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News for the ‘science’ Category

A Man in the Sky Told Me to Mutilate Little Boys and Girls Genitals

Catchy title hey? But be realistic, 1/3rd of the worlds population are saying this when following their faith and consider it ACCEPTABLE.

I thought I’d introduce you all to a podcast on iTunes I have been listening to recently; it breaks from the normal boring preachy atheist that causes me to troll them and call atheism a religion.

In one edition it even touches on female genital mutilation, although falls short of male genital mutilation which to date has very few scientific arguments (less in this century than any other), but is more a culture of “If I am, my son should be,” thus passing on an abusive act which somewhere stemmed from pseudoscience, paranoia, or a pact with some fictional deity.

That being said, I want to go on record to Jews and Muslims out there. Any ‘god’ that says hey to follow me you have to live by a lifestyle akin to a bunch of old wives tails, oh, and you have to slice half your knob off … dude, you just run, ok?

You do not stay and chat, you do not humor it, you run because clearly it’s batshit insane and evil.

If your god created us perfect, why would you take a scalpel to little boys and girls? Fuck mutilators, fuck religious zealots.

So, take a moment to sit down and have a listen through:

Reasonable Doubts Podcast
40 Ratings

(Live link broke, WordPress of iPad lacks HTML support, will update live later.)

iTunes for Mac and Windows
Copyright © 2011 Apple Pty Ltd. All rights reserved

Posted: July 7th, 2011
Categories: consumer reviews, critical thought, op ed, podcasts, rant, reviews, science
Comments: No Comments.

Science Cured my Hiccups, Please Retweet and Save Lives!

As most of you know, I’m a very cynical and scientific / critical thinker. I know alternative medicine is bullshit because if it worked it wouldn’t be alternative. I can also tell an old wives tale when I see one. However recently, for the first time in a decade, I got the hiccups. Fifteen minutes in I was bitching on Twitter and to friends via SMS. Half an hour in I was getting light headed. Forty five minutes in my throat was burning from reflux and I wanted to spew and was trying to find my handgun.

At that point I began going through a list of all the ‘cures’ for hiccups, most were stupid and clearly wouldn’t have worked having much the same scientific or medical grounding as praying does to curing cancer. If you’re shaking your head and saying prayer has any powers besides placebo effect, get the fuck off my website, you’re far too gone as a human being and have delved deep into the heart of moronicism.

I shortlisted a dozen old wives tale type cures that seemed to have SOME potential scientific application. Just as people tend to have different ideas about what causes hiccups, they also disagree on ways to stop them. Almost everyone knows at least one way to treat hiccups. Some families swear by their method, and refuse to believe that any others work.

Common cures for the hiccups include drinking a glass of water in some way. Some people swear by gulping, others insist on small sips, and some require that you tilt your head upside down and drink from the opposite side of the glass to make the hiccups go away.

No cure was found. By well over the hour mark I was seriously getting frustrated and angry about it when I realised I should be searching scholar.google not just google. So, first link of a scientific / medical paper on hiccups listed one method that had pure logical based purposes (I won’t go into specifics to save you the tl;dr) and I gave it a shot.

Literally IMMEDIATELY my hiccups were gone.

What was this magical method? Inhale deeply, filling your lungs, raising your arms above your head (laterally, ie: put your arms out like you’re JC on the cross, as you inhale, raise them above your head) then hold your breath and take as many little gaspy inhalations you can to stretch your diphragm and lungs that little bit more and count to ten.

It worked instantly, straight up, 100% effectively for me. But as this was my first bout in a decade I’m unsure if I’ll get the chance to test this out again anytime soon, but I have the utmost faith in it’s medical theory and grounding. So, when you get them next, do this to cure them, and shoot an @bashpr0mpt Tweet at me letting me know it worked.

Now, go back to Twitter if you found this blog post link there, and click Retweet. Let’s get this information out there so other poor bastards aren’t suffering for an hour feeling like idiots in the middle of the night unable to sleep; and also save them doing the stupid things I humored just to be able to say “I tried everything.” which clearly didn’t work.

If you don’t retweet this, I hope you get ball cancer and die. If you don’t have balls, I hope you get pregnant, have a kid, and it has balls, and they get ball cancer and die. If you don’t have balls but can’t get pregnant, well, you’re already punished enough. 😛

Posted: June 22nd, 2011
Categories: critical thought, general, oddities, rant, science
Comments: No Comments.

Silence is Golden; Should We Be Trying to Talk to Aliens?

Sounds daft from the title, but by now most of you know I phrase those to attract readers who are used to modern tabloidal headlines and could benefit the most from a pinch of critical thought.

Very recently Australia has begun the rollout of the largest sequential bank of radio telescopes in history, producing one behemoth structure per week. Also recently we have begun broadcasting, to planets in the goldilocks zone shortlisted as most probably capable of sustaining life.

The new radio telescope banks will form one badass giant radio telescope. This will undoubtedly be at some point used in the above grandiose endeavor of pestering the neighbors, like some chav council housing skank (iPad in it’s infinite fail thinks skank is REALLY an attempt to type ska keyboard … ) blasting Celine Dion waking the elderly residents nearby.

Stephen Hawkings, Arthur C. Clark, even the late Carl Sagan in his infinite wisdom held misgivings about sending out signals. It’s too early in the morning to research my usual citations or sources, but I do believe another equally brainy chap addressed that at any point in human history where a more advanced civilization encounters a lesser advanced it never worked out too well for the locals.

Even decades ago we made such mistakes. The Voyager program is carrying a gold plated copper record (like a vinyl record) that contains audio AND images and a means to access them through convoluted brainy calculations based on the rotational cycle of electrons in hydrogen atoms (I shit you not).

The collection of images includes many photographs and diagrams both in black and white and color. The first images are of scientific interest, showing mathematical and physical quantities, the solar system and its planets, DNA, and human anatomy and reproduction.

Care was taken to include not only pictures of humanity, but also some of animals, cattle, insects, plants and landscapes.

Other images show food, architecture, and humans in portraits as well as going about their day to day lives. Many pictures are annotated with one or more indications of scales of time, size, or mass. Some images contain indications of chemical composition.

All measures used on the pictures are defined in the first few images using physical references that are likely to be consistent anywhere in the universe.

In what may be the worlds most expensive attempt at a galactic message in a bottle we forget one thing.

Globally we feed over TWO HUNDRED TIMES what would feed the entire world to ecologically destructive animals bred for consumption by humans. This, to any advanced culture, would appear asinine, idiotic, and worse, primitive.

Do we REALLY want to be pestering the neighbors, not with Celine Dion, but proof we’re so massively under evolved that while one in three humans lives in squalor going hungry another one in three are not only inflicting horrid acts upon the creatures we share this world with but do so in what could be the most aggrandized snub to our own fellow creatures suffering?

Do we think our ET chums will rock up with a food basket and a nice bottle of ’89 Chardonnay? Or are they more likely to lob some nanite enriched astroidal planet killer our way with cellular destructive technology perfectly attuned to the human genome we so very kindly GAVE THEM extensive mapping of to help liberate all the other animals enslaved, used, and abused under our destructive reign, possibly even signed off by a galactic interpretation of our very own United Nations, for the greater good?

I leave the conclusions to you, dear reader.

Posted: June 16th, 2011
Categories: critical thought, hypotheticals, op ed, pop culture, rant, sci-fi, science, survival horror, technology
Comments: No Comments.

It’s the Bubbles of Nothing that Make the Universe Something

The NASA Voyager twin spacecraft, which launched in 1977, are currently exploring the furthest outlays of the heliosphere, where solar wind is slowed and warped by pressure from other forces in the galaxy, the US space agency said.

“Because the Sun spins, its magnetic field becomes twisted and wrinkled, a bit like a ballerina’s skirt,” astronomer Merav Opher of Boston University said.

“Far, far away from the sun, where the Voyagers are, the folds of the skirt bunch up.”

The Voyagers are almost 16 billion kilometres from Earth in a little known boundary region where solar wind and magnetic field are influenced by “material expelled from other stars in our corner of the Milky Way galaxy”.

This “turbulent sea of magnetic bubbles” occurs when parts of the Sun’s distant magnetic field break up and reorganise under pressure.

The bubbles are giant – about 160 million kilometres – meaning the Voyager probes could take multiple weeks to cross a single one of them.

Scientists have previously theorised that the Sun’s distant magnetic field curved in “relatively graceful arc, eventually folding back to rejoin the Sun”, NASA said.

But images of a smooth outer heliosheath have now been discarded as scientists begin to realise that the region is actually bubbly and “frothy”.

“The actual bubbles appear to be self-contained and substantially disconnected from the broader solar magnetic field,” they said.

The findings were made using a new computer model to analyse data from the Voyager craft and are published in the June 9 edition of the Astrophysical Journal.

“The magnetic bubbles appear to be our first line of defence against cosmic rays,” Prof Opher said.

“We haven’t figured out yet if this is a good thing or not.”
Read more: http://www.news.com.au/technology/sci-tech/magnetic-bubbles-160-million-km-wide-may-be-earths-first-defence-against-cosmic-rays/story-fn5fsgyc-1226072932809#ixzz1OyX4fQIV

Posted: June 11th, 2011
Categories: critical thought, science
Comments: No Comments.

iTunes U, Education in the Digital Age

Most of you know I’m a bit on the nerdy side, my academic peen is huge and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t actively seek to learn a few new things. From the arts to sciences, from landscaping to mechanics, or aeronautics to gaming I proactively seek to hone my skills in every field that catches my interest.

That being said, I can also be a bit of a dolt and in this case was entirely slow of faculty. I discovered iTunes U, I entirely forgot Americans abbreviate university to U (outside the US the common abbreviation is ‘uni’) and expected the U to be oriented around the selfishness of Web 2.0 with everything being self centered, my, u, etc included.

I was surprised to find that it has a mass of lecturers from various uni’s around the globe! My days will no longer have lulls of boredom within them, it really has a mass of interesting lectures to download and listen to from all around the world.

I can’t help but be amazed that I can gain insight from uni lecturers from the middle east, or listen to student workgroups from Russia discussing and covering any number of topics.

So, if you have an iPhone or iPad, I highly recommend cashing in on this free cache of information and wealth of knowledge. This is what the Internet was designed and meant for, it is absolutely brilliant and humbling in a way to see the milestone if where it has, with the help of the sage like prophets of technology and the digital church of awesome, come full circle.

Get downloading and get educated. It’s cool to be smart now, when the dumb kids realized all us nerds are what makes the world go around and that they bask in the technology and science brought about by their victims of bullying and the shunned geeky types in the world.

Expand your mind and you will also expand your future and potential as a human being.

Real Life Functional AT-AT Walker

AUSTRALIA’S status as the world capital of Big Things is under attack.

In February, the citizens of Detroit successfully lobbied for a giant statue of RoboCop to keep its crims in line.

In the same week, news broke that a three-metre tall Arnold Schwarzenegger statue will stand guard outside the Governator’s former home in Thal, Austria.

Both of which kick Robertson’s giant poo-tato and Ballina’s prawn to the kerb when it comes to cool icons for your country.

And now you can add — possibly, unless George Lucas hears of it — a lifesize, fully-functioning replica of a Galactic Empire AT-AT walker to the countryside somewhere in Oklahoma, if Mike Koehler gets his way.

Note fully-functioning — not like that static tat at Disneyland’s Hollywood theme park.

The 16m tall (some nerds experts put them at 23m) All Terrain Armoured Transports featured most famously in the attack on the Rebel forces’ secret base on Hoth in Empire Strikes Back, where one tripped over a bit of rope and exploded.

Another one makes a cameo in Return of the Jedi after a smaller version — an AT-ST — gets smashed by monkeys with logs.

But they look fearsome enough and Mr Koehler has been given the green light by online fundraiser Kickstarter to begin collecting cash to realise his dream.

It’s called AT-AT for America and Mr Koehler’s welcoming any offers of help or donations.

We chatted to him about why his country needs it…

Why did you choose a symbol of the Empire’s destructive capabilities to represent the US?

The AT-AT is not so much a representation of the US as it is a monument to what geek culture and its know-how has done for people in the country and, as I am quickly learning, folks all over the world. The can-do and cooperative spirit that nerdy pop culture has inspired can’t be overlooked in the past 30, 40, 50 years.

I wanted to make something that was: A) Doable. Fast-than-light and force field technology made many options unrealistic. B) Big enough to be awe-inspiring. Many people have made R2 units and Back to the Future Deloreans. The AT-AT is 50-feet tall.

If it proves too difficult, do you have any smaller scale Star Wars projects in mind?

I guess we could do one of the smaller scout walkers, but that seems like copping out.

If it proves easy, would you consider building a Death Star?

The Death Star would involve too much red tape I’m afraid, unless I could get Richard Branson on board.

The original AT-ATs had some notable design flaws. How will you Ewok-proof it?

No Ewoks will be allowed around the build sites. Sharpened logs will also be strictly prohibited. We are working towards some strong anti-log technology.

Have you had any interest from Mythbusters et al?

No word yet from the Mythbusters, though I hope as we continue to build momentum that we will get a lot of help from some of our geek heroes. When I first thought of this, my ideal project managers were Adam and Jamie.

If Detroit can get a RoboCop statue, maybe you should pitch your AT-AT for a permanent public space…

Once we’re done, I would like for the AT-AT to find some place nice to be housed and admired as a monument. Since it will be fully operational, people will be able to ride it. It would be an art piece on par with the Statue of Liberty, but with the ability to mosey around the block.

Have you had any cease and desist orders from George Lucas yet?

We have not heard from Lucasfilm yet, though there is that expectation. All I can say is that we won’t be making any money off this project, we consider it a public work of art and we would gladly locate it where ever Mr Lucas would like us to. This is a testament to how many dreams his work and other work like his has inspired in people my age and younger.

Will you live in it once it’s finished?

No, I won’t live in it.

Can I?

You can’t live inside it, though you are welcome to string a hammock between its knees.

Is there ever a chance that such a monolithic, relentless corporate machine could ever be seen in Australia?

Given enough support and volunteers, the AT-AT, like Oprah, would be happy to visit Australia.


Related Coverage

Scientists find asteroid with potential power of 15 atomic bombs. Heading this way. Tonight.

Asteroid 2011 GP59 was spotted hurtling towards us from a distance of less than ten lunar distances just the other night, blinking like a strobe through the night sky, indicating it is cigar shaped and is estimated to be anywhere up to 50m long and dense enough to have the impact of ’15 atomic bombs’ should it make contact. It won’t, so don’t go digging a hole in the ground just yet.

“Usually, when we see an asteroid strobe on and off like that, it means that the body is elongated and we are viewing it broadside along its long axis first, and then on its narrow end as it rotates,” said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “GP59 is approximately 50m long, and we think its period of rotation is about seven-and-a-half minutes.

Keep in mind it’s 10 lunar distances – or moon is 384,400km away – but tomorrow morning, about 5am, things get a little crazy. For start, Monday’s night’s discovery of GP 59 was just that – a discovery. It was picked up by astronomers at the Observatorio Astronomico de Mallorca in Andalusia, Spain, who’ve since determined that it’s heading towards us.

Tonight, it will miss pass just outside the moon’s orbit – again, comparatively speaking because this is space, folks – at a distance of 533,000km.

However, Mr Yeomans, whose office is responsible for a program called Spaceguard, which tracks and characterises asteroids and comets and is supposed to protect us from this sort of thing, says there’s no need to be concerned. “Although newly discovered, the near-term orbital location of asteroid 2011 GP59 can be accurately plotted,” he said. “There is no possibility of the small space rock entering Earth’s atmosphere during this pass or for the foreseeable future.”

Which is good news, because although 50m might sound smallish, it’s still five times bigger than an asteroid that exploded 15km above Indonesia in October, 2009. That blast released as much energy as three atomic bombs, according to New Scientist, who are supposed to know about such things. Take comfort in the fact that in 2009, no one saw that asteroid coming. At least we were given three days’ notice this time around!

Another upcoming near miss (or hit?) will be Apophis, a massively superior space object in every way; “Apophis will approach Earth at a distance of 37,000-38,000 kilometers on April 13, 2029,” Professor Leonid Sokolov of the St. Petersburg State University told Ria Novosti. “Its likely collision with Earth may occur on April 13, 2036.”

You might have noticed he used the word “may”. Again, space is big folks.

Asteroid 99942 Apophis was first discovered to be in the Earth’s impact zone back in 2004, and at roughly 300m wide, is estimated to be able to hit the Earth with the force equivalent to somewhere around two Krakatoas.

More sketchy science puts Australia well out of the path of possible destruction – Apophis could land anywhere in a streak that runs from the Middle East through the tip of South America to the west coast of Africa, according to a paper delivered to the 2007 Planetary Defense Conference.

Which is not to say we won’t feel its impact. A simulation tool devised by the University of Southampton in the UK shows that, depending on where it hits, it could cause up to 10 million deaths.


Other Related Coverage


Posted: April 15th, 2011
Categories: critical thought, epiclullz, gossip, journalism, news, oddities, pop culture, science, survival horror
Comments: No Comments.

Lasers & Blindness, a @news_com_au Tabloid Myth

Recently we’ve seen enough articles regarding OHNOES LAZORS blinding pilots. When this first came up and the Australian Pilots Association’s president went on record agreeing with this tabloidal myth I decided to ring him and have a chat, from one pilot to another. I asked him straight, how many pilots have been ‘blinded’ by these lasers, he claimed reports of one pilot in Adelaide (a very small capital city in South Australia which gets as much flight traffic a month as Sydney would in a day) and ‘of four others’, when I pressed him for names, dates or locations he suddenly got amnesia of the details. I set him at ease and said I will happily wait and give him a week or two to email me through the details when he remembers.

No email came of course, in chasing him up further on the issue it sounded more like the pilot who was ‘blinded’ by the ‘laser attack’ all over the news was simply seeking compensation and ironically none of these ‘blindings’ lead to the pilots never flying again except in the case of the pilot above who was at retirement age and used it as an excuse to retire; however his insurers doctors found his vision was perfectly fine, at which point it was claimed post traumatic stress disorder occured from fear for his life whilst blinded.

To cut a long story short, to date there is no empirical evidence of a single pilot being afflicted with blindness or having anything more than a minor annoyance from a laser pointer being aimed at their plane, however the media, police, and government are all super serious business, and at present in Australia (you guys really think I’m kidding when I talk about the fun police, don’t you) laser pointers are listed as PROHIBITED WEAPONS. I shit you not.

This morning I saw another rubbish article from the same tabloid source which gave me the urge to cite this information on record, sadly whenever news.com.au publish their more controversial (see: tabloid, can I say it enough? :P) crap they never have a comments field open. Below is the header of the article in question which just highlights how idiotic the media are in handling this myth:-

THREE commercial passenger planes were targeted by a laser pointer in Sydney overnight.

Police say the three incidents happened within an hour and half of each other last night as the planes were approaching the airport in Mascot.

The pilot of the third flight was struck in the eye by the high-powered light.

Each of the planes landed safely.

Flight crews told police that the laser appeared to be coming from the Cronulla or Brighton areas.

High-powered laser pointers are prohibited weapons and can’t be possessed without a permit.

Posted: April 14th, 2011
Categories: critical thought, epiclullz, gadget, journalism, lifestyle, pop culture, rant, science, technology
Comments: No Comments.

Australian National Broadband Network (ITT: Vaporware)

It’s bad enough in our bipartisan political clime that the other major party are basement dwelling troglodyte technophobes whilst the others are bleeding heart nutjob sycophants who come up with awesome promises then slowly shift away from them, but this NBN has become outright fucking vaporware.

The National Broadband Network is meant to bring Australia up to speed with the rest of the world. Our Trading Practices Act will shank you like a bitch in a jail house if you promise X and deliver an inferior Y but our ISP’s (Telstra, Optus, Iinet and the worst of the worst TPG (who still owe me a few fucking grand I might add)) sell us ‘ADSL 2+’ connections that run at 3 – 5 megabit (ADSL2+ is 24 megabit with a 4 megabit fall off to it’s operational perimeter of 7 kilometers) when you’re located a mere 3 kilometers from the DSLAMM.

That’s ADSL speeds being passed off as ADSL2+ and being charged at a premium rate too.

It’s even worse that the NBN won’t be out until 2030 at current estimates (IF the other party doesn’t get in and can it) but earlier this morning Patrick Flannigan has quit as NBN Co’s head of construction. An acting head of construction has been appointed, Dan Flemming, who was until now the company’s general manager of construction, design and planning.

“We are disappointed with his decision to resign as he was a valuable member of the leadership team,” a spokeswoman for NBN Co told the press, “We wish him all the best for the future.”

This comes after the Government business enterprise last week “indefinitely” suspended tendering for construction firms, saying the 14 quotes they were presented were inflated. According to the NBN Co website, Mr Flannigan was the founding managing director and chief executive of Service Stream, a major provider of infrastructure, construction and maintenance services to the telecommunications sector and broader utilities sectors.

I swear I should just move to a more technophillic nation.

Posted: April 5th, 2011
Categories: consumer reviews, general, gossip, journalism, news, rant, scams, science, technology, vox pop
Comments: No Comments.

Animation Realism ‘too Creepy’

Computer animation has a problem. When it gets too realistic, it starts creeping people out.

Most recently, moviegoers complained about the near-realistic depiction of humans in Disney’s 3D flick Mars Needs Moms, which bombed at the box office despite costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

A theory called the “uncanny valley” says we tend to feel attracted to inanimate objects with human traits, the way a teddy bear or a rag doll seems cute.

Our affection grows as an object looks more human. But if it looks too human, we suddenly become repulsed.

Instead of seeing what’s similar, we notice the flaws — and the motionless eyes or awkward movements suddenly make us uncomfortable.

Mars may have plunged to the bottom of this valley of fear.

“People always comment on things feeling strangely dead around the eyes,” said Chuck Sheetz, an animation director of The Simpsons and a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“If it gets too literal, it starts to feel false or has a strange effect.”

Skin texture that is slightly off can especially leave people feeling unsettled, said Patrick Markey, a psychologist and director of Villanova University’s Interpersonal Research Laboratory.

The near-realistic animation style championed by producer Robert Zemeckis uses motion-capture technology, where actors are covered with dots and skin suits and have their performances captured on computer. The dots provide the frame, and the rest is filled in with computerised graphics.

Mars creates humans that are more realistic and detailed than Zemeckis’ earlier attempts in such movies as Beowulf and The Polar Express — which were also criticised for inviting this discomfort. The greater detail might have made things worse.

Doug McGoldrick, who took his two daughters to see the movie, said the faces of the main characters “were just wrong”.

Their foreheads were lifeless and plastic-looking, “like they used way too much botox or something”, said the 41-year-old photographer in Chicago, Illinois.

Marc Kelley, a 32-year-old pastor in Allegan, Michigan, who went with his two young children, said he found the renditions of characters “all annoying in their own way”.

Indeed, when the mother of the main character Milo mentioned the word “zombies” at the start of the movie, it conjured up a feeling that the characters were themselves undead.

Animation experts say the key to success is to be only authentic enough to tug at our heart strings.

The best example of this was Avatar, the 2009 blockbuster that made $US2.8 billion in theatres around the world.

The humanoid, but blue-bodied Na’vi were alien enough not to trigger our inner rejection mechanism.

“My own personal opinion is try to stay away from photo-real with a human,” said Greg Philyaw, the business development director at Giant Studios, which captured the performance of human actors for their digital re-creation in Avatar.

“Subconsciously you know what you’re looking at isn’t quite right.”

Disney, by its actions, has already voted against the super-real animation format.

Last March, it said it would shut down the Zemeckis-run company ImageMovers Digital, which made Mars, to cut costs.

Several months ago, Disney also nixed a plan to fund and distribute Zemeckis’ Yellow Submarine, a half-finished work he is now free to shop to other studios.

Disney declined to comment for this story, and Zemeckis declined interview requests through an agent.

Mars had an estimated $US150 million production budget, but has brought in just $US34 million globally since its March 11 opening.

To be fair, there were other problems besides being visually unnerving.

For one, it appeared to be marketed at young boys who are interested in science fiction but also are closely attached to their mothers. That’s a small group to begin with, and neglects dads and daughters.

Some young children also got scared about the plot involving mommy abduction.

Mars also came just a week after Paramount’s 2D animated movie Rango, starring Johnny Depp.

And instead of appealing to fans because of the increasingly popular 3D format, Mars may have annoyed theatregoers faced with higher 3D ticket prices.

“If a movie’s unappealing and you’re trying to charge a higher ticket price for it, it makes it even less appealing,” said Brandon Gray, president of tracking company Box Office Mojo.

Mr Gray noted that Mars had the lowest opening weekend for a wide-release 3D movie ever.

Maija Burnett, associate director of character animation at California Institute of the Arts, took a broader view, even though the school teaches about the pitfalls of the “uncanny valley” in class.

“There’s a continuing attempt to explore what the boundaries are within (computer generated) animation,” she said.

“Every film that uses this is one important step along the way.”

In the “uncanny valley” theory, the valley isn’t bottomless. As things grow more realistically human, our affection starts increasing again, climbing out of the valley on the other side.

In other words, increasingly sophisticated animation might stop creeping us out and start fooling us.

Posted: April 5th, 2011
Categories: consumer reviews, critical thought, movie reviews, movies, oddities, pop culture, science, technology, vox pop
Comments: No Comments.

Sick of Influenza? A Cure is Almost Here!

A US anti-bioterrorism unit has awarded Melbourne’s Biota a $231 million contract to develop a cure for influenza.

Biota shares soared nearly 60 per cent on the news, pushing the price to $1.60 before the stock settled 35 per cent, or 37.5c, higher for the day at $1.42, the Herald Sun reported.

The deal is worth about $41 million more than the company’s entire value before yesterday’s spike.

The lucrative deal means Biota may not need to partner with a large pharmaceutical company to commercialise its anti-viral drug, Laninamavir (Lani), in the US.

Chief executive Peter Cook said the contract was a “seriously transformational event for the company”.

“We have taken this product much closer to marketability and towards realising the full value for our shareholders than we could in the past because it was necessary to licence out our drugs early,” Dr Cook said.

The deal came about because of the US government’s concerns over bio-terrorism, Dr Cook said.

Several clinical projects to combat bio-terrorist threats are being conducted.

Biota said it was scoping three facilities to see if they could meet stringent manufacturing specifications.

Lani, which is already prescribed in Japan under the brand name Inavir, is effective as a single dose compared with twice daily doses over five days for rival drugs Tamiflu and Relenza.

The US Biomedical Advance Research and Development Authority (BARDA), with which Biota has the contract, said the drug would provide “real advantages to doctors and patients during an emergency and would be an important addition to our pandemic influenza arsenal”.

The funds will finance further clinical trials of the drug and be used to prepare a detailed application to meet the Food and Drug Administration’s standards.

It could take five years or more before the drug gets the US regulator’s nod.

The global market for anti-flu drugs was worth $US4.4 billion last year and Biota estimates it could be set to receive about $US1.5 billion from sales of Lani.

Barda, which is in the US Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, is not seeking ownership of the drug or exclusive rights.

Posted: April 2nd, 2011
Categories: journalism, lifestyle, news, science, technology
Comments: No Comments.

Messenger Probe sends Back First Pictures of Mercury

Many of you may have seen my incessant tweeting updates of the final leg of this probe, but today NASA has released the first images sent back from it. Whilst the highest resolution version of it looks like they sent an iPhone (version ONE) into space six years ago–isn’t it odd how space cameras are always shit quality?–it’s still a pretty picture to say the least.

The associated press feed reads as follows: –

NASA has released the first picture taken of Mercury’s surface by the US space agency’s orbiting Messenger craft.

“Early this morning, at 5.20 am EDT (2020 AEDT) , Messenger captured this historic image of Mercury,” NASA said.

“This image is the first ever obtained from a spacecraft in orbit about the solar system’s innermost planet.”

The spacecraft snapped 363 images over the next six hours, and more were expected to be released later today in conjunction with an expert press conference to discuss the findings.

The upper part of the image shows an unusual, dark-rayed crater called Debussy, while the lower part reveals a portion of Mercury near its south pole that has never before been witnessed by spacecraft, NASA said.

NASA’s Messenger craft – which stands for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging – became the first vehicle to orbit Mercury on March 17.

Messenger was launched more than six years ago, traveling through the inner solar system and embarking on flybys of Earth, Venus and Mercury.

The first NASA craft to study Mercury since the Mariner mission more than three decades ago, Messenger has already been able to return a partial map of the planet’s crater-filled surface after just a handful of flybys.

This is one of the first images from the orbital craft Messenger, at the apex of it's six year journey to Mercury.

Posted: March 30th, 2011
Categories: general, journalism, news, science, technology
Comments: No Comments.

Life on Titan, Mars, and $deity knows where else!

Evidence of life has been discovered on Saturn’s biggest moon, Titan.  Analysis of data sent back by NASA’s Cassini probe suggests primitive aliens are breathing in Titan’s atmosphere and feeding on fuel at the surface. The startling discoveries, made using an orbiting spacecraft, are revealed in two separate reports. Organic chemicals had already been detected on Titan but the liquid is methane, not water, and scientists expect life there to be methane-based.

The first paper said hydrogen gas flowing down through Titan’s atmosphere disappears at the surface, suggesting it could be being breathed by alien bugs. The other paper reports there is a lack of a certain chemical on the surface, leading scientists to believe it may be being consumed by life. Scientists had expected sunlight interacting with chemicals in the atmosphere to produce a coating of acetylene on Titan’s surface but Cassini detected no acetylene there.

Experts warn there could be other explanations for the results. But taken together, they fulfil two important conditions necessary for methane-based life to exist. NASA astrobiologist Chris McKay said: “If these signs do turn out to be a sign of life, it would be doubly exciting because it would represent a second form of life independent from water-based life on Earth.”

Scientists believe that when the Sun swells up, swallowing Earth, conditions could be ideal on Titan. Professor John Zarnecki, of the Open University, said: “We believe the chemistry is there for life to form. It just needs heat and warmth to kick-start the process. “In four billion years’ time, when the Sun swells into a red giant, it could be paradise on Titan.”

Another thing that flew under the radar that is about 8 months old is the findings on those microbes in the Martian meteorite that caused such a HUGE fuss in the mid 90s (from a meteor found in the 80s!) amongst scientists (and theists / creationists for sure!) has been found to be exactly what it looked like, (paranthetical abuse!) microbes from Mars!

NASA scientists have produced the most compelling evidence yet that bacterial life exists on Mars.  It shows that microscopic worm-like structures found in a Martian meteorite that hit the Earth 13,000 years ago are almost certainly fossilised bacteria. The so-called bio-morphs are embedded beneath the surface layers of the rock, suggesting they were present when the meteorite arrived, rather than being the result of contamination by earthly bacteria. “This is very strong evidence of life on Mars,” said David Mackay, a senior scientist at the NASA Johnson Space Centre in Houston, who was part of the team of scientists that originally investigated the meteorite when it was discovered in 1984.

In a 1996 study of the sample, Dr Mackay and others argued the microfossils were evidence of life, but sceptics dismissed the claims, saying similar-shaped structures may not be biological. The new analyses, the product of high-resolution electron microscopy, make a strong case for the Allan Hills 84001 Meteorite having carried Martian life to Earth. The microscopes were focused on tiny magnetite crystals present in the surface layers of the meteorite, which have the form of simple bacteria.

Some argued these could be the result of a carbonate breaking down in the heat of the impact. The new analyses show this is unlikely to have resulted in the structures seen in the rock. Close examination suggested that about 25 per cent of the crystal structures were chemically consistent with being formed from bacteria. “We feel vindicated. We’ve shown the alternate explanation is absolutely incorrect, leading us back to our original position that these structures are formed by bacteria on Mars,” Dr Mackay said.

Scientists say the meteorite was broken off the surface of Mars by the impact of an asteroid, and reached Earth after floating through space for about 16 million years. It landed in Allan Hills in Antarctica. Scientists were able to trace the meteorite back to Mars, as its chemical composition matched the relative proportions of various gases measured in observations of the atmosphere of Mars made by the Viking spacecraft in the 1970s. The meteorite also preserves evidence of liquid water on Mars.

Europa’s unlit interior is still considered to be the most likely location for extant life in the Solar System. Life could exist in its under-ice ocean, perhaps subsisting in an environment similar to Earth’s deep-ocean hydrothermal vents or the Antarctic Lake Vostok. Life in such an ocean could possibly be similar to microbial life on Earth in the deep ocean. So far, there is no evidence that life exists on Europa, but the likely presence of liquid water has spurred calls to send a probe there.

Let’s not forget water on the moon people. We live in some pretty exciting times! It’ll definitely challenge the status quo between the baby boomers and their strong theological views (and those zombie like masses of American teenagers brainwashed by them) and the more cold clinical evil villainous scientist types like .. well, like us!

Posted: June 8th, 2010
Categories: critical thought, general, oddities, rant, sci-fi, science
Comments: No Comments.

Spiral UFO Sighting over Australia, Similar to Norway Spiral

I woke up this morning to silence, my phone seemed to have crapped itself and decided to show one bar of service, and pretend it was sending my messages, when in fact it needed a reboot then suddenly a rush of about 20 messages came in, most of them from various friends who, on reading my coverage of the Norway Sky Phenomenon, figured I’d like to know that a similar sighting has occured over my very own country. The byline is that it is again, a ‘rocket’ that has gone ‘out of control’, except instead of the Russian ICBM story that came with the Norway one, we’ve gotten a story about a ‘private launch’ from Cape Canaveral (in the US ffs) that claims origin of this spiral, even though the rocket in question was about an hour too early for it to be the thing we saw.

Most of you know I’m an ultra-skeptic, but credit where credit is due, this again has me confused terribly, the only other time I have been unable to provide immediately a good solid scientific explaination for something of this nature was the Norway spiral phenomenon in question. So, here’s a picture of it as scene by people in Brisbane, along with the current news coverage of the phenomenon.

One last thing though; if some company or person launched something that travelled for an hour within our atmosphere and ended up ‘out of control’ over one of Australia’s most populated cities, why isn’t there an investigation or at least charges being laid? That’s assuming that a privately launched rocket of unknown and undisclosed type or origin could maintain flight for over an hour; but let’s face it, our government would spend a small fortune investigating an anonymous cock and balls scrawled on Parliament house in sharpie, why won’t they even look into or address this?

UPDATE: Witness reports have come in from the entire eastern coast of Australia from Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria inclusively.

Brisbane Sky Spiral

EDIT: Latest coverage has been placed first, view below for earlier story, newer version has witness records from all over the eastern seaboard of Australia.

in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria all reported seeing a bright light moving in an erratic way in the sky early this morning, prompting speculation of a UFO.

One witness in Redcliffe in northern Brisbane told The Sunday Mail of a ball of light moving across the sky at about 5.50am today.

“It was a perfect spiral of light,” the witness said.

“I realised soon it was not the moon but that it was shooting like a comet from the southern sky and off into the northwest.”

Another Brisbane resident said: “There was absolutely no sound in a perfectly clear, darkened sky before dawn.”

Police and search and rescue crews confirmed they had received calls from Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast about the UFO.

The weather bureau said there were no weather conditions which would explain the light. A Defence spokeswoman also said she had no explanation.

In Victoria, a Herald Sun reader identified as Matt said he saw the light after fishing on Port Phillip Bay.

“It was really weird,” he said.

“We tried to take photos with our phones but all you could see was black.”

The light was also seen in Sydney, Wollongong and Canberra, reports The Daily Telegraph. A witness told the ABC she saw a light “racing across the sky” about 5.50am. She described the light as “like a lollipop swirl” that came from the west and was headed east out to sea.

“It was unreal,” she said.

“There was a cloud in the sky – just this light with a swirl in the middle.”

Another caller said:”It was a perfect spiral of light.

“I realised soon it was not the moon but that it was shooting like a comet from the southern sky and off into the northwest.’’

Original coverage:

Geoffrey Whyatt from the Sydney Observatory says it was probably a satellite, space junk or a rocket.

“The fact that you’ve got the rotation, the spiral effect, is very reminiscent of the much widely reported sightings from Norway and Russia last year, which both turned out to be a Bulava missile which was being adjusted in its orbit,” he said.

“So possibly a rocket, I would say, having some sort of gyroscopic stability rocket fired on its side.”

Mr Whyatt says it is a rare phenomenon.

“The first I saw of the spirals was last year when they were reported in Norway and then a few days later in Russia,” he said.

“The Norway one was very spectacular because of its symmetrical appearance.

“But the one this morning and the one in Russia bear a striking similarity of being the same effects from a rocket trying to be controlled or adjusted.”

A privately-owned rocket launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida on its first test flight is believed to be responsible.

But Doug Moffett from UFO Research NSW says he has a few problems with this theory.

“Firstly, the time of the launch was 18.45 GMT, which translates to 4.45am EST, the duration of the flight was 9 minutes 38 seconds – this is a full hour before the reported sightings,” he said.

“Secondly, where was the glow from the boosters or from the friction created by the craft moving through the atmosphere, where was the tail of the rocket?

“Thirdly, why would anyone launch a rocket on a maiden test flight with a trajectory that would take it over the most heavily populated parts of Australia?

“And how big must this rocket have been to be seen so clearly, at the same time, over such a vast distance?”

‘Like a bright star’

Canberra resident James Butcher says he was driving home from a night out with his brother when they spotted the “strange spiral light in the sky”.

“It had a distinct bright centre, much like a bright star, indicating an object shedding light trails, spiralling and fattening out from it,” he said.

“The effect lasted only two or three minutes, moving and descending quickly out of view.

“The colour was yellowish but this may have been blurred and tinted by the morning fog.”

Wollongong man Eddie Wise says he also saw the light during his morning walk just before 6:00am.

He says he has never seen anything like it.

“It was like a yellowish, greenish light with a light spiral around it,” he said.

“It sort of moved around, bobbed up and down and then it went behind a cloud.

“I’m just amazed. I want to know what it was.”

A caller to the ABC, Robyn, says she saw the phenomenon from her home on Sydney’s north shore just before 6:00am.

She says it was over within two minutes.

“There was this white light up in the sky like a huge revolving moon,” Robyn said.

“At first I thought it was the moon but it was travelling so fast, high up above the eastern horizon and twirling as it went.

“It was just amazing and to be quite frank, I was quite frightened and my heart’s still pounding.”

‘Lollipop-type swirl’

A number of people from Morayfield and Caboolture in Queensland have reported that they too saw a white light in the sky about 5:50am.

“It was just the one light. I just came home from my walk and I happened to look up in the sky, and here it was racing across the sky,” Linda told 612 ABC Brisbane.

“I bashed on the window for my husband to have a look and he flew out.

“It was spectacular.”

Linda described the light as like a lollipop swirl.

She says the light came from the west and was headed east, out to sea.

“It was just unreal. There was a cloud in the sky – just this light with a swirl in the middle,” she said.

Peter, from Balmoral, says he saw the light while he was on a ferry terminal on the Brisbane River.

“It certainly had that lollipop-type swirl … but it was travelling low and fairly fast, and as it went past me and I looked up, it looked like a row of lights, maybe four lights,” he said.

Denise, at Pine Mountain, told ABC radio in Brisbane that she saw the lights shortly before 6:00am.

“I got up at about 5:45 to let my horse out of his stable … and I saw this coming from a north-west direction towards the south-east,” she said.

“There was no noise. It was like bands of ribbon coming out of it and it looked like it was coming through a cloud, yet there were no clouds.”

Some interesting comments on the issue: –

  • Tommy Posted at 3:15 PM Today

    yep, Russian rockets again….

    Comment 10 of 51

  • Glen of Newcastle Posted at 3:20 PM Today

    This looks the same as the ones in Norway December 2009…spooky?

    Comment 11 of 51

  • Hodge of Melbourne Posted at 3:28 PM Today

    I’m waiting to hear the weather balloon theory….swamp gas etc. They don’t want to admit that just maybe,it’s not from this world…and i think they forgetting the witnesses said it made no sound!

    Comment 12 of 51

  • Man In Black Posted at 3:29 PM Today

    No other object has been misidentified as a flying saucer more often than the planet Venus. Even the former leader of your United States of America, James Earl Carter Jr., thought he saw a UFO once… But it’s been proven he only saw the planet Venus. Venus was at its peak brilliance last night. You probably thought you saw something up in the sky other than Venus, but I assure you, it was Venus. Your scientists have yet to discover how neural networks create self-consciousness, let alone how the human brain processes two-dimensional retinal images into the three-dimensional phenomenon known as perception. Yet you somehow brazenly declare seeing is believing? Your scientific illiteracy makes me shudder, and I wouldn’t flaunt your ignorance by telling anyone that you saw anything last night other than the planet Venus.

    Comment 13 of 51

  • Believer of Gold Coast Posted at 3:43 PM Today

    aahh here we go another “rocket” cover up story! why dont you people/government just admit that its an extraterrestial object. why do you keep the public in the dark about these matters you greedy b**t***ds !!

    Comment 14 of 51

  • Dr Simon Mahogney of Perth Posted at 3:48 PM Today

    They’re here, expect more UFC sightings as things heat up… disclosure is soon, prepare yourself 🙂

    Comment 15 of 51

  • Lee Taylor Posted at 3:54 PM Today

    its a weather balloon

    Comment 16 of 51

  • Troy O of N.Q. Posted at 3:55 PM Today

    Why would a u.f.o. have lights when they are trying not to be seen?Are they unable to see at night?Do they not have a ‘space’ G.P.S and have to find their way by sight?Come on,Dont believe the hype.Last month it was the weather radars,Whats next,Santa?

    Comment 17 of 51

  • Lisa of Sunny Q Posted at 3:59 PM Today

    man in black is really Sheldon from Big bang, beautiful, man in black beautiful.

    Comment 18 of 51

  • Steven Posted at 4:00 PM Today

    And out of the woodwork come the loonies….

    Comment 19 of 51

  • Straife of Brisbane Posted at 4:01 PM Today

    “Falcon 9 Flight 1 is the maiden flight of the Falcon 9 rocket, which launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40 on June 4, 2010.[1] The Falcon 9 launch vehicle carried a Dragon Spacecraft Qualification Unit, a mockup of the Dragon spacecraft.” Launch date June 4, 2010, 14:45 EDT[1] Maybe it was a rocket after all.

Posted: June 5th, 2010
Categories: oddities, sci-fi, science
Comments: No Comments.

Man Kills Gods; Creates Life in Lab

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him…”
Friedrich Nietzsche. The Gay Science (1882), s126.

Long have we theorised the above line by a madman bearing a labtern not to be talking about the literal God believed in by so many theists. Instead, we interpret, he is talking about what this god represented for European culture, the shared cultural belief in God which had once been its defining and uniting characteristic.

So to has man thrown off the yolk of theism, every element of the divine has been replicated at large through science, trickery, art, illusionism except one final element; the creation of life.

Until yesterday when flamboyant geneticist Craig Venter held true to the pledge he made nearly 15 years ago, unveiling his magnum opus. This landmark of scientific progress, published in the Journal of Science, stands on the shoulders of his race to decode the human genome in his own laboratory, egotistically his own DNA I might add.

The madman carrying this lantern has indeed created the first instance of purely synthetic life, opening the doors nanoscience falter at with the potential to create designer microbes for special jobs such as production of biofuels, pharmaceuticals, through to filtering contaminents from air and water.

“This is the first synthetic life that has been made, and we call it synthetic because the cell is totally derived from a synthetic chromasome, made with four bottles of chemcals on a synthesizer from information on a computer,” Dr Venter said.

Lauded as a tour de force by Prof. Mattick from the Australian Research Council, Dr. Venters work is as ground breaking as science gets these days, the applications for man made life are phenominal and limited only by our imagination. That being said, mans imagination can often be self destructive, so think of all the fantastic synthesized zombie viruses the US military will make with this!

The bacterium used decoded DNA from Mycoplasma mycoides imprinting the synthetic DNA and inserting it into living bacterium, in this case Mycoplasma capricolum, allowing the bacterium to flourish with both it’s own and the synthetic DNA within, then finally using an antibiotic designed to kill all but the synthetic DNA allowing only the synthesized organism to proliferate and produce protein strands from the original Mycoplasma mycoides creating, simply, artificial life.

Klatu barada neck-tie?

Super Computer to Simulate Life on Earth

This week, the world’s leading techno-socio-economic guru Dirk Helbing outlined his vision of the Earth’s future, or rather, the means to acquire it. At a cost of $1.5bn, the Living Earth Simulator will gather as much data about humanity as possible, mining every available source to produce a picture of where we’re at and where we’re heading.

Like Google Earth with a mind-numbing amount of extra detail added – namely, everything. It will be built in Switzerland, home of that other enormously ambitious project to map just about everything, the Large Hadron Collider. Finances, pandemics, emissions, weather patterns, transport, wars – if humanity indulges in it, affects it or is afflicted by it, it goes into the simulator. Whether we actually want to see that is another question, because it could well be like having your own genome sequenced and finding out you’ll be dead by the end of the year.

Helbing hopes his simulator – he’s coined the term “knowledge accelerator” – will be up and running by 2022, which is, perhaps not coincidentally, exactly 42 years after Douglas Adams gave the world the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything. Helbing believes it could be used by global leaders to view and manage current and future crises in “situation rooms”. “With our knowledge of the universe, we have sent men to the moon,” Helbing writes in a paper on the project released online. “Humankind is now facing serious crises for which we must develop new ways to tackle the global challenges of humanity in the 21st century.

“We know microscopic details of objects around us and within us. And yet we know relatively little about how our society works and how it reacts to changes brought upon it.” The start up cost will be somewhere around $1.5 billion and it’s so far wholly funded by the European Union, which shows it is taking the project and its possibilities very, very seriously.

Posted: May 5th, 2010
Categories: pop culture, sci-fi, science, technology
Comments: No Comments.

Bio Channel’s Psychic Kids; Mock or documentary?

Once in a while you come across a piece of hack documentary type puff that blows irresponsibility out the water. One child claims she was first blessed with her ‘talent’ when she was two years old, simply because she wandered away from her house and blamed it on a ‘little girl’ which the parents fabricated an anecdotal story around. “There’s no reason to think these people are lying, why would they?” says the mother. Shot in the dark here love, but I’d guess for the epic fucking attention they get for lying through their teeth.

Sounds whack? That’s the bottom line of ‘Psychic Kids’ a Biography channel d(/m)ocumentary using various fallacies and props as outlined in my last post regarding quakcery and touchy feely rubbish, if you watched Here Be Dragons, the video on YouTube about critical thinking, you’ll watch this and facepalm double handed just like I am.

Stuff like this really makes me worried. Children are impresionable, it’s far more dangerous putting something so under the radar as encouraging psychological illness replication, as far as behaviour goes, than it would be violence, given the predisposition for ‘psychics’ to be depicted as loved and special, treasured almost–albeit by those who fail to think critically and believe in unicorns too–and thus is something more children would wish to attain as far as recognition goes. That being said, whilst I disagree, and whilst I can see the damage humouring assinine material such as this and appreciate it is a large amount of socio-economic damage,

The father of one of the children labels himself a skeptic, and illustrates freely that she was a bit of a nutjob kid with mental problems and used this as an out. Although in the very next scene we have a camp old man ‘psychic’ reaffirming her delusions claiming he has had psychic powers forever and starts asking how many ‘spirit beings’ she detects in the area, naturally she spits out epic dramu, but such is life.

In fact ALL of the children on the show suffered bullying and ostricization, this they will clearly blame on people ‘not understanding’ their abilities as opposed to rational people disliking attention whoring irrational twats brainwashed by their crystal fiddling dope smoking parents.

I think the worst part is a scene where one of the children is seen being coaxed to go to the basement in the middle of the night to ‘communicate’ with the spirit child that dwells there, where we see gaudy night vision (sadly no Paris Hilton in sight) and a poor arse replication of Most Haunted crossed with Blair Witch Project and a ball that is moving in a lazy circle due to a weighted patch on the side of it which is reacted to in a manner that this invisible child is pushing the ball back.

Overall, it’s another case of this memetic cancer in our society that needs some rapid chemo.

Posted: April 21st, 2010
Categories: critical thought, rant, scams, science, television
Comments: No Comments.

Quackery Alive and Well in 2010

I was recently suggested a read by a friend, Dr. John L. Turner (add him on twitter, @DrJohnLTurner), of a document entitled Bioelectromagnetic Healing, A Rationale for Its Use by Thomas F. Valone, Ph.D. published in 2003. This work was vanity published by his own sock puppet ‘charity’ organisation called the ‘Integrity Research Institute,’ which he is, surprise surprise, the President of. A brief review of his curriculum vitae reveals that he has no published works in any respectable scientific journal, nor any peer reviewed scientific journal or publication out of all his publications; they’re all primarily through his ‘Integrity Research Institute.’

Click here to review individual instances of pseudoscience and alternative medicine being at fault in over 368,379 people dying, 306,096 injured and over $2,815,931,000 in economic damages.

I don’t mean to rag on him too much by the way, he seems to be a TAFE teacher (by Australian standards, or primarily a ‘community college’ instructor by US standards) and has clearly worked with some brilliant chaps too; my disdain isn’t against this individual but merely his actions as a proponent of deadly conspiracy and pseudoscience peddling. That being said he can be found on YouTube making an ass of himself talking about UFOs and conspiracies.

Before reading through this review, or maybe even after, watch this video on critical thinking for a general primer on how to approach … well, just about anything utilising the illumination of critical thought and the scientific mind!

I was cynical from the commencement reading this material, as I have read hundreds of papers debunking magetic therapy, the dedication at the begining of the work mentioning a naturopath was not reassuring. The preface is a very stereotypical opening shot of anecdote, as with most ‘alternative medicine‘ someone always knows someone who X, Y and Z, but sadly none of these people manage to deliver even a scrap of scientific proof nor are any of these wonderous revolutionary discoveries ever distributed to peer reviewed journals where the reading (and commenting) audience are medically or scientifically trained. We all know why that is.

The kicker that already got my eyes rolling out of my head was the defecting Russian scientist, who spoke of awesome ‘energy healing‘ methods through magnetic devices which, when pointed at the ear of a subject with an ear infection for a few minutes, would destroy the infection. If ANYONE can reproduce that in a lab under ANY form of scientific scrutiny, I will gladly sell all my possessions, hand them the cash, then promptly jump off a cliff. I shit you not, I WILL stake my entire life on the fact that ALL alternative medicine is a farce. A dangerous farce at that, killing millions the world over who, through ignorance, or irresponsibility of others putting forth puff where one should be proposing medicine and science, die and cause massive financial, emotional, and general harm to people every day. I feel safe in my bet on this one though: –

“I know of no scientist who takes this claim seriously…It’s another fad. They come and go like copper bracelets and crystals and all of these things, and this one will pass too.” –Robert Park of the American Physical Society.

“Iron atoms in a magnet are crammed together in a solid state about one atom apart from one another. In your blood only four iron atoms are allocated to each hemoglobin molecule, and they are separated by distances too great to form a magnet. This is easily tested by pricking your finger and placing a drop of your blood next to a magnet. ” –Michael Shermer*

“The more extreme claims of magnetic therapy, such as curing cancer by hanging supermagnets around your neck, are not only nonsense but also dangerous, since they may divert patients from seeking appropriate treatment from mainstream medicine. Magnetic jewelry and most other magnetic-therapy products probably are harmless beyond a waste of money.” –James D. Livingston*

By page 4 the author is already claiming magnets are ‘the medicine of the future’, an ongoing cliche comment from all alternative medicine and snake oil peddlers in general. This magnet shit was mostly hashed out in the 70′s, with magnetic rooms, or ion charging units in sweat lodges in Europe would charge tens of thousands for ‘therapy,’ or the pleasure of sitting on a seat awkwardly in the middle of a room in your underwear whilst your healers snort the cash you’ve given them like hoovers. The whole ‘electro’ fad was exhausted by the 1930′s and debunked by most educated fellows.

One can’t go very far in the realm of ‘alternative medicine’ without striking on an Edison or Tesla reference, this work doesn’t disappoint, albeit I did find the uber professionalism of the author in one outstanding statement that pretty much sets the feel for the rest of the narrative of pseudoscience: –

Key sections are noted with a 🙂 symbol to indicate importance.

Brilliant, right? In the 1930′s, as the author even states, such ridiculous claims were put forwards such as Tesla’s high frequency currents “are bringing about a highly beneficial result in dealing with cancer, surpassing anything that could be accomplished with ordinary surgery.” Statements like that are what people term as anecdotal; they’re not scientific, nor is any credential other than that of the conman or his associates put on the line. If it were submitted for peer review scientific journals by modern standards they’d be ridiculed openly and debunked, if not outright exposed, as phoneys. We all know electricity won’t cure cancer. If it did, we wouldn’t be spending billions in cancer research, nor spending even more in socialist states like Australia to fund the treatment of cancer patients if mere electro-shock will cure it.

Tim Harlow, general practitioner, Colin Greaves, research fellow, Adrian White, senior research fellow, Liz Brown, research assistant, Anna Hart, statistician, Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine conducted a large scale scientific examination of energy healing, with a focus on magnets, these findings were published in an esteemed and peer reviewed journal, British Medical Journal, Dec. 2004.

Skip to the bottom of this article to see other findings from other scientists that have been submitted to REAL journals and published BY presses that aren’t owned by those conducting the research.

That being said, we still have some whacky psychiatrists (mostly in Western Australia at Graylands (movies have been made about that place and this practice) who believe that electro-shock therapy is effective in dealing with depression and anxiety conditions. The figures probably come from the fact people will behave the way the doctors want because they don’t want a fucking jumper cable put to their temples again; not to mention in extreme cases these practices cause indirect lobotomies, but have as unpredictable a result as inserting a screw driver into your cars ignition, hitting it with a 20 lb sledge hammer, and hoping it starts.

By page 12 the author had lost me with far too much blatent pseudo-science, so I decided to look into him a bit more, examine his writing style. He seems to apply many footnotes, but I noticed that there are none beyond the 90s if not even the 70s that AREN’T published in some wanky new age touchy feely hippy publication, or vanity pressing. All the rest of the footnotes are from things from the late 1870s through to the 1930s, so we’re already dealing with someone who is structuring their research to suit their argument, as opposed to conducting research to present their argument be it right or wrong.

By page 13 the author is citing conspiracy theory books claiming that there is suppression by ‘big pharma’ to prevent the world being this wonderful utopia as peddled by snake oil salesmen. At this point I realised I could not go any further without losing all respect for myself. Cute read, non-scientific, all point of view, all flawed research.

Further reading:

  • Colbert, A. P., Wahbeh, H., Harling, N., Connelly, E., Schiffke, H. C., Forsten, C., Gregory, W. L., Markov, M. S., Souder, J. J., Elmer, P., King, V. (2009). Static Magnetic Field Therapy: A Critical Review of Treatment Parameters. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 6: 133-139 [Abstract] [Full text]
  • Boutron, I., Moher, D., Altman, D. G., Schulz, K. F., Ravaud, P., for the CONSORT Group, (2008). Extending the CONSORT Statement to Randomized Trials of Nonpharmacologic Treatment: Explanation and Elaboration. ANN INTERN MED 148: 295-309 [Abstract] [Full text]
  • Rumbaut, R. E., Mirkovic, D. (2008). Magnetic therapy for edema in inflammation: a physiological assessment. Am. J. Physiol. Heart Circ. Physiol. 294: H19-H20 [Full text]
  • Barron, M. C., Rubin, B. R. (2007). Managing Osteoarthritic Knee Pain. J Am Osteopath Assoc 107: ES21-ES27 [Abstract] [Full text]
  • Pittler, M. H. MD PhD, Brown, E. M. BSc, Ernst, E. MD PhD (2007). Static magnets for reducing pain: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials. CMAJ 177: 736-742 [Abstract] [Full text]
  • Katz, W. A. (2007). Themed Review: Nonpharmacologic Approaches to Osteoarthritis. AMERICAN JOURNAL OF LIFESTYLE MEDICINE 1: 249-255 [Abstract]
  • Kuipers, N. T., Sauder, C. L., Ray, C. A. (2007). Influence of static magnetic fields on pain perception and sympathetic nerve activity in humans. J. Appl. Physiol. 102: 1410-1415 [Abstract] [Full text]
  • Bjordal, J, Conaghan, P G (2006). NSAIDs in osteoarthritis: irreplaceable or troublesome guidelines?. Br. J. Sports. Med. 40: 285-286 [Full text]
  • Finegold, L., Flamm, B. L (2006). Magnet therapy. BMJ 332: 4-4 [Full text]
  • Rubin, B. R. (2005). Management of Osteoarthritic Knee Pain. J Am Osteopath Assoc 105: S23-S28 [Abstract] [Full text]
  • Winemiller, M. H., Billow, R. G., Laskowski, E. R., Harmsen, W. S. (2005). Effect of Magnetic vs Sham-Magnetic Insoles on Nonspecific Foot Pain in the Workplace: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Mayo Clin Proc. 80: 1138-1145 [Abstract]
  • McDonald, H. L (2005). Patients who wore standard magnetic bracelets reported reduced pain from osteoarthritis of the hip or knee compared with patients wearing placebo bracelets. Evid. Based Nurs. 8: 89-89 [Full text]
  • McCrory, P (2005). The power of placebo. Br. J. Sports. Med. 39: 125-125 [Full text]
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Posted: April 20th, 2010
Categories: consumer reviews, critical thought, journalism, lifestyle, op ed, pop culture, rant, reviews, scams, science, technology
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Aggression / Gamer Link ‘Proven’

Exposure to violent video games makes players more aggressive and less caring.

Researchers say they have proved this conclusively after analysing 130 reports involving more than 130,000 gamers.

Iowa University psychology professor and video game researcher Craig Anderson said the results left little doubt – violent video games are bad for those who play them.

“We can now say with utmost confidence that regardless of research method, the effects are that exposure to violent video games increases the likelihood of aggressive behaviour,” he said.

The results are significant, as the impact of violent games has divided academics and been subject to long-running debate.

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Simon Overland last year expressed concerns about players becoming desensitised by violence in computer games, something that was being reflected in their behaviour.

“They see it (violence) happen in the movies and in video games and the person always gets up. Well, sadly, we know that’s not always the case,” he said.

The latest research comes as the Federal Government considers the introduction of an adults-only R18+ rating for games.

The move, which requires the agreement of all state and federal attorneys-general, is bitterly opposed by anti-violent video game activists, who argue it will expose children to unsavoury content.

The video games industry and gamers have mounted a campaign for reform, arguing the introduction of an adults-only category for games would bring Australia into line with the rest of the world.

The new study was published in the American Psychological Association journal Psychological Bulletin.

The team of international researchers, led by Prof Anderson, said exposure to violent games helped increase the risk of increased aggressive thoughts and behaviour and simultaneously decreased empathy toward others.

“From a public policy standpoint, it’s time to get off the question of ‘Are there real and serious effects?’ That’s been answered and answered repeatedly,” Prof Anderson said.

Australian Council on Children and the Media spokesman Dr Wayne Warburton said the research offered fresh ammunition against introducing an adults-only rating for games.

Posted: March 7th, 2010
Categories: games, general, pop culture, science
Tags: , ,
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14 y/o in India ‘Crying Blood’

Twinkle Dwivedi, a 14-year-old who lives in northern India, has been spontaneously bleeding from her eyes, nose, hairline, neck and soles of her feet for the last three years, UK tabloid The Sun reports. The bleeding can happen up to 50 times a day and result in the loss of litres of blood.

“I bleed from my eyes, my hands, my head, from everywhere. From my ears and nose as well,” Twinkle said. “It doesn’t hurt when the bleeding starts. But it makes me tired and sometimes I have headaches.” Because of the bleeding Twinkle has been unable to attend her school in Lucknar, Uttar Pradesh.

Dr George Buchanan, an expert haematologist from the US, examined Twinkle in a Mumbai hospital but was unable to explain the strange condition. “I’ve never seen a case of someone who bleeds spontaneously from their scalp or their palms, or read about it in medical history,’ Dr George Buchanan said. “It doesn’t seem physically possible for blood to seep through intact skin.”

Clearly the media misrepresented Dr Buchanan, or he need return to general practice, as hematidrosis (also called hematohidrosis) is a well documented but very rare condition in which a human being sweats blood. It may occur when a person is suffering extreme levels of stress, for example, facing his or her own death. Several historical references have been described; notably by Leonardo da Vinci: describing a soldier who sweated blood before battle, men unexpectedly given a death sentence, as well as descriptions in the Bible, that Jesus experienced hematidrosis when he was praying in the garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22,44).

Hemochromatosis, another form of sweating blood, is a disorder due to deposition of hemosiderin in the parenchymal cells, causing tissue damage and dysfunction of the liver, pancreas, heart, and pituitary. Other clinical signs include bronze pigmentation of skin which may fly under the radar given the girls complexion, arthropathy, diabetes, cirrhosis, hepatosplenomegaly, hypogonadism, and loss of body hair, none of which are evident. Full development of the disease among women is restricted by menstruation and pregnancy.

According to Dr. Frederick Zugibe, Chief Medical Examiner of Rockland County, New York, sweating blood is well-known, and there have been many cases of it, “Around the sweat glands, there are multiple blood vessels in a net-like form. Under the pressure of great stress the vessels constrict. Then as the anxiety passes the blood vessels dilate to the point of rupture. The blood goes into the sweat glands. As the sweat glands are producing a lot of sweat, it pushes the blood to the surface – coming out as droplets of blood mixed with sweat.”

In a lecture, Dr. Zugibe stated: “The severe mental anxiety…activated the sympathetic nervous system to invoke the stress-fight or flight reaction to such a degree causing hemorrhage of the vessels supplying the sweat glands into the ducts of the sweat glands and extruding out onto the skin. While hematidrosis has been reported to occur from other rare medical entities, the presence of profound fear accounted for a significant number of reported cases including six cases in men condemned to execution, a case occurring during the London blitz, a case involving a fear of being raped, a fear of a storm while sailing, etc. The effects on the body is that of weakness and mild to moderate dehydration from the severe anxiety and both the blood and sweat loss.”

Posted: January 11th, 2010
Categories: pop culture, science
Tags: , ,
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