Friday, 31 July 2009

I'll see you on Sunday - unless you're in the Army

The big hectic weekend has finally arrived. The band has just had a last run-through of the set. We've seen Simon PA, the sound equipment is loaded up and the mobile stage is ready to roll. Transport is all booked. Phone calls and texts are flying in all directions and I've nipped off to get an early night.

Let's go entertain the troops! Grow into these trousers... >>

I've been playing with Google Earth

If you fell from here you'd go straight down my chimney.

Grow into these trousers... >>

Thursday, 30 July 2009

A rather amazing optical illusion

Via Amazing Illusions.

Who do you see? Well it's old Albert E. obviously. Now get up and back away from your monitor, as far as you can. Who is it now?

Grow into these trousers... >>


I haven't posted a game for ages. So here's a slow stratedgy with twists. Take over the office and stop your rivals...

Thanks to dberenstein at Shores of the Dirac Sea. Grow into these trousers... >>

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Beware the spinal trap

Along with half the blogsphere today, I join in reposting Simon Singh's article from The Guardian which got him sued by the British Chiropractic Association. For the lowdown read Orac.

Some practitioners claim it is a cure-all, but the research suggests chiropractic therapy has mixed results - and can even be lethal, says Simon Singh.

You might be surprised to know that the founder of chiropractic therapy, Daniel David Palmer, wrote that "99% of all diseases are caused by displaced vertebrae". In the 1860s, Palmer began to develop his theory that the spine was involved in almost every illness because the spinal cord connects the brain to the rest of the body. Therefore any misalignment could cause a problem in distant parts of the body.

In fact, Palmer's first chiropractic intervention supposedly cured a man who had been profoundly deaf for 17 years. His second treatment was equally strange, because he claimed that he treated a patient with heart trouble by correcting a displaced vertebra.

You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact some still possess quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything, including helping treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying - even though there is not a jot of evidence.

I can confidently label these assertions as utter nonsense because I have co-authored a book about alternative medicine with the world's first professor of complementary medicine, Edzard Ernst. He learned chiropractic techniques himself and used them as a doctor. This is when he began to see the need for some critical evaluation. Among other projects, he examined the evidence from 70 trials exploring the benefits of chiropractic therapy in conditions unrelated to the back. He found no evidence to suggest that chiropractors could treat any such conditions.

But what about chiropractic in the context of treating back problems? Manipulating the spine can cure some problems, but results are mixed. To be fair, conventional approaches, such as physiotherapy, also struggle to treat back problems with any consistency. Nevertheless, conventional therapy is still preferable because of the serious dangers associated with chiropractic.

In 2001, a systematic review of five studies revealed that roughly half of all chiropractic patients experience temporary adverse effects, such as pain, numbness, stiffness, dizziness and headaches. These are relatively minor effects, but the frequency is very high, and this has to be weighed against the limited benefit offered by chiropractors.

More worryingly, the hallmark technique of the chiropractor, known as high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust, carries much more significant risks. This involves pushing joints beyond their natural range of motion by applying a short, sharp force. Although this is a safe procedure for most patients, others can suffer dislocations and fractures.

Worse still, manipulation of the neck can damage the vertebral arteries, which supply blood to the brain. So-called vertebral dissection can ultimately cut off the blood supply, which in turn can lead to a stroke and even death. Because there is usually a delay between the vertebral dissection and the blockage of blood to the brain, the link between chiropractic and strokes went unnoticed for many years. Recently, however, it has been possible to identify cases where spinal manipulation has certainly been the cause of vertebral dissection.

Laurie Mathiason was a 20-year-old Canadian waitress who visited a chiropractor 21 times between 1997 and 1998 to relieve her low-back pain. On her penultimate visit she complained of stiffness in her neck. That evening she began dropping plates at the restaurant, so she returned to the chiropractor. As the chiropractor manipulated her neck, Mathiason began to cry, her eyes started to roll, she foamed at the mouth and her body began to convulse. She was rushed to hospital, slipped into a coma and died three days later. At the inquest, the coroner declared: "Laurie died of a ruptured vertebral artery, which occurred in association with a chiropractic manipulation of the neck."

This case is not unique. In Canada alone there have been several other women who have died after receiving chiropractic therapy, and Edzard Ernst has identified about 700 cases of serious complications among the medical literature. This should be a major concern for health officials, particularly as under-reporting will mean that the actual number of cases is much higher.

If spinal manipulation were a drug with such serious adverse effects and so little demonstrable benefit, then it would almost certainly have been taken off the market.

Simon Singh is a science writer in London and the co-author, with Edzard Ernst, of Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial. This is an edited version of an article published in The Guardian for which Singh is being personally sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association.

Grow into these trousers... >>

I'm going to Mars next

Some folks were interested in my 'I'm going to the Moon' post, and the follow-ups about the LRO/LCROSS mission. The best is yet to come there!

Even more amazing is this:

How did I get my name on the Mars Science Laboratory? Easy, just like LRO I signed up online. You can do the same. Read about it and sign up here. Bookmark your certificate page to go back.

See you on the Red Planet. Grow into these trousers... >>

I don't drink cocktails

Despite the skills of the juggling bartender, I would still prefer a beer. But if I did fancy something more exotic I might sample these.

Do you have any favourite cocktails?

Wet Pussy
1 oz Chambord raspberry liqueur
2 oz Irish cream
6 oz Milk
Mixing instructions:

Put the Chambord, Irish Cream, and Milk or Creamer in a shaker with ice. Shake, Strain and pour into glass. You can use alot less milk and make a shooter out of it.
Splash of Lemon juice or Sour mix
Blend with ice, Strain & Serve up in a chilled cocktail glass
2 parts Southern Comfort
1 part irish cream
Dry & Sweet Vermouth
Pour over ice, Garnish with a lime wedge
Hawaiian/French Surfer on Acid
1 oz Chambord® raspberry liqueur
1 oz Malibu® coconut rum
1/2 - 1/3 oz Jagermeister® herbal liqueur
2 oz pineapple juice

Mix all ingredients together in a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes. Shake vigorously. Pour over ice cubes into an old-fashioned glass. It will be a bit frothy on top. Garnish with a cherry and lime wheel, and serve.
B. J.
in a shot glass
fill it half with baileys
and half peppermint shnapps

turn it into an orgasm by topping it with whip cream
Jamaica Me Crazy
Malibu Rum over ice,
add pineapple juice
and a couple drops of Tia Maria
Screaming Slippery Bald Beaver
1/2 oz vodka
1 oz butterscotch schnapps
1 oz Bailey's® Irish cream
1 oz Chiquita Kiwi-Strawberry Juice

Pour ingredients into a stainless steel shaker over ice and shake until ice cold. Pour into an old-fashioned glass three-quarters filled with ice, and serve.
Sex on the Beach
* 3cl vodka
* 1.5cl peach schnapps
* 1.5cl Chambord liqueur
* 5cl fresh orange juice
* 5cl cranberry juice

Pour all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake. Strain into a highball filled with ice. Garnish with a slice of lime.
Sexual Healing
* 5cl Stolichnya vodka
* 1.5cl Cointreau
* 2 stalks of redcurrants, de-stalked
* 2 to 3 slices of ginger root, peeled
* 1.5cl fresh lemon juice
* half teaspoon clear honey

Muddle the ginger and the redcurrants in a shaker to release the flavours. Add the remaining ingredients and ice. Shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a small sprig of redcurrants on the rim.

* 3cl Aperol
* 3cl gin
* prosecco
* Pour the gin and Aperol into a mixing glass with ice. Stir. Strain into a highball filled with ice. Top up with prosecco. Drop a slice of orange into the drink.
Angel's Tit

* 4cl maraschino liqueur
* 2cl double cream

Pour the maraschino into a liqueur glass and float the cream on top. Garnish with a maraschino cherry in the middle of the creamy top.
Grow into these trousers... >>

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Search term fun

I was reminded by delicate flower's recent post that I hadn't looked it my own incoming search terms for a while

Here are the edited highlights from the past month. I've left out many of the serious ones.

time wasting games 17 hits - You lazy bastards, no wait.

john martyn 5 hits - Miss him, here's a tune.

red dwarf season x episode y gazillions - I'll have to post more.

trousers to grow into 4 - Hi!
trousers to grow in to 1 - And hel lo to you too!
trouser braces blog 1 - Welcome.

david attenborough trousers
david bowie trousers
flu trousers
mosh trousers
university trousers - The popularity of trousers!

length of trouser in islam
trousers in islam - Erm

ogdens' nut gone celebrated flake 2 hits
ogden's nut gone celebrated flake 1 hit - Ogdens', see here.

wolfram rule 34
wolfram's rule 34
wolfram's 34
rule 34 toothpaste - no it was xkcd, not toothpaste for dinner. See here.

"digital cuttlefish" - great poet go visit!

causes of cross legs urine - A full bladder and no convenience.

demonstration of standing - You need a demo?

dogs drank bloodworms - WTF search of the month

lcross launch video
lro launch video - Er they were on the same rocket.

legs crossed bare - legs crossed fish
vezhaventhan g, jeyaraman r. unusual foreign body in urinary bladder: a case report. the internet journal of urology. 2007;4(2) - Wow, how specific.

motorhead atheist? - You bet

plasma creatures in the sky - WTF No 2

random surfing - You sure must be.

wolfstone - good call.

yorksnbeans - hope you find her.

I have no comment on this lot:
grow breast size
hirsute breast pics
increase breast size without surgery
how to increase boob size without surgery
how to increase breast size without surgery
how to increase breast size without surgery?
how to increase ladies breast
images of woman who had sugery on their puss and breast
increase the size of breast without surgery
increase the size of ur boobs without surgery
japan scientist ringtone breast listen
young ladies breast fully naked
music grows breasts
photo of breast of ladies
raw data+bra size
sergery of ladies
skipping increases breast size
the time breast began to grow what we want to do

And whoever searched for paste it into the address bar, or don't bother it's not available.

More fun next time. Grow into these trousers... >>

How not to serve beer

I just found a fun food and drink blog - MenuBlob - and saw this great video of bartending skills.

TGI Friday's Champion Bartender Ryan Matthew Burgos

But if he tries that with my bottle of beer, he can open it (and mop-up afterwards). Grow into these trousers... >>

Monday, 27 July 2009

Late night music - Jethro Tull

The album version, just for the memories...

JETHRO TULL - Locomotive Breath
Grow into these trousers... >>

Religion - by Marcus Brigstocke

Marcus Brigstocke is a great comedian. His first shakedown of religion is one of the best (and funniest) ever. I can't believe I have not posted this before, but I'm blowed if I can find it! So here it is (again maybe):

Religion - Marcus Brigstocke

And now there's a part two to enjoy:

Religion 2 - Marcus Brigstocke

For interest, go visit mediawatchwatch for their post on the inevitable backlash.


A quick joke from Marcus about how video games influence the young:
If Pac-Man had affected us as kids, we'd all be running around in dark rooms, munching pills and listening to repetitive electronic music.
Grow into these trousers... >>

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Basic bass guitar skills

WOW! Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten
Grow into these trousers... >>

A thought for a Sunday

"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be.
Now put foundations under them".

Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862) Grow into these trousers... >>

Late night music - String Band

The Incredible String Band were so formative to me, both musically and psychologically

The Incredible String Band - Koeeoaddi There
Grow into these trousers... >>

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Just got back from Drig-stock

What a great day!

Been playing at a free concert in a pub car park to raises funds for St Gemma's hospice. Free beer for the bands, and that has been well utilised, but the quality of music was outstanding (apart from ourselves, we kept starting songs and we were all in a different key, oops).

As I said yesterday, its good that that new generations are coming through, and it's good that us oldies can still give them a run for their money :)

I've come home with a big smile on my sun-cooked face (silly me, I didn't take a hat). No video from the day yet, but for your entertainment I present SkyFire:

Grow into these trousers... >>

ZOMy God - I think I could fall in love*

It's wonderful to know that the younger generation is still coming through with clear thinking.

Fool !

*If I wasn't already in love with gogreen18
Via PZ Myers (again) Grow into these trousers... >>

Friday, 24 July 2009

A bit of jolly music for the evening

They Might Be Giants-Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
Grow into these trousers... >>

Pass this on to everyone in your contacts list

Grow into these trousers... >>

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Dara O'Briain on science, or not


Homeopathy & Nutritionists vs Real Science!

Via PZ Myers. Grow into these trousers... >>

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

A meme

Last Sunday, delicate flower challenged us all to answer this questionnaire. So I will do so.

Blow me, then yorksnbeans twists it round another way. But it's getting late tonight and I can't think of six questions just now. I will ask one right at the end.

First, df:

What is your current obsession?
Blogging and Apollo 11.

What did you wear today?
The soles of my shoes with walking. The seat of my trousers by sitting down. The elbows of my shirt by leaning.

What’s for dinner?
Wednesday is curry night - chicken and lamb dopiaza, mushroom pakoras and onion bhajis. With naan bread, mint yogurt sauce, garlic dip and raw onion salad.

What would you eat for your last meal?
Chicken and lamb dopiaza, mushroom pakoras and onion bhajis...

What are you listening to right now?
The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe Podcast #207 - Jul 01 2009

Which language do you want to learn?

What do you love most about where you currently live?
The peace and quiet, being next to open fields, the view across the valley, the local shops 2mins walk away.

What style is your current home decorated in?
General random disorder. In the front room I have a big poster of Jim Morrison on one wall (No One Here Gets Out Alive), a print of William Blake's The Ancient of Days above the fireplace and a drawing of psilocybin mushrooms with a butterfly on the far wall.

If you were a time traveler what era would you live in?
All of them. Straight off, the origin of the Universe. Then I would go and see how the first stars and galaxies formed, later watch our Sun and the Planets develop. How did the Moon and the Earth come to be? After that I would go to the time of abiogenesis, then see how eukaryotic life came about, then find the distinctive point when plants and animals diverged. Watch evolution... Human development, our history...

OK, if not just NOW! Then Ancient Greece!

PS: I cannot foretell the future. Nor do I particularly wish journey there. It would be nice to know, but I'll simply wait and see what happens.

What is your favorite color?

What is your favorite piece of clothing in your own wardrobe?
Everything familiar and comfortable. See 'What did you wear' above.

What were you doing ten years ago?
Being depressed. Trying to recover from my marriage breakup.

If you had $300 now, what would you spend it on?
I would carefully invest it for my retirement.

When was the last time you cried?
I almost did a couple of days ago. Walking through Leeds for the bus after work and remembering parts of Pale Blue Dot:

What are your favorite films?
Brazil, 2001, LOTR, Highlander 1, Jason and the Argonauts (this list may change without notice).

Do you collect anything?
Empty beer bottles, stray cats (currently 2, one of each), stray people (currently 1, male, usually asleep on the couch with the cats), accolades (please).

What makes you follow a blog?
To try to learn from what that person is telling me, in a way I might understand, which is interesting to me and not always serious. (ie I don't really know)

What was the most enjoyable thing you did today?
Laugh my arse off listening to Steve, the singer in our band, tell me of his return flight from holiday last weekend. When one of the plane's engines caught on fire... No joke! But Steve is such a natural story teller he should be a stand up comedian not a singer.

And delicate flower's added question: What do you wish you could do better?
Home brew beer.


Now on to Ys&Bs questions:

1.) Are you wearing undies right now? Yes, Y-fronts.

2.) When was the last time you combed your hair? Years ago. I use a brush.

3.) When was the last time you shaved something on your body? Early November 1997. I had my beard shaved in public to raise money for Children in Need (got £600).

4.) Did you ever wear braces on your teeth? No.

5.) What time do you normally go to bed? It depends on how tired I feel. It varies all the time from 9:30pm to the wee small hours.

6.) What are you listening to right now? The Archaeo News Podcast No. 139


As promised here is my question for you all:

On a scale of 1 to 10. If you suddenly found yourself to have true psychic ability would you:
(1) selfishly use your ability to make loads of money?
(10) give your talents away for free to help others?

I would go for 7 or 8, a comfortable living for myself but try to be there when needed. Grow into these trousers... >>

Late night music- The Rezillos

the rezillos - flying saucer attack
Grow into these trousers... >>

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Going home

Grow into these trousers... >>

The accumulation of small steps...

Is what drives humanity forwards. May we never step backwards.

Apollo 11 One Small Step
Grow into these trousers... >>

Monday, 20 July 2009

You got a bunch o'guys about to turn blue.

We're breathing again. Thanks a lot.

Apollo 11 - Touchdown and Radio Transcript

I can never hope to express my original feelings about this event. I was young and impressionable true, but I was well aware of earlier space missions. Nothing though, nothing before, ever had this intensity. This compulsion. Watching the TV transfixed for hours. I didn't really understand but I somehow knew I was seeing an Earth changing moment.

I had similar feelings when the Berlin wall fell, and when Nelson Mandela walked from Victor Verster Prison. You can feel the importance. But Apollo 11 was far more than that. Much more than the petty squabbles of politics or religion.

However, for humankind to be able to accomplish such amazing achievements does take politics. In some ways it involves religion, an age-old inspiration to the human mind, but then science pisses on them both.

Apollo 11 - baby's first step into the unknown. Grow into these trousers... >>

Sunday, 19 July 2009

At least the guy was giving it his best shot

fail owned pwned pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures Grow into these trousers... >>

A thought for a Sunday

"We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it— and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again— and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore".

Mark Twain (1835 – 1910) Grow into these trousers... >>

Saturday, 18 July 2009

LRO - oh deep joy!

"All time sometime deep joy of a full Moon scintillating dangly in the heavenly bode" - Happiness Stan, The Small Faces
In the week where everyone is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the 1st Moon landing (if you're not, then you should be. It's one of humanities greatest achievements), the LRO snaps this image:

Not much to see you may think; but what's that little, right-pointing shadow bang in the centre? I'll blow it up.

All is revealed below the belt...

It's the bottom half of the Eagle, the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) on Apollo 11.
"Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."
LRO is still in the commissioning phase of its mission. It's not down to its working orbit yet, so the final resolution should be at least twice as good as this.

Remember, the last time anyone saw this object it was from a lot closer.

Buzz Aldrin looks back at his taxi home.
The LRO has captured images of all the other Apollo sites except 12 (coming soon). On the image from Apollo 14 you can actually see the path made by the astronauts as they trekked back and forth to some experimental equipment! Amazing.
LRO images, credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University
Grow into these trousers... >>

Friday, 17 July 2009

What would you taste like to a cannibal?

I, apparently, would most likely taste like mesquite tofu. WTF!

What would you taste like to a cannibal?

What would you taste like? Grow into these trousers... >>

Re-live the 1st Moon landing

Take a small step over to We Choose The Moon for a real time animation of the Apollo 11 mission, overlaid with the radio communications as they would have happened. Or listen to hours of static because, just now (then) they are (would have been) simply coasting along between the Moon and the Earth. It will get more exciting!

In the meantime there's a ton of photos and videos to see.

Note: It's a great site but it's very, very Flash intensive and slow to load. If you follow the link and think your 'puter has hung, be patient. Once it has loaded, it's fine. Grow into these trousers... >>

Late night music - The Kinks

Very late, and why does this song fit my mood just now?

Death of a Clown - Kinks
Grow into these trousers... >>

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Light blue touchpaper

and retire to a safe distance.

I just noticed something in my earlier image of the Apollo 11 liftoff. I hate to do another 'caption this' so soon but...

Caption this

"Er, Oops, Oh shit!"


"Hold at arms length"

Or... Grow into these trousers... >>

40 years ago today

I was 13.

Visit The Big Picture for lots more images from the Apollo 11 mission.

As You Remember It: The Lift-Off of APOLLO 11
Grow into these trousers... >>

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Caption this

For a timewaster, go visit Awkward Family

I'll have a go.

[Littlest, on the left]
"Why is everyone talking about dandruff and nits?"


"Just wait till wide screen is invented"


"Hubert! No! Wait! There isn't room on the photo for another one"

Over to you... Grow into these trousers... >>

C'est la vie !

You Never Can Tell
Grow into these trousers... >>


Can it be true?
Is this where we go when we die?

Click the image to find out.

From Atheist Empire via Discreet Infidel. Grow into these trousers... >>

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Late night music - Iggy Pop


Just for the laughs, here's Iggy Pop's rider. His 'stage requirements' if you like.

His needs in the realm of 'General Hospital-ity' are hilarious. Grow into these trousers... >>

The thinking atheist (.com)

"A 2-minute website intro for which sums up a key argument against God. (Like...where the heck is he?)"
[There's something a bit weird about the embed code for this clip. so here's the YT link.]

The Thinking Atheist - "Invisible"

There is one word, used about half way through, where I disagree with the authors. That word is divorce.

Painful and difficult though it can be, divorce is a basic human right for all married or partnered people. Grow into these trousers... >>

Monday, 13 July 2009

I did it for science

Well not me, but these folks did...

At the time when the city of Sheffield Health Service releases a pamphlet advocating regular sex or masturbation for teenagers (Er?) and Duncan posts a great cartoon, I go and find this link. I've not yet had time to read it all, but it looks... interesting...

In an attempt to scientifically study human sexuality, the researchers experimented with themselves using different modes of sexual expression in various circumstances. Their results are recorded for posterity.

A word of warning to all functional males. Do NOT read Injaculation, I'm telling you!

The site goes back a few years so some people may have seen it already, but...
Via Blag Hag. Grow into these trousers... >>

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Late night music - Bowie

David Bowie In The Port of Amsterdam
Grow into these trousers... >>

A mathematical joke

OK this is not funny, just an absurdity caused by incorrect thinking.

Take the number 1 and double it, you get 2. Double it again, that's 4. Double again, 8, again, 16 and so on...
1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024 ...
I seem to remember a story in Chinese history where an Emperor was duped by an Old Man and a chessboard. For some payment the Emperor agreed to place 1 grain of rice on the first square, 2 on the second, 4 on the third, 8 on the fourth and so on. Then the 64th square alone needs 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 grains of rice. Add up all the rice and it's twice that plus 1 (or is it -1) anyways it's about 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 grains. An impressive harvest.

However, had I been the Emperor I would have said "No. It's not enough payment. Let us make the chessboard infinitely large. How much do I owe you now Old Man?".

Let's work it out. We don't know what the final sum of all the rice grains will be so lets call it P, for Payment.

So to find P we have to add up the grains on every square, so
P = 1 + 2 + 4 + 8 + 16 + 32 + 64 + 128 etc, etc to infinity.
How the hell do you do that? Think this way...

Double everything, ie multiply P by 2 and all the numbers by 2, then:
2P = 2 + 4 + 8 + 16 + 32 + 64 + 128 etc, etc to infinity.
Notice that each number in 2P has a counterpart in P, except for one (assuming the sequences continue to infinity) and that solitary digit is the number 1. It can't be in 2 times anything or it would be two.

Let's work out what the payment is. Subtract 2P from P, what do you get? What else can you get but 1?

P - 2P = 1

Therefore P = -1

"Old Man, you owe me a grain of rice"


So where does the math go wrong? Grow into these trousers... >>

A thought for a Sunday

"It is good to express a thing twice right at the outset and so to give it a right foot and also a left one. Truth can surely stand on one leg, but with two it will be able to walk and get around".

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844 – 1900) Grow into these trousers... >>

Saturday, 11 July 2009

They don't call him The Boss for nothing

Bruce Springsteen & The Sessions Band Pay Me My Money Down
Grow into these trousers... >>

Dress codes and freedom

The irrepressible Pat Condell gives his thoughts on the 'rights' of Islamic women to wear the burka. As usual his scathing irreverence hits the nail squarely where it needs to be hit. Feminists, where are you on this issue?

Ban the burka
Grow into these trousers... >>

Richard Feynman

Feynman was arguably the greatest mind since Einstein, and a teacher of supreme ability. I first heard of Richard Feynman way back, Feynman diagrams are often used in physics class, but I never understood his character until I took up serious study in the early '80s. Then his name kept cropping up. Along with the rumours of his womanising, and his skill playing bongo drums; and archive movies of his lectures, which were amazing (maybe I'll post some in the future).

And then there was this; a BBC Horizon broadcast from 1981. I've blogged this before but the thought police at YouTube saw fit to delete the video. Thankfully that error has been put right by nethius.

The Pleasure Of Finding Things Out (1, 2 ,3 4, 5,)

Now, just for delicate flower I will talk about flowers...

When I first worked in biochemistry we studied an obscure blue pigment in a single celled algae (a simple plant). It's the blue-green stuff on the pond walls in this photo. Over the years we were able to show how the algae makes this pigment and, by a bit of jiggery pokery, infer how higher plants make phytochrome. That's the plant hormone which controls germination, leaf breaks and flowering time. Without phytochrome, flowering plants may not have evolved and humankind would never have witnessed that aspect of beauty.

Like Feynman when I look at a flower, I see the flower but I also see a dance of biochemicals interacting with their environment. But more than that, I'm conscious of the evolution of that species and sometimes its relationship to other plants. Even more I see an individual history. The vagaries of the weather, competition with other plants for sunlight or minerals in the soil, caterpillars or worse, the countless chances and improbabilities of that flower being here and now. That to me is the miracle, if there is one, the unlikely path which lead to that particular blossom. And it is after all, no more than the plant’s attempt at sexual reproduction. Nothing mystical or supernatural about it, it's just awesome.

Other aesthetic apes, may wish to draw or paint or photograph the flower. Or write poetry in its honour, attempting to capture that essence of beauty which can be all too fleeting. That is good and I have great admiration, for I have none of those skills. But is my own perception of a flower diminished by lack of artistic ability? I think not, and I can still chill out and enjoy the garden the same as everyone else. Grow into these trousers... >>

Friday, 10 July 2009

A quick science quiz

I've not posted a quiz for a while, so have a go at this one. Just to keep you on your toes over a coffee break.

Via A Simple Prop. Grow into these trousers... >>

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

LRO, first images from the Moon

These pictures from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter were released a few days ago but lack of time has made me slow posting.

They were taken just at sunrise so the shadows are deep and only high ground is illuminated (or is it sunset? North is down in these photos the Sun is to the left and the Moon rotates once a month and blah... I can't visualise it just now).

But get this, the field is a 1400m square. That's a lot less than a mile across, and the LRO hasn't got down to its final orbit yet. Nowhere near. At a guess the two craters with brightly lit rims; a bit to the right, above and below the center line, are round about 50m across. This is just a test of the systems. The best is yet to come.

Investigate below the belt for another photo and a movie!

And the good people at the Goddard Space Center have assembled a movie. Oooo!

NASA | HD Lunar Flyover of the First Images from the LRO Camera
Grow into these trousers... >>

1971 plane crash survivor tells her story

Leading on from our discussion on surviving a plane crash:

Miracle or Pure Luck?
On the question of miracles

Via Skepchick I found this recent news report:

Survivor still haunted by 1971 air crash.
"She became known as the miracle girl and was hounded by Peruvian media, receiving hundreds of letters from people she had never met before".
Her harrowing story makes no mention of the supernatural though. Grow into these trousers... >>

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Waggle Dance

Before I retire to bed, I must sing the praises of the Wells and Young's Brewing Company for their Waggle Dance.

It's a well balanced pale beer with a pleasant, flowery, summer taste. Made with honey, they say. Yeah, I can taste that. Another nice find down the cheap aisle.

And iitz qwkwwite stromge. Grow into these trousers... >>

On the question of miracles

Last week at The Mad Hatters, Julie posted about the tragic loss of an airplane over the Indian Ocean. One young girl survived.

Julie asked - Miracle or Pure Luck?

I replied that, amazing and improbable doesn't mean impossible. Then I tried to give an analogy involving the unanticipated failure of a 'splonking plate rivet', and was that miraculous? It was late and I was a bit drunk, so maybe it wasn't the best example to choose (that's my excuse anyway).

Julie then said a very unexpected thing: "isn’t a miracle meant to be a good thing"?

Hmm, I've been thinking about this and I have to disagree. Here's why.

A certain New Testament figure healed a few individuals and raised one man from the dead John 11:39-47 - that's good (rather unimpressive though given today's medical knowledge. OK Lazarus was 4 days dead and buried, but these days people are routinely spared death by drowning or heart attacks etc when previously they would have been declared dead. I do not consider good medical practice to be miraculous).

He turned water into wine John 2:1-11. Well that's good I suppose, for the wedding guests at least.

He walked on water John 6:16-21 Not good or bad, unless there was a long term good from this which I've missed because of my limited knowledge of scripture.

The same figure cursed a fig tree so that it withered Mark 11:12-21. Definitely bad, for the tree anyway, and rather childish too for the son of a god.

And why did he have to put one man's demons into pigs? Mark 5:1-16 Forgetting the fate of the 2000 pigs, he just destroyed the livelihood of some unknown person(s). 2000 pigs! Was there any payment for that loss? How many people starved the next year because of that action? Definitely bad. Not just for the pigs but for the whole community.

And let's leave out the miraculous plagues and smitings of the OT. (smites, smotes smootes, smits, smuts, smottens?)

I stand by my 'rivet' analogy though. You see... remember the girl who survived the aircrash, maybe her seatbelt rivets were above average strong. Other people were catapulted around, she was restrained till the last moment and she hit the water largely unscathed. I don't know. Maybe her seatbelt rivets were below standard and came loose early. She was catapulted through an open door, because the door had failed, but then she hit the water 2 seconds later; lost in the ocean but largely unhurt.

Maybe she wasn't bleeding much, and managed to cling to some flotsam so she was not kicking her legs to stay afloat. The sharks ignored her for more obvious meat. Any which way, the rescue services came and she lives to tell the tale. No supernatural miracle. And I am not trying to trivialise her survival. May all luck go with her.

Hopefully from her counselling in trauma recovery, or perhaps not, some relevant details can be passed back to the air crash investigators. I do not mean she should be grilled about it, but anything she may remember may add to knowledge for future aircraft safety.

Back to miracles.
Now, I don't have duncanr's story telling ability, but just imagine:

You have been invited to a party, It's a long journey so you give yourself plenty of time. However, just as you climb into the shower there's a power cut. Never mind, you have a sluice down under the cold tap and continue getting ready. Then the zipper goes on your favourite outfit. Curses - find something else to wear. You are starting to rush when, for no reason, one of your contact lenses pops out. A few more curses later you decide wear your glasses, but they aren't where you thought you'd put them. After a frantic hunt you remember you left them in the car; now where are your keys? Eventually you find them in the fridge where you'd put them down while unpacking your groceries. Etc, etc... I could go on and on... But eventually you arrive at the party. Someone inquires about your journey.

"Don't ask!" You reply, "it's a bloody miracle I'm here".

This is simply a figure of speech, the same as a 'miraculous escape', it merely implies the improbable.

So what are real miracles?

Is it like this?
Fox News Miracle

Or is it like this? Lourdes

Quoting Wikipedia:
"On 11 February 1858, a 14-year-old local girl, Bernadette Soubirous, claimed a beautiful lady appeared to her in the remote Grotto of Massabielle. The lady later identified herself as "the Immaculate Conception" and the faithful believe her to be the Blessed Virgin Mary. The lady appeared 18 times, and by 1859 thousands of pilgrims were visiting Lourdes".

"An estimated 200 million people have visited the shrine since 1860, and the Roman Catholic Church has officially recognized 67 miraculous healings which are stringently examined for authenticity and authentic miracle healing with no physical or psychological basis other than the healing power of the water".

OK, 67 healings from 200 million visits, that's a success rate of about 1 in 3 million, or 0.0000335%. Hardly impressive given that on rare occasions people spontaneously recover from serious illnesses for which medical science has no cure, or an attempted cure failed (cancer can naturally go into remission for instance). Compare this to a control group of 200,000,000 people and how many would have survived naturally with no divine intervention? I guess a lot more than 67. Miracles at Lourdes are a piss take. I would love to see the criteria which the Catholic Church uses to judge such phenomena.

What would convince me? An amputee regrowing a lost limb after 'taking the waters'. How many times has this happened? Never, not once, not even half a finger or a bit of an earlobe.

I have to ask, Why won't God heal amputees? Grow into these trousers... >>

Sunday, 5 July 2009

A thought for a Sunday

"The correct scientific response to something that is not understood must always be to look harder for the explanation, not give up and assume a supernatural cause".

Sir David Attenborough (b 1926) Grow into these trousers... >>

Saturday, 4 July 2009

A hectic weekend

Things are really busy round here just now. It's Cleckheaton Folk Festival this weekend and tonight I'm joining in with a crowd of other musicians for a mass jamming session, then our band is playing live tomorrow, as part of the counterinsurgent NAFF (Not a F**king Folk) Festival for those who are not enamoured of the folk music idiom.

We're doing this for free to raise cash towards the next project. Sending 5 bands, a mobile stage, lighting rig and a 20kW sound system to a military base near Newcastle. The guys there will soon be leaving for a tour of duty in Afghanistan and we want to throw them a huge party before they go.

I am not in favour of warfare but when orders are given I fully support our troops. On the ground, water or in the air, I wish them all a safe return. Grow into these trousers... >>

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Laugh and be educated

Just before he died, the much missed Douglas Adams gave the following talk about his experiences tracking down endangered species. I have never seen this video before, though Adams' Last Chance To See is an old favoutite.

You don't really need to watch, just listen, there are no slides or photos. It's simply Adams talking, mainly without notes, and the stage lighting could have been better.

But in his talk, Adams recapitulates and updates Last Chance. It's '''king brilliant!!!

However it's an hour and a half long so get comfy, with refreshment close at hand, and enjoy. If you listen to nothing else, make it the 'Yangtze river dolphin' from 43:45ish onwards.

Douglas Adams: Parrots the Universe and Everything

Via Skepchick. Grow into these trousers... >>

Swine flu warning

If you receive an email claiming you can catch swine flu from eating a certain tinned pork product, you can safely ignore it and delete the message.

It's spam. Grow into these trousers... >>

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

It's a hot night

And very muggy. We need a thunderstorm to clear the air. However, on the positive side, it reminded me of this tune:

Budapest - Jethro Tull
Grow into these trousers... >>