Monday, October 31, 2016

The vast Right wing conspiracy network (for real)

Alex Jones, America’s most famous conspiracy theorist, explained - Vox

Took me a couple of days to get back and read this article, but it's a good explanation of how nutjob Alex Jones was granted credibility by the likes of Drudge and hairspray conspiracist Donald Trump.

Why can't God talk to Donald Trump?

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte Promises God He'll Stop Swearing : The Two-Way : NPR

Ouija, again, and the dead walk in Mexico

Gee, everyone's doing stories on Ouija boards this year.  Is it because of that movie, which looks a bit silly to me?  Anyway, there is good anecdote or two from the article in The Guardian:
As the board’s popularity, and profit, increased, most of the early investors sought to highlight their role in the creation of the Ouija board. But Helen Peters wanted nothing more to do with it after the board caused serious damage to her family.
When some civil war family heirlooms went missing from Peters’ home, Peters asked the Ouija board who had taken them. According to Peters’ grandson, the board indicated a member of the family. “Half the family believed it and half the family said ‘bullshit’, including Helen,” said Murch. The event created a conflict that was never resolved, and tore the family apart.
After the fight, Peters sold all of her stock in the company. “Until her dying day, she’s telling everyone: don’t play the Ouija board because it lies,” Murch said.
I'm also rather surprised to read that Mexico City did not have an actual Day of the Dead parade until the James Bond Spectre movie invented it.  But now they do.  How very odd.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

More Halloween fun

Found via Happy Catholic, who I don't drop in on very often, but she really is happy, all the time, and always puts up lovely artwork.  (She also demonstrates that Catholics aren't afraid of Halloween.  My daughter has a couple of friends of unclear Christian denomination who go to "Light Parties" on Halloween instead of doing the more traditional dress up.)   This is funny:


In time for Halloween

Vox has a good article up all about Ouija boards, and the ideomotor effect that makes them work.  Well, most of the time [insert ghostly, mad laugh].

Here are a couple of parts that I found particularly interesting: 
Before Ouija boards were invented, spiritualists and other would-be ghost communicators used makeshift devices called “talking boards” that served a similar purpose. Talking boards first became popular in mid-19th-century America, when millions of people suddenly gained an interest in talking to the dead following the tremendous loss of life in the Civil War. The popularity of talking boards, and their use as a tool to exploit grieving war families, meant scientists actually started studying the ideomotor effect in the mid-century, well before Ouija boards and planchettes were patented in 1890.
I don't think I heard of "talking boards" before, but the internet knows all, and here's a very comprehensive (if not particularly well designed) website called The Museum of Talking Boards. 

And here's another bit of information that's rather curious:
The effect might also make the Ouija board an effective tool to help you tap into your own subconscious. In one study published in 2012, scientists found that using the Ouija board allowed subjects to recall factual information with more accuracy than if they weren’t using the board. Participants were instructed to answer a series of yes/no questions and to rate whether they were confident in their answers or merely guessing. Later, they were subjected to another round of questions, but used a Ouija board to indicate “yes” or “no,” once again rating their confidence level in their answers. In cases where participants believed they didn’t know an answer, they were able to give more correct answers, more often, when using the Ouija board than when they believed they were only guessing on their own.
The researchers behind that study have gone on to speculate that using the Ouija board as a technique to unlock subconscious knowledge could lead to insights about the early onset of Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Well, I did post once before about ouija, and the subconscious, but it's worth following that last link for some further information.
 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The transmission of a simple mistake

One Man Was Wrongly Blamed For Bringing AIDS to America - The Atlantic

The details are really surprising for their simplicity, and for illustrating how a "good" but mistaken story gets spread and takes a long, long time to correct.  Ed Yong explains that, when first investigating the rise of AIDS in the US, the researchers found this:
One of those 40 cases was a Canadian flight attendant named Gaëtan Dugas. Having had sex with patients from both California and New York, he seemed to connect the epidemic from coast to coast. As the 57th AIDS patient to reach the CDC team’s attention, Dugas was originally billed as Case 057. But since he came from outside California, and wasn’t even a
U.S. resident, the investigators started referring to him offhandedly as the “Out-of-California patient”—or “Patient O” for short.

That was an unfortunate move. “When the study got written up and was circulated beyond the immediate team to other people within the CDC, that ambiguous oval got interpreted by some as a zero,” says Richard McKay, a medical historian at the University of Cambridge, who recently tracked down the details of the case. By the time the CDC study was published in 1984, Patient O had become Patient 0. In the paper’s sole diagram, Dugas sits at the center, like the spider in a web of disease.

Labels have power. As “Patient Zero,” with its connotations of ground zero, Dugas came across as not just the center of that particular AIDS cluster, but as the source of the entire U.S. epidemic. The CDC team did their best to naysay this misconception, but it gained steam globally in 1987, after the journalist Randy Shilts published his bestselling book And The Band Played On. Shilts identified Dugas by name, and while he never specifically claimed that the man was the source of the U.S. AIDS epidemic, reviewers and media commentators weren’t so restrained.

The idea fit with the prejudices of the day: Here was a modern Typhoid Mary, whose homosexuality and irresponsible promiscuity had brought a plague to American shores.
“Whether it’s explicit or not, there’s always a focus on the potential moral failings of the first recognized individual,” says McKay. But the concept of Patient Zero has been weakening for years, with several lines of evidence showing that HIV—the virus behind AIDS—likely arrived in the U.S. well before Dugas was ever infected.


Now, a new study exonerates Dugas once and for all. It combines McKay’s historical detective work with genetic evidence compiled by Michael Worobey, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona. He sequenced the complete genomes of HIV taken from U.S. samples collected in the late 1970s, and showed that Dugas could not possibly have been the first AIDS patient in the U.S. Indeed, the disease likely entered the country from Haiti in 1971, flying under the radar for a decade before anyone realized what was happening.

Let's check in on the brains trust

Yesterday, a bizarre and awful killing happened in public in Brisbane.  The police were very quick to say it appeared to be a random event.  Over at the Australian right wing's brains trust, a long time Catholic commentator (of Irish ancestry, if I recall correctly, but I stand to be corrected) was to be found speculating:


Today: 
The lawyer for the man accused of killing a Brisbane bus driver on Friday morning has described his client as 'numb' during his appearance in court on Saturday morning.
Anthony O'Donohue, 48, did not apply for bail when he briefly appeared in the Brisbane Arrest Court...
And from another report:
Outside court, Adam Magill described the matter as "very heinous" and said he did not expect his client to apply for bail.
"His major concern as far as I'm concerned at this point in time is his mental health, that needs to be assessed," he said.

Now, I guess Muslim outreach could be converting white, middle aged, Irish sounding men, but the photo showing the guy doesn't really indicate any religious dress:


Has the blog made any comment about this today?  Not that I can see.

Dictator talk

I am again struck by the danger to democracy and the separation of powers that Trump represents in his continual proclamations that HC is a criminal, and that the FBI should remedy its "mistake":
 “Hillary Clinton’s corruption is on a scale we have never seen before. We must not let her take her criminal scheme into the Oval Office," he said.

He continued: "I have great respect for the fact that the FBI and the DOJ are now willing to have the courage to right the horrible mistake that they made. This was a grave miscarriage of justice that the American people fully understand. It is everybody’s hope that it is about to be corrected."

I am again gobsmacked by how the Right wing commentary in the US (and here) just goes along with this, with not a hint of  reservation that this is how dictators run things - telling their investigators and courts the outcome they want with respect to their political opponents. 

This is all in the context of a "re-opening" of an investigation that may not be a real "re-opening" of anything significant at all, regardless of what ageing reporters may think. 

Again - the public has no idea of the mess that security classifications represent;  there has been no evidence of anything of significance coming to foreign power's attention due to HC's use of a private server (I think it safe to assume that would have been disclosed by now, if it happened);  and Right wing pundits are playing on people's ignorance.  It's no mistake that Trump does best with the lowest educated, and younger alt.right revolting culture war losing wannabe warriors.


Friday, October 28, 2016

Evil clowns really exist

Of course I'm repeating myself, but I am truly gobsmacked at the US national harm that Trump is leading by his continued talking up of Clinton as being a criminal who would destroy America.   He's a big mouth idiot who pays no regard to the danger he is encouraging when his ratbag, heavily armed, "patriot" followers feel endorsed by his rhetoric.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

More MOND wars

I see via Bee's blog that there's a further fight going on about whether a recent paper shows MOND to be on its last legs, or not.  

Amusingly, the abstract from (MOND creator) Milgrom's counter-attack begins:
Keller and Wadsley (2016) have smugly suggested, recently, that the end of MOND may be in view.
It seems that Bee also thinks that Keller and Wadsley won't hold up. 

Meanwhile, its fun to watch astrophysicists fighting.

A bit of pointless cruelty

In Bioethics, Unlike Game of Thrones, Decapitation Doesn't Always Mean Death - The Atlantic

Within this article, we read of a silly, gruesome experiment from the 1990's, when I would have thought we were past the worst of pointless animal experimentation:

Yet some bioethicists attack this equation of death and decapitation. Prominent among these critics are Franklin Miller, at the National Institutes of Health, and Robert Truog, at Harvard University. In denying decapitation as a definition of death, they cite a 1995 experiment
that was so gruesome, it would make Edgar Allan Poe shudder. In the investigation, a sheep about to give birth to a lamb was beheaded. Its headless body was then connected to a breathing machine, with a tube going down its severed neck. Thirty minutes later, a caesarian section operation was performed and the headless body gave birth to a now-motherless baby lamb. To Miller and Truog, “there is no ambiguity here: the sheep remained alive during the experiment.” Therefore, they conclude, “decapitated animals are not necessarily dead.”
This was challenged on common sense grounds:
This critique was subsequently challenged by John Lizza, a philosophy professor at Kutztown University. “Any criterion for determining death that would count artificially sustained decapitated human bodies among the living ‘we’ is mistaken,” he argues.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Trump personality under scrutiny

What Drives Donald Trump? Fear of Losing Status, Tapes Show - The New York Times

Well, it's all pretty much what I expected, and confirmation that he's temperamentally completely unsuited to the job of President.

As people in comments say, what's also disturbing is that there is such a significant slab of the American public that would vote for him.

The Nagasaki mission

Fat Boy Blusters - Beachcombing's Bizarre History Blog

Don't recall reading before about how accident prone the flight that ended up dropping the bomb on Nagasaki had been...

Al Trump

I recently re-watched The Untouchables for the first time in many years, and one thing that struck me was the way de Niro's Al Capone was very Trump-like with his finger pointing and hand gestures.  Such as:





Compare:


And the classic:


It remains a great movie, by the way.  I want to write more about it, and soon will...

This is exactly right

Obama Was Right About Republican Extremism All Along | New Republic

The truly stupid on the Right of politics, here and the US, don't comprehend this yet; probably never will.

Some pretty specific rules here

Vatican bans Catholics from keeping ashes of loved ones at home | World news | The Guardian

Well, there goes my plan to have my ashes thrown into the airconditioning intake during a board meeting of the IPA...

But seriously, I am somewhat sympathetic to the idea that it's good to have a place to visit the remains of a loved one, even if it is only in ash form, rather than throwing them in the sea or scattering them around the place.   Mind you, some societies can take wanting to commune physically with the deceased a bit too far:  the Washington Post recently had a photo essay up about some Indonesia tribe that digs up their deceased every few years, re-dresses then, and then puts then away again.  This was the most remarkable photo:


Still got all his hair, too...



A good attack on Ridley and his "lukewarming is just being reasonable" position

The middle ground | …and Then There's Physics

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Strange success

Yes, the reviews are now coming in, and the vast majority seem to like Dr Strange.

Good.

What the American (and Australian) Right must accept to regain credibility

I reckon there are perhaps three key things that a re-aligned American (and Australia) Right must accept to be credible again, and they are all related:

a.  that climate change is real, and a very serious long term economic and humanitarian issue that needs addressing by all governments, but especially by the US as a leading industrial and research nation. Accepting science is not being a socialist - the very nature of the problem means a globalist approach is necessary;

b.  that the idea that government must be minimal government (except when it comes to Defence - where the Right always wants more) has had its day:  driven not only by the need for clear government policy and intervention regarding climate change, but also by credible economic research, and simple common sense comparisons internationally, that government has a key and important role in a wide variety of areas important for maintaining a society's overall well being*;

c.  that provision of adequate government services and infrastructure requires realistic levels of government income, and globally, the world has been "gamed" by a race to the bottom by the richest corporations and individuals who now pay tax at levels that would have been thought laughable last century.  The Right must abandon the obsession with insisting that the only way to advance a nation's economy is to cut taxes. 


* I wonder how much blame can be borne by Rand and/or Milton Friedman for the persistence of  this Republican view?  On the latter, as Paul Krugman wrote in 2007, he was a good and important economist, when it came to his specialised field, but on matters of the size of government and regulation, it was pretty much just ideology:
In the decades ahead, this single-mindedness would become Friedman’s trademark. Again and again, he called for market solutions to problems—education, health care, the illegal drug trade—that almost everyone else thought required extensive government intervention. Some of his ideas have received widespread acceptance, like replacing rigid rules on pollution with a system of pollution permits that companies are free to buy and sell. Some, like school vouchers, are broadly supported by the conservative movement but haven’t gotten far politically. And some of his proposals, like eliminating licensing procedures for doctors and abolishing the Food and Drug Administration, are considered outlandish even by most conservatives.
The lesson the Right needs to learn:  "single mindedness" has had its day.  Pragmatism, common sense and recognition of complexity should all trump ideology.

Trump and the expected Republican break up

I thought this piece in the Washington Post, about the Republican Party's problems (and widely anticipated break up/re-alignment after losing at the election) being more than just about Trump, was pretty convincing. I'll make another post about the Right wing's necessary re-alignments.  (Although long time readers can probably guess one of them!)


Monday, October 24, 2016

Right wing cartooning

The best service cartoonist Bill Leak has provided to national politics is indicating that it (sometimes, at least) takes a really decent knock on the head/brain injury to convert a person into a permanent right wing ideologue.   That lesson hasn't been learnt well enough at Catallaxy, I see, where the controversial Bill Leak aboriginal cartoon (and self serving sequel) is now up as a banner.  (Even before this, the blog was one of the last places in Australia to go for moderate and intelligent commentary on race issues.) 

As it happens, I can see both sides of the Bill Leak cartoon - I certainly understand many aborigines finding it offensive; but I can also see that it fits within the type of graphic commentary whereby cartoonists frequently treat their targets with an unfair broad brush.

Leak's sequel makes his original offensiveness to large numbers of aboriginal fathers worse - indicating that he makes no acknowledgement that he doing anything other than "telling the truth", and that he thinks he was being funny.   If he had somehow acknowledged that he knew you can't accuse all aborigines as alcoholic, hopeless parents, he might have earned some sympathy.  But, no.

Hence, while I would have thought a complaint about the first cartoon under 18C Racial Discrimination Act should have been dismissed, taking both cartoons together makes it appear to me much more likely that he may be found to be in breach of the Act.  Am I concerned about that?   Not really - the Australian, if it was a decent newspaper of any standing, should not have run the cartoon in the first place; or, at the very least, offered an apology for offence caused once the complaints started coming in.  (Did they do that editorially?  I wouldn't know.) 

But then again, nor do I think that Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommanase did his position much good by inviting complaints about the cartoon.  While publicising the role of his organisation is one thing, doing it in such a specific context is unlikely to do more than re-invigorate the culture warriors in the Coalition and media, who have nothing better to do with their time other than hound Gillian Triggs and her organisation to death, and agitate on behalf of the likes of Andrew Bolt.

The HRC needs to have a high profile complaint (such as the current QUT student matter) fail in order to confirm in the public mind that they and its judges do take a hard headed approach to matters and aren't there for frivolous or ill founded complaints.  I strongly suspect that this is what will happen in the QUT case, and a decision on that cannot come soon enough.  The commission also then needs to review itself from a point of view of procedural fairness.

I will see this movie

Doctor Strange: 5 things to know about Marvel’s best-looking movie yet - Vox

Despite my complaints about Hollywood spending way too much time on comic book movies, I'll see this one because:

a.  everyone likes Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton, don't they? Count me in, too.

b.  articles talking about it seem to suggest there are quite a few jokes to be had.  Marvel needs humour to be bearable;

c.   movies that are noteworthy for unusual visual effects still have some appeal.  Merely well done disaster scenarios, whether on a city or planet-wide scale, don't hold any interest, but this movie sounds more innovative than that. 

Excuse me while I do some food blogging

Here's some boring food/family blogging for you:   on a Saturday or Sunday night, every few weeks, we have a "snack night" - a platter of food and bread that we all help ourselves too.

I'm not sure how commonly realised this is, but all meals that combine large elements of red and green foods will always be good.  For a platter we enjoy, the key ingredients tend to be:

a.  a wood platter.   Remember, wood platters make all food taste better.  They just do.

b.  oven roasted capsicum (peel off the burnt skin, season and and pour some good olive oil over it.)  This is a really, really popular food in our house.

c.  for green:  in spring - Australian asparagus.  Always tastes better than South American.   Fried in a bit of butter and olive oil is perfect.  Otherwise, just green  beans, either pan fried with a bit of garlic, or steamed in the microwave with a bit of garlic infused olive oil on them afterwards.  Have you tried Cobram Estate's garlic infused olive oil?   It's really great and convenient:



d.  Possible additional red:  ripe tomatoes.  Possibly served with cold mozzarella, or a bit of crumbed feta, olive oil and basil leaves if you have some.  Red and green on the one plate works well.

e.  Possible additional green:  avocado, just mashed up with lemon and salt and pepper.

f.   Further vegetable:  olives.   Whatever type you like.

g.  Other possible vegetables:  carrot sticks or celery, with which to each the semi-guacamoled avocado or (if you really need it) a dip from the supermarket.  I like beetroot dip.  Home made hummus is easy enough, too, as long as you have some tahini around.

g.  Protein:  smoked fish.   A whole smoked trout, which costs all of $10 or so, with the skin peeled off but otherwise just laid out on the platter for people to attack, does the trick.   Of course, smoked salmon, either of the cold or hot smoked variety, works fine too.  The trout laid out with the head and tail still on looks good, though.

h.  Protein:  brie or another soft gooey cheese.

g.  Bread:  whatever you like, but makes some garlic butter and grill half of it on a stove top griddle for those who like yet more garlic flavour and a crisper base for cheese.

h.  White wine.  May as well make it a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  Goes well with the smoked fish.

Some of these meals are the most enjoyable we share at home.  And are not very expensive, given the pleasure derived from this tasty range of foods.

Alt.right losers

Donald Trump’s Alt-Right Supporters: Internet Abuse Must End | National Review

A remarkable account by David French of the intense abuse he and his family have had to endure for his opposing Trump.

The wedding gift registry includes Lego and Chupa Chups

Pictures of two Egyptian children engaged to be married trigger outrage — once again - The Washington Post

I'm tempted to post the garish photo of the "happy" couple, but it's not their fault, so why should I join in the pile on.  (Mind you, I'm not suggesting the pile on against the family is not deserved.)

Anyway, the article notes this:
The engagement of Omar and Gharam “will only lead to an early marriage in which the girl will be deprived of equal chances to education, growth, and will isolate her from social spheres,” he said.

But if history is any indication, it’s unlikely the complaints will stop Egypt’s child marriages, a practice that is also prevalent in many nations in the Middle East, Asia and in Sub-Saharan Africa. Dar al-Ifta, Egypt’s highest Islamic authority, has repeatedly urged state institutions to make concerted efforts to stop marriages among minors.
But that has either had little effect in many areas or has spawned efforts to manipulate the law. In Egypt’s rural areas, families marry off their children but usually delay the official registration of the marriage until the couples reach the lawful age of matrimony to avoid legal punishment. As a consequence, any children born of the marriage will not be issued birth certificates or be recognized until then, legal experts say.
Omar’s father, faced with the backlash of his decision, told local newspapers that he "is a free man and did nothing wrong."
He defended the engagement, saying that "Omar has always loved Gharam so much that he used to say he will marry her when they grow up.” He added that both children acted “beyond their years” and developed “strong feelings for each other” through Facebook and other social media and “wanted to get engaged.”
That’s why, Omar’s father said, he decided to announce their engagement now "before any other man asks for her hand in marriage when she is older".
"They will get married when they reach the legal age," he insisted.
This wasn’t the first child marriage in the province this year. In June, a 10-year-old bride in a pink dress sat next to her 12-year-old groom, celebrating their wedding.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Probably an instrument error...

Either stars are strange, or there are 234 aliens trying to contact us

I saw a report about this last week and forgot to post about it.   A couple of astronomers think they may have found an alien signal, but it seemingly is coming from so many stars, it's very suspicious.  

What happened in America in 2013? (And in the past)

There's been some surprising (or not so surprising - depending on where you stand on the pessimism/optimism scale, I suppose) figures out regarding increasing rates of STDs in the US:


So, what happened in 2013?  Everyone suspects Grindr, but then I see it has been around since 2009, and The Guardian was giving it publicity in 2010.  If it was that app, it took a while to hit the STD rates.

The Atlantic had an article about syphilis's re-emergence last year, which also mentions Grindr, but it notes (as does the previous article) that there is no well researched basis for blaming it.   (How hard can it be to research this?   Why can't STD clinics ask that patients answer a short questionnaire on their use of such apps, or the internet, to find partners?) 

As for other reasons:  how about the loss of fear of HIV amongst Western men?   Surely it counts for something; but it astounds me that even if they are going to risk that, men will still take a punt on a disease that looks absolutely horrible, and  can hardly be hidden from friends and loved ones, at least it if gets to the secondary stage.  (You can Google images of the rash yourself.)

But having said that, there still seems something odd about 2013, and it seems no one knows what.

To get back to something resembling optimism again, how do current rates of STD's compare to those in past decades?   It would seem good figures are available for the US since the 1940's, and one thing that is surprising about them is the huge surge in one STD that, I assume, was a result of the 1960's sexual revolution:


As for syphilis, here's the more recent rate trend:

But go back further, and you realise just what a serious problem it was mid 20th century:


Now, that last graph is total cases, not cases per 100,000.  Here's what we really need for a graph comparison:


But, these graphs are confusing if they are including congenital syphilis, and you are only interested in the number of adults catching it. 

You can avoid that by looking at this table - where it is plain that primary and secondary syphilis had a peak 1940's rate in the USA of nearly 71 per 100,000

The rate today (not that I am making excuses for it!) is 7.5.  Pretty close to a tenth of the 1940's peak rate. 

Yeah, so while I can understand why the CDC is dismayed that it is on the way up after nearly disappearing, it's remarkable to realise the extent of problem it presented in the past...


He knows nothing

That's a Sgt Schultz reference, by the way, and specifically made only in relation to the curious matter of Sinclair Davidson's invitations to talk internationally about his research that disputes the efficacy of tobacco plain packaging.

Look, it's good that he spoke to this Canadian journalist at all, but TimT - what on earth is wrong with a journo pressing Sinclair on the matter of whether tobacco company money is behind his appearances at such meetings?   I don't think her questions were disrespectful in tone at all, and if a journalist wants to put challenges to his research for comment, what's wrong with that?   If anything, I wish she had been more aggressive.

Because, let's face it, Sinclair shows a distinct lack of curiosity as to whether tobacco funding is involved, indirectly:
J: Was the tobacco industry involved in the visit in any way?
SD: Not to my knowledge.
J: The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies said that their event was held in partnership with Crestview Strategy, a lobbying firm that represents one of Canada’s biggest tobacco companies, so I would like to have some clarity around the involvement of the tobacco industry.
SD: I can’t help you there – I hadn’t heard of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies before I spoke there, nor have I heard of them since. I also spoke at the Economic Club of Canada meeting in Toronto and Convenience Store meetings in Montreal, Winnipeg, and Vancouver. I have no knowledge as to how the meetings were organised. Beyond ensuring that each venue had a powerpoint projector I had no interest in the organisation of the meetings.
....I have had contact with people in Canada (obviously – at the talks I gave), the UK, and parts of Europe opposed to plain packaging. These people work in media, think tanks, and consumer rights organisations.
J: Can you confirm whether the institute currently receives any funding?
SD: I don’t know if the IPA currently receives funding from the tobacco industry – I have never been told that it does.
Here's the question that she should have asked as a follow up:

"Would it bother you if you knew that tobacco industry funding was behind the meetings you addressed, or, for that matter, part funding the IPA and its long campaign again plain packaging?"

Now, I presume his answer would be "no, not particularly.  I oppose plain packaging on libertarian grounds, and as such it matters little to me who funds the message."

And I can think of a couple of follow up questions from that.

But why does Sinclair even seemingly reject this proposition (in italics, which are mine)?:
As it turns out I had a long discussion with Garfield Mahood in Toronto during the Q&A session of my talk at the Economic Club and also again after the session. He put to me the same questions with the same underlying premise that somehow I am corrupt, or on the take, or that my motives are base, or that I am inadvertently benefiting the tobacco industry, etc. etc. that you have put to me. Mind you, he was very quick to back away from stating that premise when I asked him if that is what he was implying. In the end he seemed happy to accept that I am an academic doing research and publishing results, and my motive to come to Canada was to visit my relatives.
Oh come on.   How could he plausibly not be at least inadvertently benefiting the tobacco industry by not only doing this research, but going to meetings where they want to hear his "plain packaging hasn't worked" message?   Especially if he shows no interest in knowing whether there is tobacco funding in the background?

Seems to be an obvious over-reach there. 


Of course Trump lost

I happened to see the closing statements live on TV yesterday in the last Presidential debate.  Clinton sounded smart, relaxed and competent; Trump repeated his handful of memorised lines, starting (oddly, I thought) with a need to boost defence and spend more money on veterans, before going back to American cities being a disaster and how he'll do more for blacks than Hillary ever could.  (Seriously, he thinks he should even bother trying to appeal to the black vote?)

And right at the end, the Donald looked very unhappy, as his family approached him to comfort him in his failure, while Hillary headed into the audience, looking happy (and healthy).

On that last point, let's remember:  right wing conspiracy numbskulls have been telling each other for the last year or more that she's about to fall off the perch any day now.  And Trump personally bought right into it, the shallow  and stupid conspiracy monger that he is.    How easily they gloss over their ridiculous failed predictions. 

As for some other ridiculousness:  Scott Adams is trying to wake up to America to the realisation that all people who dislike Trump have been hypnotised by Democrat Svengalis.   Because only he, the Most Knowledgeable Man in America in the Matter of Persuasion, can see the truth:
Here I pause to remind new readers of this blog that I’m a trained hypnotist and a student of persuasion in all its forms. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to learn the tricks for discerning illusion from reality. And I’m here to tell you that if you are afraid that Donald Trump is a racist/sexist clown with a dangerous temperament, you have been brainwashed by the best group of brainwashers in the business right now: Team Clinton. They have cognitive psychologists such as Godzilla advising them. Allegedly.
I remind you that intelligence is not a defense against persuasion. No matter how smart you are, good persuaders can still make you see a pink elephant in a room where there is none (figuratively speaking). And Clinton’s team of persuaders has caused half of the country to see Trump as a racist/sexist Hitler with a dangerous temperament. That’s a pink elephant.
As a public service (and I mean that literally) I have been trying to unhypnotize the country on this matter for the past year. I don’t do this because I prefer Trump’s policies or because I know who would do the best job as president. I do it because our system doesn’t work if you think there is a pink elephant in the room and there is not. That isn’t real choice. That is an illusion of choice.
Hmm.   How odd it is the Team Clinton managed to get Trump to make hundreds of ridiculous, false and offensive statements in scores of televised appearances over the last 12 months that convinced me (and a huge number of fellow Australians)  that he's a dangerous idiot.  They really are all globally powerful, that Team.

Despite the fact that he (in a subsequent post) actually gave the debate to Clinton on points, Adams remains (arguably) the biggest self disclosed fool as a result of this election campaign.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Attack of a sea monster

Well, this is an odd headline:

Wreckage of U-boat sunken by 'sea monster' found off UK

And the details are quite bizarre:
Incredible sonar images show the 100-year-old wreck to be mostly intact, and the find has led to the resurfacing of nautical folklore. Experts say the wreckage may be the infamous UB-85, which, legend has it, was attacked by a sea beast during the war.

According to the old tale, the U-boat commander -- Capt. Gunther Krech -- said the submarine had been cruising on the surface of the water to recharge its batteries when a "strange beast" rose from the sea with "large eyes, set in a horny sort of skull." Krech said the animal had a small head, but with "teeth that could be seen glistening in the moonlight," according to a statement from Scottish Energy News...
Hey - how about a better source for the "legend" than the company that found the wreck. Is this just a clickbait story that's fooled me? Because here's the rest:  
The story goes that the sheer size of the beast was so immense that it forced the U-boat to list and the crew began shooting at the monster until it dropped back into the sea. The captain said, however, that during the course of the fight the forward deck plating had been so badly damaged that it could no longer submerge.
The British military had a slightly different take on the incident.  Official reports suggested that when the UB-85 surfaced on April 30,1918, it was spotted and destroyed by a British patrol boat -- HMS Coreopsis -- not by a mysterious sea monster.
Yes, until I hear more about how Capt Krech's story came to light, I will assume I've been clickbaited...

Rats in the news

Sounds like a ridiculously generous amount of money for a rat: 
The Indonesian capital will pay residents to catch rats as part of efforts to curb diseases transmitted by the rodents, local reports say.
Jakarta deputy governor Djarot Syaiful Hidayat says residents will be paid 20,000 rupiahs ($A2) for every rat caught and handed over to authorities, the Kompas daily reported.
"Just collect the rats, count them and we will pay," Djarot was quoted as saying.
Rats were rampant in densely populated areas, potentially causing diseases such as leptospirosis, salmonellosis and hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, he said.
Some Jakartans are opposed to the idea.
"Mr governor, please don't go ahead with the plan," a resident pleaded on Twitter.
"People will farm rats, just like what happened in Hanoi."
French colonisers in Hanoi, Vietnam, introduced a program in which people were paid for each rat tail caught, prompting people to start breeding them.
And this reminds me, I was reading an article about new studies on rat intelligence on the weekend, but I have forgotten where it was.   Maybe found via Flipboard?   I'll get to this later...

More than you ever thought you needed to know

Bacterial Vaginosis and the Secrets of the Vagina's Microbiome - The Atlantic

This is a really long article about a not so pleasant subject, but I did like the title on the website:  "The Superhero in the Vagina", as it lets me make a joke about how it sounds like a rejected Marvel movie title.

Anyhow, the matter of the complicated bacterial balance in the average vagina is kind of interesting.   I wonder whether this is covered in teenage health and sex ed in schools these days?  Sounds like it should...

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Fooling your animal

BBC - Earth - How a dog's mind can easily be controlled

It's all about the placebo effect in animals, which seems to be a real thing, even if this article is mainly about the difficulty in studying it.  

Political persuasions of US academia

From a Nature News article about scientists who support Trump (how on Earth did they manage to track down that handful of people?), there's a graphic showing how the political leanings of academics breaks down:


I guess most of this is pretty much what I would have guessed, except I would not have been surprised if engineers had a greater number of conservatives, and I don't really know why mathematicians lean more heavily conservative, too.  (Also, astronomers don't do conservative politics, for some reason.)

Yet more MOND

Hey, I see that my favourite physicist blogger Sabine H has a post up about the new paper which I've been posting about - the one that seems to support the unpopular MOND theory for gravity.

Now, Sabine can be hard to follow when she gets into details, but if you read the post (and the lengthy comments, which get into a bit of an almost philosophical argy bargy about when you give up on a science theory), you get an idea as to why MOND is viewed suspiciously by many. 

Interesting.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Planning for lunar living

An Astronaut Gardener On The Moon - Summits Of Sunlight And Vast Lunar Caves In Low Gravity

Yay - someone who thinks, like me, that it's more sensible to be planning on lunar colonies being the first off Earth permanent colonies for humans, rather than distant, extremely hard to get to, Mars.

This long, long post talks about many aspects of living on the moon.  I haven't read it all yet, but I'll get back to it.

One thing to be curious about - the long term health effects of lunar (or Martian) low gravity.   How can that ever be guessed at until you get people living there for a year or more.  Even more curious - would babies gestated there end up taller, weaker, or what?  I would guess that one of the first things to do on a lunar base would be to raise generations of mice or rats there, and see what happens.   (I also remember some telemovie from - I think - the 1990's that had a mining outpost on the Moon, and the pregnant mother getting spun gently in a centrifuge to provide some artificial gravity to her fetus.  I think she was then heading off to Earth to give birth?  I don't remember much about it - I didn't watch the whole movie.)

Update:  I know that studies have been done with rats raised in centrifuges to simulate a high gravity life, but short of having a centrifuge running permanently on the ISS, the equivalent studies of them raised in low gravity are hard to envisage...

American election comments

*  Donald Trump and his "rigged election" rhetoric is clearly dangerous in a country full of armed-to-the-hilt, conspiracy minded nutters who are encouraged to believe (and easily convinced) that Clinton is a dangerous criminal who wants to take their guns from them.   The mildly worded counterclaims by Republicans (such as Pence) don't seem to be anywhere near enough of a rebuke, and if Trump keeps this up, he really deserves calling out and complete repudiation from the highest levels.  It's much more serious, in its way, than the groping allegations.  (And none of this "he doesn't mean voter fraud - he means the way the media is against him" excuse making I've heard from some of his supporters.)

* There is so little appreciation of the matter of government security classification of communications in the general public that is it easy for them to think that Clinton's classified emails that ended up on her private server were really important stuff.  This is distorting the public perception of her "wrongdoing", and Trump and Republicans are taking full advantage of that.  But even the liberal media is not really helping to clarify public understanding.  This article from back in July sets out this basic point:
An important thing to understand is that the determination of what information is classified is subjective. This means reasonable people can disagree about the relative sensitivity of particular information.

Before coming to academia, I worked for many years as an analyst at both the State Department and the Department of Defense. I held a top secret clearance and worked on issues related to weapons of mass destruction and their proliferation. Debates and arguments about whether certain information should be classified were frequent. More often than not the debates centered on why something was classified in the first place. This is why determining whether Secretary Clinton was careless is not a cut and dried issue.
Well, it's fair to say she was careless - but the consequences of the carelessness are something that is not at all clear, and it is quite possibly very inconsequential from a national security point of view.   

Some pretty incredible work here

Mouse eggs made from skin cells in a dish : Nature News & Comment

Some very science-fictiony stuff here that, I guess, really could make sex redundant for reproduction.  Still need a womb for growing a baby though - I don't think any science is being done on replacing women entirely.  As far as I know... 

Surely you wouldn't, Malcolm

It's reported in The Australian today:
Malcolm Turnbull is being pressured to relax the nation’s gun laws to secure two key industrial reforms in an escalating round of Senate horsetrading, amid a political firestorm over the government’s bid to curb union power.
The government’s workplace agenda is hanging in the balance as Liberal Democratic Party senator David Leyonhjelm demands an expansion of shotgun imports to win his vote for laws to crack down on illegal union tactics across the construction industry.
Malcolm would absolutely kill his moderate credentials with voters if gave in to this from Leyonhjelm.  Surely he wouldn't do it?

Speaking of Leyonhjelm:  I have the distinct impression that he's in a bit of a funk since not only the election, but before it.  Since Helen Dale resigned, actually.  He did only barely get returned due to the double dissolution;  Pauline Hanson and her group of numbskulls has kept his numbskull off the media radar to a large extent since the election; he copped it for speaking ill of a journalist on the very day she died; and now his best mate in the Senate (the very uninspiring Bob Day - surely one of the dullest politicians to be in the Senate for many a year) is quitting.   Leyonhjelm just looks very glum anytime I see him now.  Retire, David; it'll do you good...

Monday, October 17, 2016

What a loser

Peter Thiel donating $1.25 million to Donald Trump's campaign - Oct. 15, 2016

My opinion of this weirdo just keeps heading down.

What blatant dishonesty

Matt Drudge may have lost his grip on reality - The Washington Post

Problem is, I reckon half of Drudge's readership would not go near the Washington Post for news, and will genuinely go on believing Drudge's dishonesty and propaganda.  

Why hunt bears?

Pedals the bear endeared himself to humans by walking like one. Did hunters kill him? - The Washington Post: The week of agitation over what happened to Pedals coincided with New Jersey’s first bow hunt for black bears in more than 40 years, the Asbury Park Press said. This year, the state’s black bear-hunting season spanned Oct. 10 to 15 for those using bows or muzzleloaders, and will open again from Dec. 5 to 10 for those using firearms. Hunters killed 432 bears in New Jersey last week, according to AP.
Gee. I'm very surprised there is a black bear hunting season at all.   Are they marauding around people to such an extent they need to be culled?   And why pander to the bow hunting fraternity at all?   Surely it makes for a more difficult and painful death if they have to be killed at all.

Kind of glad I don't live in the US...

Update:  I see from this anti-bear hunt Facebook site that many blame Chris Christie for the expanded hunt.   He's not a popular man, and as a sell out to Trump, he deserves it...

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Ignoring MOND?

[1609.06642] MOND impact on and of the recently updated mass-discrepancy-acceleration relation

A couple of weeks back, I linked to a report of a new study of galaxy rotation which seemed to be pretty important for what it meant for dark matter.

The link above is to a paper by Mordehai Milgrom, who first proposed MOND, complaining that the paper gave way too little attention to the fact that MOND theories of gravity had predicted this, and it's effectively a strong experimental endorsement of MOND.

It does seem that MOND has a bit of a PR problem in astrophysics.  I see from the Wikipedia article on it at the last link that one of its criticisms is that, at a galactic cluster scale, you still need dark matter to make sense of their movement.  As it says, this makes the theory "less elegant"; on the other hand, it apparently means you can use much less dark matter if you use MOND, which one would think is consistent with the problems of even identifying dark matter. 

Yes, my hunch remains that MOND and Milgrom are unjustly ignored.

Friday, October 14, 2016

I sense a potential for misuse of this study...

Study finds link between marriage attitudes and risky sexual behaviors: This is the first study to investigate links between marriage attitudes and sexual behavior across racial and ethnic minority groups as well as the role skin tone plays in shaping marriage attitudes...
Researchers found that toward marriage had a significant dampening effect on risky behaviors for lighter-skinned African Americans and Asians compared with their
darker skin counterparts, who had more negative attitudes toward marriage. The findings suggest that skin tone plays a role in views toward relationships and marriage, thus impacting decisions about for some people.
I am not at all sure what to make of that!

Excuse me while I talk to monty

Your guest post at Catallaxy has the advantage of not being insane, unlike most of the blog, but I have the following criticisms:

*  did you really have to throw in the "cultural allusion"?:  it reminds me too much of the grand - and nutty - Right wing faux historical prisms that nearly everyone at that blog thinks everything has to be viewed through.  In a way, it reads too much like the grandiose crap that Mk50 used to go on about.  (And, incidentally, he seems to be on some calming medication, or something, now, since he returned under a new identity.  [And why did he bother doing that, when everyone knows who it is?]  He's no longer getting positively excited by the prospect of an American Right wing armed revolution, like he used to.)

* takes too many words to make a point that many - even on the Democrat side - have already made.

* candy was right - the reference to Trump's supporters formerly being the type who would have a country club membership is a tad improbable.  Update:   here's Nate Silver yesterday:
Based on recent polls, I’d estimate that about 35 percent of Trump’s current voters are white men without a college degree, by far Trump’s best demographic group.
  Was this demographic ever into country club membership, monty?

* it's one thing to have sympathy to the economic plight of the low educated under globalisation - and to talk of them having a logical reason for dissatisfaction - but in doing so it risks encouraging them to believe the situation is more catastrophic than it really is, exactly as Trump has been doing.   It also underplays the poisonous anti-evidence based nonsense that the entire leadership of the American Right has participated in for more than a decade as priming Trumpkins to believe any nonsense at all, including that sprouted by their orange buffoon.

I can see how it's not a winning strategy to win hearts and minds to tell people that they are being idiots - yet this is what at least the leadership of the Right needs to be told.   I fear that expressing too much sympathy towards the Trump base makes that job harder to do, and I think that your post reads too much in that direction.

PS:  please pass on the threadsters at Catallaxy that I think they're all being idiots.

JG is correct on this

Trump's Bad Sex Strategy | National Review

A calm explanation from Jonah Goldberg about the stupidity of the Trump, um, counter-grope strategy.

And it was probably written before he heard Trump basically tell a crowd that he wouldn't have forced himself on one of the women 'cos she's not hot enough (as Slate generously puts it.  Others would say - 'cos she's too ugly.)  (Mind you, if challenged on this, I bet he'll deny that's what he meant.  And absolutely no one will believe him.)

He is, genuinely, a rolled gold idiot.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Donald and "disgusting"

Two Women Say Donald Trump Touched Them Inappropriately - The New York Times: In a phone interview on Tuesday night, a highly agitated Mr. Trump denied every one of the women’s claims.

“None of this ever took place,” said Mr. Trump, who began shouting at the Times reporter who was questioning him. He said that The Times was making up the allegations to hurt him and that he would sue the news organization if it reported them.

“You are a disgusting human being,” he told the reporter as she questioned him about the women’s claims.

Asked whether he had ever done any of the kissing or groping that he had described on the recording, Mr. Trump was once again insistent: “I don’t do it. I don’t do it. It was locker room talk.”
There are, one strongly suspects, many more stories to come of unwelcome groping/kissing by Trump, and I wonder whether he'll find a new way to react other than by calling the reporter "a disgusting human being".

This seems to be his favourite insult, and in particular, he seems to use "disgusting" in contexts few other people would.  I take it as a sign of a pretty limited vocabulary, and it's hard to imagine him being good with words in diplomatically important encounters. 

Update:  Trump can't even take his own advice:

More on Penrose

I had missed that Peter Woit had favourably reviewed Roger Penrose's new book a few weeks ago.   Go have a read.

(It's interesting, the discussion about Penrose's issues with inflation.  I always had the feeling that this seemed to be a solution that was widely accepted before the mechanics of how it could happen were even guessed at, which seems to be a somewhat backwards way to work compared to most of physics.  Well, at least for a phenomena that isn't actually being observed but is being inferred. Was my hunch right?)

Watching for new craters

Seems the Moon still gets hit by meteors quite often:


Meteorites have punched at least 222 impact craters into the Moon's surface in the past 7 years. That’s 33% more than researchers expected, and suggests that future lunar astronauts may need to hunker down against incoming space rocks....
Although most of the craters dotting the Moon's surface formed millions of years ago, space rocks and debris continue to create fresh pockmarks. In 2011, a team led by Ingrid Daubar of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, compared some of the first pictures taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which launched in 2009, with decades-old images taken by the Apollo astronauts. The scientists spotted five fresh impact craters in the LRO images. Then, on two separate occasions in 2013, other astronomers using telescopes on Earth spotted bright flashes on the Moon; LRO later flew over those locations and photographed the freshly formed craters2, 3.

LRO has taken about a million high-resolution images of the lunar surface, but only a fraction cover the same portion of terrain under the same lighting conditions at two different times. Speyerer’s team used a computer program to automatically analyse 14,092 of these paired images, looking for changes between the two. The 222 newfound craters are distributed randomly across the lunar surface, and range between 2 and 43 metres in diameter.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Why the Note 7 won't kill Samsung

Before I get onto this topic, has anyone else noticed that suddenly, at JB Hi Fi, the only tablets on sale are Samsung's and Apple's?  (And both of those companies have a small range now.)   Are other manufacturers giving up on tablets?   (I don't know that any other company had screens as good as the big two anyway, but I still liked looking at what other companies offered.)   Are large "phablets" killing the tablet market?

Back to the Note 7 explody phone:  the Note range was not that important to Samsung, anyway:
While the Note stylus is important to many users, it has still been a niche product. The last Note5 (there was no Note6) generated only 5% of all of Samsung's sales, Moorhead said. The Galaxy line of phones, including the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are from two to three times more popular, according to various accounts.
"The Note line has been very small for Samsung," he said. He and other analysts said it would be hard to see problems from the Note line affecting other lines.
"Samsung has many smartphone models globally and none have experienced the same problem," Burden said.
As to whether Apple or Huawei would benefit from the Note7 disaster, analysts were uniformly convinced there will be little boost to competitors.
Part of the reason is that Samsung already controls the largest share of the smartphone market globally, at 22% in the second quarter, according to IDC. Apple had 12% and Huawei had 9%.
"No way will Samsung lose its ranking over this problem," Moorhead said. "They are just so large."

I knew someone would have posted this theory before I could...

I had independently thought of this last week (honest), but kept forgetting to post about it. Anyway, I guessed it would have occurred to others - for all I know, someone on Reddit probably came up with it months ago.

It's the theory that anxiety about Trump has caused the killer clown panic:

The explanation for October's clown sighting hysteria is staring us in the face | Mary Valle | Opinion | The Guardian: I think this “clown epidemic” is a form of real-time trauma play. Right now, in this nation, on this planet, a bona fide human-like sociopath is very close to grabbing the One Ring of Power. Or the Former One Ring of Power that is Still Pretty Powerful.
'I'm a gentleman': Trump menaces Clinton with imposing presence and brash insults
Read more

China may be the Coke of today and we may just be the Pepsi, which may partially explain the second-rate, rinky-dink two-bit hustler who has fooled millions of people into thinking he somehow cares about them, courting steelworkers as he loads his buildings with Chinese steel, pretending to care about small business owners while notoriously stiffing them for decades.

Somewhere in their heads they must understand that they are not acting in their best interest, and this gigantic killer clown is using their despair and hopelessness against them by masterfully pulling their anger strings, turning them, too into ugly, disjointed residents of his angry uncanny valley.
Yes, it's a Jungian explanation, I suppose; in the same way he thought that UFOs were a sort of psychic projection of societal anxieties.   

About one of the rape allegations

As this article explains, the evidence that Juanita Broadderick offers for her allegation that Hillary Clinton intimidated her after her alleged rape by Bill is extremely thin and improbable.   Apart from the matter of having to infer a double meaning into words, it also assumes that Bill would have told Hillary that he had just raped (or at the very least, slept with) Broadderick, and that Hillary's reaction would be to meet her a couple of weeks later and thank her for not making a complaint.   How likely is that?  

Update:  Homer in comments referred me to a Slate article about this, and it does indeed confirm the wild improbability of Hillary even knowing that Bill had done anything, consensual or nonconsensual, with Broadderick (assuming, for the sake of argument, that a sexual encounter did happen):
As I’ve written before, everything we know about the Clintons’ marriage tells us that Bill took pains to hide his affairs from his wife. In A Woman in Charge, Hillary’s biographer Carl Bernstein describes how Bill initially refused to settle a lawsuit with Paula Jones—setting off the events that led to impeachment—because he feared admitting a sexual encounter to Hillary. “Bill didn’t dare acknowledge to his wife that something had transpired with Jones, so he rolled the dice and risked his presidency on the outcome—just as he would when he denied for months that he had had a sexual relationship with Lewinsky,” Bernstein writes.
If Trump really does insist on going nuclear on the Broaddrick charges at Sunday night’s debate, I hope Hillary sticks closely to what she’s been accused of—greeting a woman who would later call her husband a rapist in what that woman interpreted as a menacing tone of voice. When you examine every accusation of Hillary as an “attacker” of women, it ends up looking equally flimsy. Claims that Hillary Clinton smeared Monica Lewinsky rest on the fact that, after learning of her husband’s dalliance, she called her a “narcissistic loony toon” in a private letter to a close friend. Some on the right think Trump should hit Clinton for representing, as a young lawyer, a poor man charged with raping a 12-year-old named Kathy Shelton. But the judge in the case had appointed her, and as the prosecutor in the case has recounted, she accepted only reluctantly. Bill Clinton’s history with women is hard to defend. Hillary Clinton’s history is not. And her own history is all she should be accountable for Sunday night.