Posts Tagged ‘Noted in passing’

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.


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 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 on the ides of June

June 15, 2014

15th June 2014.

Five hours time difference to Brazil makes for very late nights and little time for blogging.

Poor little rich Tony Blair. He is desperately trying to defend his part in the Iraq invasion of 2003. With his gold tinted glasses his view of the world reveals that the present problems in Iraq are due to the world not following his advice on Syria. In any event – he protests – he did not cause the Iraq crisis.

I don’t usually expect the Huffington Post to print anything that even faintly deviates from “political correctness” but this opinion piece by John Tirman on how do-gooders do more harm than good comes as a breath of fresh air. “The human-rights lobby has been at the center of the Arab Spring fiasco, egging on the rebels and feeding the media narrative of despicable despots that needed deposing. .. The same thing happened in Afghanistan 13 years ago, when prominent feminists argued for war to liberate Afghan women. ….. war for human rights is increasingly being exposed as an oxymoron.”

Cambodian orphanages have provided new business opportunities and are more brothels than orphanages. Cambodia’s most famous activist, Somaly Mam, who has been feted indiscriminately in the US has proved to be a fraud. But she has made enough money to keep her quite comfortable for the rest of her days.

Another “politically correct” do-gooder which has been hijacked by the loony left since 1991 is Greenpeace. In India they are being asked to justify their foreign funding as “the ministry of home affairs served a show cause notice to the international NGO on Friday asking why its permission to get foreign funding under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 (FCRA) should not be withdrawn”.

Humans separated from chimpanzees about 6 – 8 million years ago. But the chimpanzees of today are not the chimpanzees we diverged from. “The offspring of chimpanzees inherit 90% of new mutations from their father, and just 10% from their mother, a finding which demonstrates how mutation differs between humans and our closest living relatives, and emphasises the importance of father’s age on evolution.”

Unsettled science. Neither the Carbon cycle nor the water cycle on earth are as well understood as some would like to claim. There is more evidence that vast amounts of water are locked up in rocks in the depths of the earth’s mantle. And we have not the slightest inkling of how water is exchanged between the surface and the deep mantle by volcanos and earthquakes.

The sun is the only significant source for our energy (with nuclear reactions in the earth’s interior – even if they are ongoing – paling into insignificance). It is not fashionable to say so but the sun, through the oceans, controls our climate and carbon dioxide has no significant role to play. A new paper gives further evidence of the link between the oceans and the climate.

Last Friday was not only the 13th of June but in Sweden, with a full moon also present, was considered particularly unlucky – apparently. It will not happen again till 13th August 2049. The top 9 Swedish superstitions.

Sepp Blatter (who never played football) is turning to attack as the best form of defence over the Qatar 2022 World Cup curruption scandal. He – and his underlings – are trying to muddy the waters and flailing around looking for scapegoats. So they have banned Beckenbauer for 90 days!! Time for Blatter to step down and for Qatar to be stripped of the World Cup.

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 19th January 2013

January 19, 2013

A weekly post on things that were interesting or which I would have liked to have blogged about …….

Engineering and Technology

A work of genius: Harry Beck's map of 1933

A work of genius: Harry Beck’s map of 1933

The London Underground is 150 years old and the iconic London Underground Map is a work of some genius – by an electrical draughtsman Harry Beck – in focusing on connections and ignoring geography.

Boeing is facing a torrid time with the 787 Dreamliner and has stopped all further aircraft deliveries. This is going to hurt their cash flow even before all the claims from the airlines come in for the grounding of their aircraft.

The advent of hydraulic fracturing and the consequent availability of shale gas means that new lines are drawn on the energy map of the world and many of the oldest and most stable geopolitical truths will be turned on their heads.

If graphene turns out to be the wonder material that it promises to be then it is time to invest in graphite.

Science and Behaviour

The dangers with blindly assuming that correlations represent a causal relationship is well demonstrated by this study on milk, chocolate and Nobel prizes. Derby Proctor believes that chimpanzees have a sense of fairness but her “ultimatum game” experiments were not strictly ultimate games at all and are not convincing.  Altruism among chimpanzees is – if it exists at all – strictly limited and only after basic needs are satisfied and restricted to a very few.

Matt Ridley joins the list and also dumps on Mark Lynas and green orthodoxy

The curious case of Zuma’s deputies deals with the intricacies of politics in South Africa and in the ANC today. An interesting post on the French need to be relevant in the world and Hollande’s adventures in Africa.

How much of the chatter on Twitter or postings on Facebook are real communication and how much is noise? Nandana Sengupta looks at the pluses and the minuses of the explosion of opinions via social media in India.

Having spent a lifetime with contracts I have always taken “terms” of “terms and conditions” to signify “limits of time” but terms and conditions have now converged in usage to be almost identical in meaning.

On where Tolkien may have found the word “hobbit”.

For Wodehouse fans and for the first time since Ralph Richardson as Lord Emsworth in 1967, BBC are showing a  new TV series centred around Blandings Castle. The reviews were not very kind:

“The performances weren’t bad exactly, but there was an impression that the cast had raided the charity shop and were merely having a spiffing time in vintage clothing.”

Bad Science

Michael Marotta describes four books on bad science.

The British Met Office makes yet another misstep and demonstrates that massaging science to get a desired result makes for bad science.

Climate models are hardly worth the paper they are printed on and they don’t seem to have any idea of how to handle the effect of clouds. Models – which are pushing the alarmist cause – generally assume they have a positive feedback on global warming but in reality the feedback is negative.

Professor Debora Weber-Wulff reports on Multiple Retractions of Articles by Computer Science Professor

Noted in passing 25.12.2012

December 25, 2012

Notre Dame de Paris prepares to celebrate 850 years since its first foundation stone was laid in 1163.

Dozens of Jews who claim to be the descendants of a lost biblical Jewish tribe emigrated to Israel on Monday from their village in northeastern India.  … The Bnei Menashe say they are descended from Jews banished from ancient Israel to India in the eighth century BC. An Israeli chief rabbi recognized them as a lost tribe in 2005, and about 1,700 moved to Israel over the next two years before the government stopped giving them visas. Israel recently reversed that policy, agreeing to let the remaining 7,200 Bnei Menashe immigrate.

Rape protests in India claim their own victim. A 47-year-old Delhi Police Constable, who suffered serious injuries during violent protests at India Gate on Sunday, died on Tuesday after battling for life in a city hospital.

Piers Morgan – he of telephone hacking fame – is for once on the right side of the argument but has angered the NRA and other gun-lovers.

While more than 600 people have died in the European freeze, the Bayern region is basking in warm weather and the city of Munich enjoyed over 20°C on Christmas Eve.

Since language is merely a tool for communication and develops and evolves entirely in response to the need to communicate, most attempts to invent new languages for human use fail because they cannot accurately predict or define the required  needs. This is in contrast to the invention of machine languages where the needs can be much better defined. But this fascinating  story of Ithkuil – an invented language – shows what a dedicated individual acan achieve even without formal academic credentials. And this piece about New York as the graveyard of languages which misses the point that languages die simply when they no longer fulfill the need for communication or are superceded by another which does.

“How is it that elves can see further than humans? Are hobbits evolutionarily related to humans? And so on. My mind raced ahead of the inquiries, so that I found myself asking (and answering) such questions as – how could dragons breathe fire? What would life be like for a walking tree? How do all those elves live beautiful, healthy lives without any obvious means of support?” On the science of Middle Earth.

Mobile phones on aircraft have no impact on aircraft operation. “The truth is that the FCC never was concerned about the possibility of electronic interference when, in 1991, it banned the use of mobile phones on board aircraft. All it was really worried about was their impact on cellular networks on the ground”.

Svante Paabo’s work on the Neanderthal genome is to be covered in a documentary.

British People Problems and 10 Reasons British Comedy Is Better Than American Comedy

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