

You were never going to be able to compete with them. How on Sagan's pale blue dot is that fair?

The Olympics isn't fair. Sport isn't fair.

The bigger boys are always going to win, no matter how hard you try, simply because they're bigger than you, and they're more boyish than you... grarrh, testosterone!! :-D

But then, do you really care? I don't watch tennis because i think i can win. I watch it because it feels amazing to sympathise with the players, as they do things. As they do barely-credible things. Things i could never do myself.

Sport is not about encouraging people to do exercise - it's about encouraging a large majority to watch a small minority do exercise - it's entertainment.

So men and women are still segregated, in sport. And able-bodied and disabled people are also segregated, in sport. Then what makes the Paralympics a going concern?

It's not a deep understanding of fairness, and the nature of competition, and that it's all ultimately futile for the 99.999999% of us. Because then, there would be no Women's Events, or Paralympics. They only exist, because people find them entertaining - they want to watch them.

It's the ticket buyers, and the couch potatoes at home, who are responsible for the Olympics continuing to exist. And continuing to exist in its present form. They provide the funding, and the motivation for anyone who might bother to organise it. Without them, the 0.000001% would have no stage to play on, and a 0% chance of winning any medals at all.

So here's to you, you lazy layabouts. You are the true spirit of the Olympics. Without you, nothing happens :-P

'Australian census back online 2 days after cyberattack'

And here's why doing these things online is such a terrible idea...

'Why Electronic Voting is a BAD Idea - Computerphile'

Don't underestimate the influence of censusses. Humans are social animals, so they're highly susceptible to peer pressure. When people think they're in a majority, they assume they must be right. And when they see racial profiling on a census "What is your ethnicity?" it genuinely makes a difference. If someone hacked a census, they could influence public perception, through any of the criteria recorded on it.


The peak of the latest Perseid Meteor Shower was over the weekend, on the nights of the 12th of August and the 13th, with up to 200 meteors per hour. You can see a couple of picture in the 'contemporary stuff' section

In other news:

Let's start with a roundup of pseudomedicine in the unjustifiably-popular press. The Torygraph, Fail, Sun and Beeb, have all incompetently claimed that swapping meat for vegetables will make you live longer. The study actually found that no difference was observed, when accounting for factors such as smoking, obesity, etc. It's those that were genuinely correlating with shortened lifespan. So gobbling lentils won't put years on your life, but stopping smoking, excercising more, and eating less overall, will.

The old 'favourites' of early-20th century quackery are back in the news, this week. The Daily Fail and Torygraph have both claimed that quackupuncture ('health by a thousand cuts') is a treatment for dementia, based on rehashed, republished bullshit from years ago, and the BBC and others have also been 'covering' chiroquacktors' claims that cupping is a treatment for muscle weakness. It isn't - it just bruises the skin. It's the bruising all over various athletes at the Rio Olympics, including Michael Phelps, that got people talking about it. You can see Prof. Colquhoun on the Beeb, in his video, here, and you can read more about the demented nature of 'cupping' here, and a non-topical history of it, here. Unlike acupuncture and chiropractic, which are both less than 200 years old, cupping has been performed, with utmost futility, for about 2000 years. It still doesn't work. All it does is bruises the skin.

The Beeb, Grauniad, ITV, and NME, have successfully covered (it's dramatic enough, so they didn't have to lie) Public Health England's report that there have been 38 suspected measles cases in people who attended music festivals in June and July, and that they have declared msuical events to be 'measles hotspots'. This is unsurprising - large congregations of people are always a health risk, especially when they don't generally meet each other, because it means diseases can spread from one group to another, that it hasn't had access to, before. This is why the WHO were called upon to judge the public health risk of the Rio Olympics, through Zika transmission. Thanks to the antivax movement, measles is still about, in the UK, making PHE's warning a necessary one. The Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca - the Hajj - costs thousands of lives, every year, the majority of which are surely not even reported, as the individuals won't realise how they got ill.

Here's a good case for the Ocean Dilemma - vaginal douching (washing) correlates with incidence of ovarian cancer. Given that it's known that pathogenic infections, such as HPV (human papilloma virus) can cause cancer, and that an HPV vaccine is currently marketed as a cervical cancer vaccine, it seems quite plausible that women who have trouble with gynaecological problems, including infections, are also likely to douche a lot, as well as to have a raised risk of developing a genital cancer. This doesn't mean that douching causes cancer. And this is the same case for talc. Except the study cited found that there isn't even a correlation between talc use and ovarian cancer. But that didn't stop the Metoo, Fail, and Sun, from claiming that douching doubles your cancer risk. The Sun even warned that women "should NEVER douche" (emphasis not added) which is even worse! Douching is the vaginal equivalent of an enema - useful in some situations, but problematic in most. Especially the ones where people decide to self-diagnose their conditions, and treat themselves. In fact, it might make you smell worse, down there; but there's currently no reason to think that douching (or talcing) will cause you to develop cancers, too.

And yet another case for the Ocean Dilemma. This professor, from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia's School of Economics, Finance and Marketing, has found that "Students who play online games almost every day score 15 points above the average in maths and 17 points above the average in science" and so the necessary conclusion is that "Teachers should consider incorporating popular video games into teaching - so long as they're not violent ones". Yeah, as long as they're not violent ones, because, y'know, we know violent computer games don't make people violent in real life. But his main findings (that only looked at Maths, Reading, and Science subjects, by the way) that computer game players score higher in the only fields he looked at, can not be directly translated to 'playing computer games causes nerdiness'. The causation might go the other way - that nerdiness causes computer game consumption, or they might both be the consequence of a common cause, such as: they're indoorsy types, so while the other kids get good at kicking seven types of snot out of each other, on the sports pitch, they get good at nerdy things like science, maths, reading, and computer games.

Uh-oh, feminists. Evolutionary psychology's back in the news. But this time in cats. How do your 'genders' fit in with them? The evolution of sexual dimorphism in cats has produced differing psychologies in the resulting dimorphic populations - males and females. Female cats grade the urgency of kittens' calls with respect to the intensity of the plea, but males treat all infant mews equally. To clarify, these are the calls of unrelated kittens, in all cases. The researchers intend to continue, by testing whether relatedness to the kittens, makes males and females more responsive to those kittens' mews. And maybe whether feminist felines are more attentive to female kittens' mews. Or maybe not :-P

A top court in India has ruled that New Delhi's ban on the most polluting cars must be overturned, because motor industry avarice is more important than the health of the people. The motor industry lobbied for a repeal of the city's act, whining that they had lots of SUVs, littering their forecourts, because people wouldn't buy them. Market forces, you cretins. New Delhi has a huge problem with air pollution, that has been mentioned on this blog before. I think the poor foresight of dealers should come second to people's health, myself.

According to Barclays bank, or at least Barclays' head of personal banking, "Unlike a password, each person's voice is as unique as a fingerprint" and so they're going to faze out passwords, and replace them with voice signatures, for people who communicate with them over the phone. But is that really true? Is a voice signature as distinguishing as a fingerprint? We know that, far from popular superstition's insistence, fingerprints are not unique. People have been served with punishments for crimes they did not commit, through mistaken attribution of fingerprints. For example, Stephen Cowans and Shirley McKie, who were falsely accused of murder, and eventually reprieved in 2004 and 2006 respectively. Even if all prints were different (and they do change due to senescence, so they're even different to our own, in the past!) practical forensic science would be limited by the ability of the people/software to discriminate between one print and the next. If they're unidentical, but the software can't tell the difference, you'll get flagged up as a match. This same problem is going to happen with voices. But arguably, due to throat infections, adolescence, and physical injuries, vocal signatures hold the potential to vary even more than fingerprints do. So if you bank with Barclays, don't get ill, or too old, or they might decide you're not you any more, and refuse you access to your money!

Want to see a polystyrene ball being levitated using sound alone? OK, go on, click the link:

IceCube researchers have put a sterile neutrino to bed. By which i mean: researchers working at the IceCube facility, in the Antarctic, who have been researching neutrinos, and in this case, the hypothesised fourth form of neutrino - the sterile neutrino - have presented evidence that it doesn't exist. There are three known forms of neutrinos - muon, electron, and tau - none of which interact very well with matter, but are susceptible to gravity, and can be produced by nuclear reactions. The hypothesised 'sterile' neutrino is so-called because it doesn't collide with matter at all, and so can only be discovered by its gravitational interactions with it, or when it 'oscillates' (as neutrinos do) into one of the other three matter-interacting forms. The researchers also state that the sterile neutrino, if it existed, could "dramatically interfere with the way conventional neutrinos" interact with matter. After "a year's worth of data or about 100,000 neutrino events" IceCube has come to the conclusion that sterile neutrinos, at least as currently defined, do not exist. For more details, see the video embedded in this article:

Another proof of a negative, to come from the world of Unclear Physics, this week, is the revelation that MACHOs - gigantic black holes, sitting where they shouldn't be, on the peripheries of galaxies, instead of in the middle of them - do not exist in galaxies' halos. At least, not if they're over 10 times the mass of our Sun. They're missing from gravitational lensing surveys, discounting them from being 10-30 solar masses; and the existence of fragile wide halo binaries has discounted them from the range above 100 solar masses, as they would be destroyed by such huge black holes. Observations of ultra-faint dwarf galaxy Eridanus II, discovered by the Dark Energy Survey, have been used to discount MACHOs from the range in the middle - 30-100 solar masses. Ultra-faint dwarf galaxies are dominated by dark matter content, so if MACHOs accounted for dark matter in the universe, then they should be abundant there. But if they were, the dynamic heating between Eridanus II's star cluster and the MACHO black holes would cause the cluster to expand. Eridanus II's star cluster is simply too compact for MACHOs to exist there, ruling their presence out. It could be that Eridanus II is somehow an exception, where all the black holes have left for their summer holidays, but this is very unlikely.

In the wake of Solar Impulse 2's completed voyage around the world, using zero carried fuel, NASA has selected five concepts for research over the next two years, that might revolutionise the emissions-efficiency of future aeronautics. The concepts are: alternative fuel cells; using 3-D printing to increase electric motor output; the use of lithium-air batteries for energy storage; new mechanisms for changing the shape of an aircraft wing in flight; and the use of aerogel in the design and development of aircraft antennae. NASA presumably hopes that work on these concepts will help it towards its stated targets of: reducing fuel use by half, reducing harmful emissions by 75%, and significantly reducing aircraft noise.

A Greenland Shark (Somniosus microcephalus) has recently been proclaimed to be the world's oldest vertebrate, at 500 years old. Well, radionuclide analysis of the lens in its eye, has actually revealed a specimen of the fish to be 272-500 years old. The reason radiometric testing of the animal's lens was used to test its age, is that environmental exposure to fallout from nuclear tests would embed in the material of the lens, indicating that it had been alive at the time of the event. By projecting its growth rate backward, to when it were born, the researchers made an estimate of 392±120 years - much older than the previous record, set by a 211-year-old bowhead whale. This method of projection is unreliable, despite the greenland shark's slow-and-steady growth rate (common in animals living in cold, polar conditions) which is why the uncertainty in estimates of its age spread so widely. It could be as young as 272, or as old as 500. The figure of 150 years, for the commencement of breeding, is subject to this same uncertainty, but of one thing we can be sure: any animal that grows so slowly, and lives so long, is highly susceptible to fishing, as it can't renew its population easily.

Researchers led by a marine ecologist with NOOA Fisheries' Southwest Fisheries Science Center have made the claim that the humpback whales they have observed, have been engaging in altruistic, or at least quasi-altruistic behaviour. Adult humpback whales are practically immune to attacks by orca (killer whales) due to their size, but their young are susceptible, so the adults get in the habit of defending their younger charges from the orcas' attacks. According to these researchers, their wont extends to defending orcas' other victims, such as sea lions, gray whales, sunfish and harbor seals, by forming a cetacean wall, encircling and patrolling the victims for several hours, if necessary. A colossal 104 out of 115 incidents of defencive behaviour, that the researchers spotted, did not involve humpback whale calves. It might be an extension of a parenting reflex, or it might be an extension of personal experience, as many of the defencive whales bore scars from attacks they had suffered themselves, in their youths.

All vertebrates develop through a temporally-ordered process, in the womb. First, development focuses around the head, then the torso, and lastly the tail. Genetic differences are responsible for the proportions of all of these bodyparts, and this includes the length of the torso - from the stubby torsoes of little animals like mice, to the hugely elongated torsoes of snakes. And most of their body genuinely is torso - it's not all tail! The biologists behind this study have found that the Oct4 gene is the key controller of trunk development, and that in snakes, their epigenetics keeps the gene 'on' (being expressed) for much longer than in other vertebrates. In fact, evolution has led to the Oct4 gene in snakes being located next to a DNA region that keeps this gene in an 'on' state during long periods of embryonic development. This means that, conversely, the snake's tail is actually relatively short, because there is less time devoted to developing its length.

Warm waters might be balmy and inviting to humans and their fellow vertebrates, on their holidays, but they're also inviting and nurturing to other forms of life. Warm water is a boon for a range of pathogens, and with climatic change increasing the temperature of surface waters, around the world, it's unsurprisingly causing an increase in outbreaks of diseases in shallow-water environments. About a dozen species of vibrio bacteria are responsible for sicknesses, from consuming undercooked seafood, especially oysters. And they also cause illness in swimmers, and people drinking infected water. Probably vibrio's most famous disease is cholera - long banished from Britain - but vibrio varieties are apparently on the rise in the USA, where researchers have observed warming trends providing more places for infections to fester. And similarly, in Europe, outbreaks have coincided with heatwaves, such as have occurred twice in the UK already, this year.

Hammerhead sharks, it has been found, swim on their sides to save energy. Not at right-angles, of course - at an angle of about 50-70 degrees from upright. And they do this because their large dorsal fin provides lift when they lean to the side, meaning they don't have to put as much effort in, to stay up, in the water. This means that as long as they're not going anywhere in a hurry, it helps to swim lop-sided. Windtunnel experiments on a scale model have verified the energy efficiency, explaining why they travel at that angle ~90% of the time.

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

Word Of The Week: pathology -- the study of diseases; from greek 'pathos' meaning 'suffering', and 'ology' meaning 'the study of'

Advice Of The Week: Don't buy a car in the dark

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

'Thermal Camera reveals how your body dumps heat while exercising!'
Holy freaking shit! This is the one to watch!! IT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND!!!

'Powering a Particle Accelerator'

'Silver Halides - Periodic Table of Videos'

'Fully-Charged-Electric-Bikes | Fully Charged'

'Who Owns the South China Sea?'

'The 'Nazi' Dog Of London'

'The Adventures of Dad³ - 100m Sprint World Record'

'Pensioner's massive cock has become a tourist attraction'

'Perseid Meteors over Mount Shasta'

'Perseid from Torralba del Burgo'

'IRIS spots plasma rain on sun's surface'

'Image: Infrared Saturn clouds'

'Cassini finds flooded canyons on Titan'

'ACCC-CCCC: Investment scams | The Checkout'

'Card Sharks | The Checkout'

No comments:

Post a Comment