Archive for the ‘Noted in Passing’ Category

Noted in passing 2nd January 2017 ( Fake news, fake science and other trivia)

January 2, 2017
  1. White House fails to make case that Russian hackers tampered with election
  2. Evidence of Bias in Studies of Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness in Elderly Patients

  3. Russia denies CNN report on closure of Anglo-American School in Moscow

  4. Why Fake Data When You Can Fake a Scientist?

  5. “Fake News” And How The Washington Post Rewrote Its Story On Russian Hacking Of The Power Grid

  6. Planet Earth II ‘a disaster for world’s wildlife’ says rival nature producer

  7. Cologne Police Screen Hundreds Of North Africans, As Migrants Storm Spanish Enclave In Africa

  8. Aide: When Trump tweets, he gets results

  9. Academia’s Broken, so Why Defend Academic Freedom?
Source: Exxon 2017 Outlook for Energy

Source: Exxon 2017 Outlook for Energy


And the world keeps turning …

February 24, 2016

I have been away from my desktop for a couple of weeks and have not kept up (have not been able to keep up) with blogging on my ipad. I am afraid I find my inabilities with the tablet frustrating. I need the large keyboard to fit my thick fingers and I need my mouse!!

But the world hasn’t noticed (or cared) and has just kept turning.

  1. Transferring at Frankfurt airport was a pain – again.
  2. Security personnel at Frankfurt maintained their reputation for mindlessness (this is a little more offensive than the pseudoscience of “mindfulness” which permeates Germany). And that leads me to a few thoughts.
  3. First, why shouldn’t security robots be used instead of the personnel who are clearly charged not to use their minds.  They are – I am quite sure – instructed to switch their minds off and follow a protocol strictly without deviation. Surely lifeless robots would be less offensive than the Frankfurt mob. And since they clearly presume that the person they are body searching is a terrorist, perhaps they should apologise when they find nothing? (Of course not – that was a silly question. Apologies come from people with minds.)
  4. Second, why are humans so gullible that labelling common-sense as “mindfulness” causes them to enrich charlatans?
  5. Speaking of charlatans, did you note the social psychologist who expounds on the act of reading being brain-washing? Start always with the assumption that all social psychologists are guilty of being charlatans unless they can prove otherwise.
  6. Donald Trump is proving to be the right clown, at the right time, in the right place, for the right electorate. I’m still not totally convinced that the GOP may not try to get a brokered solution which crowds Trump out, but that may only backfire. Wow! Who could have imagined a Trump/Clinton fight for the Presidency? And if it is an anti-establishment wave that is washing out the muck in the Washington stables, come November, Hillary may be swept away with the rest of the manure. (The Pope needs to backtrack on his ill-judged nonsense a little more, since he surely can do without the risk of being taken to be personally against the next President of the United States).
  7. In India the Delhi police chief has forgotten the basic tenet of being innocent until proven guilty. He demanded that students of JNU accused of “sedition” prove their innocence against the unproved allegations. The BJP and the Hindu right have hijacked “nationalism” such that all leftists now need to prove that they are not anti-India. It was amusing to watch a national Communist leader desperately trying to claim that it was indeed possible for a communist to be a nationalist. Poor man. In one sense the police chief has a point. All staff and students of JNU – by definition – are guilty of something (just as everybody at the LSE is also guilty). It has been a long time since any academic work of value came out of the JNU.

The world keeps turning and as “tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time” it is hard not to think like Macbeth, that:

Humans are but walking shadows, poor players 
That strut and fret their hour upon the stage
And then are heard no more: it is a tale
Told by idiots, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.


Dumbing down “Top Gear”, Assange and other miscellany

February 5, 2016

Noted in passing –

  1. I doubt I shall watch the reincarnation of BBC’s “Top Gear” as often as I did the Clarkson/May/ Hammond version. Not only because of the dumbing down represented by having Chris Evans as the main presenter but also because, I suspect, he will have difficulty to add value. Now with Joey from Friends (Matt LeBlanc) joining Evans, it increases the dumbing down and reduces the likelihood for value addition even further. In the BBC TV show “Bake Off”, the two giggly presenters add no value at all and are an embarrassment, but the substance for the show is provided by the two judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. With Evans and LeBlanc, I don’t see where the substance can come from.
  2. So the UN has come out in favour of Assange. Of course this is not binding on either the UK or Sweden but the moral high ground goes to Assange. The UK has a point that as long as the Swedish arrest warrant remains in force they have no choice but to implement it. The whole case is driven by a feminist prosecutor in Sweden on very flimsy statements (with little or no evidence) from the self-proclaimed victims, long after the alleged offences took place. That was after the public prosecutors office had first decided to drop the case for lack of any evidence beyond the statements of the alleged victims. But in Sweden it is politically incorrect to drop a “feminist cause”. This leads to a bit of a dilemma for the Swedish media and the establishment in that UN statements are also very politically correct. The clash between the prosecutor’s feminist correctness and the correctness of solidarity with all UN statements should be interesting to observe.
  3. Saudi Arabia is said to be ready to put troops into Syria (in support of Turkish troops?), but don’t expect them to support any Kurdish groups or to act against any ISIS factions fighting the Kurds. The Russians are  not amused. Meanwhile the Syrian regime is preparing to retake Aleppo.
  4. Markets have gone well below the the bottom I was expecting (oil price $30 and Shanghai Composite at 3100 or less), but my guess is that we are not far from the bottom. P/E ratios – especially for those companies who are maintaining their earnings, now look positively attractive.
  5. The French are accepting reality and the power of the internet. They are officially proposing to revise the spelling of some 2400 words: “They include the deletion in some words of the hyphens and the circumflex. The accent disappears from above the letter i and u in certain words and not from the letter o”.
  6. There is no evidence that organic foods are any better for health than non-organic foods. I find the whole fad about “ecological food” rather ridiculous and just a marketing gimmick to charge higher prices. I usually say nothing when somebody tries to promote “ecological food” but I am usually thinking “why do you insist on displaying your gullibility?”
  7. It is a leap year and the 2016 Indian budget will be presented on February 29th. Lots of advice from every one but I think the budget assumes greater importance in the current depressed state of the global economy. One of the few potential bright spots which could help change the global mood would be an expansionist budget – but that does not come without risk of galloping inflation being unleashed. I think the choice is for either subordinating all actions to global fears or to try and lead the way out of the morass. My fear is that it will be a sad wishy-washy thing which tries to satisfy all and ends up doing nothing.



Noted in passing – 3rd October 2015

October 3, 2015

The first snow of this winter fell in Kiruna yesterday. Early, but it is no record since snow has come as early as 21st September.

 Jessica Nildén

photo Jessica Nildén via SvT

NASA: Pluto’s largest moon Charon is revealed in this image from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), taken late on July 13, 2015 from a distance of 289,000 miles  (466,000 kilometers).

Charon by New Horizons - NASA

Obama to Putin: ” You’re bombing the wrong targets. Why don’t you do as we do?”   US air strikes hit Medecins Sans Frontieres clinic in Afghanistan.

Jeremy Corbyn: I love Britain but I will not defend her with nuclear weapons.

Sycophancy is alive and well in Indian politics. A BJP politician who was passed over by the party as Chief Minister candidate of Delhi tries to curry favour with his leader by comparing Modi with Gandhi.

NASA made a huge PR exercise about finding that briny water flowed on Mars – though their solution to the great mystery that they claimed to have solved has been postulated for years. But actually the NASA media campaign was almost certainly timed to hype the new Ridley Scott movie “The Martian” which was released the same week. (Reviews look interesting and I shall see the movie tomorrow).

Donald Trump’s campaign has been predicted to implode by the media and politicians for a long time now. The more left-wing, liberal media (HuffPo, WaPo) are bursting with indignation at his success. But his campaign is still going strong. Jeb Bush’s campaign is vanishing into his own navel. But Trump can no longer be ignored. Even the New York Magazine analyses The Importance of Donald Trump  and even the New York Times Magazine – albeit reluctantly – carries a profile of Trump by Mark Leibovich.

I always thought that the “birther” theory that Obama was born in Kenya was something invented by the Republicans and the Tea-Party mob, but apparently it was first created by Hillary Clinton’s more fanatic supporters in 2008 when she was battling Obama for the Democratic nomination.

FactCheck: This claim was first advanced by diehard Hillary Clinton supporters as her campaign for the party’s nomination faded, and has enjoyed a revival among John McCain’s partisans as he fell substantially behind Obama in public opinion polls.

A Swedish study shows that taller people have a higher risk of cancer. “The average height of Swedish women is 167.7 centimetres while men are on average 181.5 centimetres tall”. Fortunately Sweden has cancer survival rates of 64.7 percent compared to an average of 59.6 percent in Europe.

The Oregon mass killing  only shows – again – that such an event is a routine, once-a-week, matter with 45 such events so far this year. Everybody goes simplistic. The liberals have a go at the lack of gun control and the availability of guns. The right points out that all such killings have been in declared “Gun free zones” and that it wouldn’t have happened if the victims had been armed. Obama makes a speech and blames everybody else. (I thought he was President). Jeb Bush – ever insightful – points out that “stuff happens”.

But it is all too simplistic. Was it nature or was it nurture or was it both which created the killer? And what is it about nurture in the US which creates so many of them?

Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis continued their magnificent form in 2015 by clinching their seventh doubles title of the year.

A street I knew/know very well, but from before my time (but only just).

Chowringhee Clacutta, 1947


Noted in passing 5th October 2014

October 5, 2014

Walking on Water Photo and caption by Dave Kan from NG 2014 photo contest

A French court has given a man leave to marry his former stepmother. His father attended the wedding. It is not clear whether the French law prohibiting such marriages is an ass or whether the court is an ass or whether this is a triumph for common sense. He is 45, she is 48. The father’s age is not reported.

Desperate environmental “scientists” at Oxford are developing a “fast-track model” to prove that global warming is responsible for any extreme weather event within 3 days of that event. It seems that the scientific method has been abandoned and faith is put in yet another model where the premise is false and with a built in confirmation bias in the result.

The minority Red/Green coalition government in Sweden has announced its new ministers. The Greens have 6 of 24 ministers (2 junior ministers) including the portfolios for Climate and Environment, Housing, Foreign Aid and Education. Many of the names are sops to youth and a little dubious. I can hope that the Greens will not do much damage. Prime Minister Lofven started by announcing hat Sweden would recognise Palestine and upset the US and Israel.

Baby Doc Duvalier passed away. He was only a shadow of his father, Papa Doc, but he was not a nice man either.

The US saw its first Ebola case on its own shores and the patient is in a critical state.

ISIS continues on its murderous way and now has the support of the Pakistan Taliban. ISIS can be compared to an Ebola like virus. But I think it is a virus that is infecting the body of Islam and it is moderate Islam which – in the first instance – has to fight the disease.

The WWF has long been infiltrated and corrupted by the far left and has provided a safe haven for those left ideologically homeless after the Fall of Communism. Now the far, far left is criticising the WWF for being too close to capitalist forces.

The Ozone problem which never did exist was said to be healing. The Ozone hype and the funding elicited is yet another example, like Y2K  and Global Warming/Climate Change/ Extreme events, where a non-existent problem is blown out of all proportion. The problem then gradually “disappears” some time later.

“Is it toast if its not toasted?” Oh to be a socialite.

China tries to change Islam and find a way to manage their Muslim population with female Imams.


Noted in passing on Midsummer’s eve

June 20, 2014

Midsummer’s Eve in Sweden and we have a bright sunny day (so far) but rather cool (with a high of 16ºC expected).

Midsummer's Eve 2014

View from my kitchen window – Midsummer’s Eve 2014

The forecast is for sun in the south and some snow in the north. Snow at midsummer is unusual but not at all unknown in the north of Sweden.  No sign of either global warming or of an impending ice age.

Emotional contagion by Facebook could be a new disease. A case of the medium creating the new disease! Heightened emotions can apparently be transmitted by Facebook. The researchers find that “emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness”. And emotional contagion is what turns a crowd into a mob. And as this work from MIT shows, “Good people can do bad things. Belonging to a group makes people more likely to harm others outside the group.”

The wealth of bones found at the Sima de los Huesos site (Atapuerca, Spain)  are revealing more about the predecessors of Neanderthals. A new paper now suggests that “the hominin-bearing layer could be reassigned to a period around 430,000 years ago. The sample shows a consistent morphological pattern with derived Neandertal features present in the face and anterior vault, many of which are related to the masticatory apparatus. This suggests that facial modification was the first step in the evolution of the Neandertal lineage… “. Initially these fossils were dated to around 600,000 years ago and thought to be related to homo heidelbergensis. But it is now believed that these fossils are younger, from the direct lineage of Neanderthals and a link to homo antecessor who lived in Europe around one million years ago.

Poor Ed Miliband. As if his failings were not enough, he has now taken to a new “owlish” policy for free owls for everybody. This is giving photo-shoppers new opportunities but is creating panic among the Uk’s mouse population.

Saudi Arabia has warned the US and the UK not to interfere in Iraq and oppose the largely Saudi funded ISIS. (Saudi Arabian funds have supported and are still supporting more terrorists than almost any other country. Saudi funds are also well represented in supporting some of the radical preachers around the world). “Hands-off Obama” has obliged by holding off with any air strikes and restricting US involvement to the supply of 300 advisors. But be assured that he is asking very “hard questions”!!

Diagram illustrating water's phases

The mysteries of water are still being unravelled. This time it is the low temperature properties of water. Between supercooled water and “glassy” water, there is a region of great mystery (a “no-mans” land). Researchers have now suceeded in making some measurements  at -46ºC.

Just a few days ago the vast amounts of water deep in the earths mantle – some 600 km below the earth’s surface – were reported. Here the water is at high temperatures (over 1000ºC) and very high pressures as hydroxyls trapped in the mineral ringwoodite. “There is something very special about the crystal structure of ringwoodite that allows it to attract hydrogen and trap water. This mineral can contain a lot of water under conditions of the deep mantle.” 

Noted in passing 29th August 2013 – Silly season 2013 comes to an end

August 29, 2013

The varied headlines on all fronts today tell their tale. Silly season 2013 has come to an end.

David Cameron’s rush to war got a slap in the face: Back from the brink: PM forced to retreat over Syria.

Barack Obama does not want to be seen to be following in Bush’s footsteps: U.S. Facing Test on Proof to Back Taking Action on Syria

In Australia Kevin Rudd is desperate to join the big table: Rudd demands ‘robust’ response to Syrian chemical attack

Angela Merkel is beginning to campaign seriously for the German elections: Greece should never have been allowed to join euro: Merkel

Finally the main stream media are realising that global warming stopped some time ago: Global warming slowdown linked to cooler Pacific waters

Sweden’s equivalent of Eton, the elite Lundsberg school, was closed down by the authorities after some vicious ragging incidents: Swedish boarding school shut down after bullying claims

The gloss on the surface of Incredible India is getting badly tarnished: Economix: India’s Economic Crisis

We are all Martians: Earth life ‘may have come from Mars’

The oldest archaeological sites in the Amazon region: 10,000-year-old remains of settlements are unearthed in Bolivia

A clash between righteous do-gooders: Wind farms are a breach of human rights says UN. No, really.

Even articles in Nature are showing that the IPCC’s reliance on climate models rather than real observations is beginning to look particularly inane: Overestimated global warming over the past 20 years

Surprise! Surprise! Forensic Experts May Be Biased by the Side That Retains Them

Tony Blair continues his money-grubbing ways: TONY BLAIR EN MISSION POUR LA PAIX… SUR UN YACHT

A late spring and a short summer has led to Arctic ice melting much slower than for many years: IS ARCTIC SEA ICE REBOUNDING?

Noted in passing 11th August 2013

August 11, 2013

A little brief this week since we have had some flooding in the cellar following a storm.

We are now busy mopping up.

Chemical analyses of bones leading to recreating the life of archaeological finds.

A new word for my vocabulary – Scripophily.

Carl Zimmer takes George Monbiot to task for being too simplistic about recreating extinct species.

The  Perseid meteor shower  could be visible tonight and tomorrow night.

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

The Perseid Meteor Shower
Credit: Sirko Molau, IMO, Archenhold-Sternwarte

Noted in Passing – 28th July 2013

July 28, 2013

Friends under a banana leaf: Photograph by Kendisan Seruyan (via twistedsifter)

I tend to take alarmist claims about the demise of species with a large grain of salt. As supported by this story about a species of North American bumblebee which virtually disappeared and which has now reappeared.

I don’t believe the scientists who say they know the secret of Usain Bolt and his speed.

Matt Ridley compares HS2 to Hadrian’s Wall.

For a “settled science”, there is a great deal which is still being found about how carbon dioxide affects plants. Wetland plants are found not only to absorb more carbon dioxide with high concentration of the gas but they also then emit less carbon dioxide.

John Hawks considers the Denisovans and the pre-Toba, post-Toba question.

Joschka Fischer who was German Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor from 1998-2005 considers Egypt after Morsi.

Global population of polar bears keeps increasing (about 5,000 since 2001) even though some vested interests keep adjusting the numbers to try and show that there has been no significant change. They seem however to have abandoned efforts to show numbers declining.

That science is self-correcting may be true in the long term (more than a few decades) but it is largely a myth within the lifetime of scientists.

In the New Yorker, Atul Gawande considers the contrasting speeds at which anesthesia and the use of antiseptics spread and generally how ideas disseminate in the practice of medicine.

His involvement with Muammar Gaddafi is no great surprise but I suspect that we have not yet heard the full history of Tony Blair’s venality.

Any even natural number greater than 2 can be written as the sum of two prime numbers. Plus Maths on the Goldbach Conjecture.


Noted in passing 21st July 2013

July 21, 2013
map projections galore

Map Projections Galore

More on cartography and map projections.

The linguistic forensics which unmasked JK Rowling as the mystery author Robert Galbraith.

The drop of tar pitch finally fell after 69 years.

Singing in unison in a choir leads to heart beats being synchronised.

The Indian monsoon is almost half-over and rainfall is running 16% above the long term average. In spite of the floods in Uttrakhand this monsoon will probably be classified as a “good” monsoon.

A Viking trading post,  Steinkjer, mentioned in the Norse sagas and dating from 1000 years ago has probably been identified.

The evidence is mounting that there was a pre-Toba expansion Out of Africa and into Asia around 90-100,000 years ago followed by another post-Toba expansion which then went all the way to Australia. The second wave would have mixed with the first wave survivors of the Toba eruption who were probably the first AMH to intermingle with the Denisovans.

The shale gas bonanza continues in the UK and the advantages are being pushed hard even by Bjorn Lomborg.

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