We’ve heard this before, haven’t we?

Millions of people suffering from Type 2 diabetes could be cured of the disease if they just lost weight, a new study suggests.
Scientists at Newcastle University have shown the disease is caused by fat accumulating in the pancreas and losing less than one gram from the organ can reverse the life-limiting illness and restore insulin production.

Sure we’ve been told this before. Indeed, it’s the way my mother dealt with it.

I have my own theory, based on absolutely no evidence at all. Which is that Type II is not in fact one disease. It’s rather more like autism in this sense, in that it’s a diagnosis of a set of symptoms, not a rigid identification of what causes those symptoms. In this sense, more like a diagnosis of “a virus” or “a fever”. Useful, but better to know whether it’s HIV or malaria before treatment.

Thus some Type II can indeed be cured by rigid dieting.

But there’s absolutely nothing to back this up other than my own prejudices.

Not quite the way to do it sez I

Not that it’s my choice to make you understand:

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife have said they plan to donate 99pc of their shares in the social network to charity.
The stock, which is worth around $45bn, will be given to causes that “advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation”, Zuckerberg said in an open letter on Tuesday night.


Through the venture, Zuckerberg and Chan have already donated $120m to support education in underserved communities in San Francisco; $75m to the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital; $25m to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to fight Ebola and $100m to the Newark Public School System.

So far at least he’s just dropping money into dysfunctional bureaucracies. That Newark donation, for example, achieved the square root of entirely fuck all.

This is where Bill Gates has it right. Yes, sure, the money’s a useful multiplier. But it’s skill at getting things done which is the rarity in this world. Actively managing the money to achieve a specific goal is the way to go, not just dropping it off into the waiting palms of the usual SJW bureaucrats.

Gates may fail, nowt wrong with that, but a true malaria vaccine will do more for humanity than any amount spent on the American inner city schools. Schools which aren’t actually short of money in most cases, but could do with a bloody and vicious clear out of absolutely everyone who runs them.

But, obviously, it’s not my choice to make, is it?

Co Op gets the Fair Tax Mark!


We are immensely proud to announce that the Co-operative Group is the latest recipient of a Fair Tax Mark.

Glory be!

And their pledge:

The Group does not and will not use tax havens for tax avoidance purposes.

And in their list of subsidiaries:

Violet S Propco Limited Cayman Island Walkers SPV
Limited Walkers
House 87 Mary
Street George
Town Grand
Cayman Islands
KY1 9002

Clearly, use of an SPV in a tax haven is not evidence of using tax havens for tax avoidance purposes. Which rather blows Ritchie’s insistence that that’s the only reason to have one out of the water, doesn’t it?

Not that my comment on this will get through moderation of course.

Politically correct bollocks about brain types again


They started with a set of MRIs that measured the volume of grey matter in the brains of 112 men and 169 women ages 18 to 79. On these scans, they examined 116 separate regions and zeroed in on the 10 that showed the greatest difference between men and women. In each case, the 281 scans were divided into three categories – one-third considered “most male,” one-third considered “most female” and one-third in the middle.
Only six per cent of the brains consistently ranked among the “most male” or “most female” in all 10 categories, the researchers found. On the other hand, 35 per cent showed “substantial variability,” with male traits in some regions and female traits in others.
The study authors then repeated the analysis with different cutoffs for being “most male” and “most female”. Regardless of whether they used a threshold of 10 per cent, 20 per cent or 50 per cent, the brains with a combination of male and female features far outnumbered the brains that were exclusively male or exclusively female.
Next, the researchers followed the same steps with other sets of brain scans that measured the thickness of grey matter in the outer layer of the cerebrum, the connections between different parts of the brain, and other features. As before, they found that consistently male or consistently female brains were rare, and brains with features related to both genders were common.
Finally, the scientists applied the same method to data from two large psychology studies of US teens. Using results from 570 participants in the Maryland Adolescent Development in Context Study, they found that only 1.8 per cent of them scored consistently male or consistently female, compared with 59 per cent who showed “substantial variability.” Among 4,860 participants in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, the skew was even greater: 0.1 per cent versus 70 per cent.
Even in a data set of 263 university students who were asked about 10 “highly gender-stereotyped activities” like watching talk shows on TV or playing video games, the study authors still found that only 1.2 per cent of the students could be classified as exclusively male or exclusively female, compared with 55 per cent who had traits from both camps.
“This extensive overlap undermines any attempt to distinguish between a ‘male’ and a ‘female’ form for specific brain features,” Joel and her colleagues concluded. These findings have “important implications for social debates on long-standing issues such as the desirability of single-sex education and the meaning of sex/gender as a social category.”

So, this is exactly what the original theory predicts. That there’s a spectrum of brain types. Any one individual can have any of the types along the spectrum. All individuals are therefore to be treated entirely as individuals, just as any form of liberalism would insist.

However, the distribution of the types along the spectrum is not random when measured against sex (and yes, we’re talking dangly bits or not, not gender). We predict, and this research indicates, that certain characteristics are more likely to be connected with various genital arrangements. More likely: just as in the sense that men are generally taller than women but that John Bercow is a short arse doesn’t make him a woman (nor Sally Bercow a man because of her height).

So, what’s the headline to this?

There’s no such thing as a ‘male brain’ or ‘female brain,’ these scans show


The importance of this is that if we then make the next leap, one that I’m not going to try to attempt to prove here but one that sounds reasonable enough, that different brain types lead to different aptitudes for certain things, then we will find that those more likely to have the certain brain type, male or female, are going to be more likely to have aptitudes for certain things. We might even see clustering. Say, males among the Aspies who are good at coding, females among those with the empathy to be good at nursing.

The theory (and here the evidence) does not say that “men are good at coding, women are not”. It says that ” a certain brain type which is more common in men is good at coding”. Sex is only a proxy, and not a terribly accurate one, for the possession of the brain type.

The importance of this is that we cannot therefore look at the population of coders, note that it is mostly male, and thus conclude that females are being discriminated against. Any more than we can look at basketball teams and concludes that dwarves are being discriminated against (and wouldn’t that be a fun sport to try and set up? Dwarf Basketball, coming to a screen near you!).

It’s still entirely possible that those with the coding brain are discriminated against because of their plumbing arrangements. That would be bad and if it were true we would want to do something about it (like, employ all those cheap and good coders, a la Dame Stephanie Shirley). But the sex imbalance isn’t evidence of it being true: simply because we do have this finding that brain types, along that spectrum, are not equally distributed according to plumbing arrangements.

The problem with Eric Wolff

There’s almost nothing controversial in his climate science. But then he goes off the rails:

So, what can we do? Before I can answer that, I need to throw away my lab coat. I have been writing as a scientist. In that role, I can tell you what will happen if we follow a particular economic and energy policy. Of course I have an opinion on what that policy should be, but I give it as a citizen and not as a scientist. We cannot control how the climate responds to the extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and ocean, but we can control how much extra there is. We need to go as far as we can in reducing carbon emissions, without bankrupting ourselves or impoverishing the developing world.
It’s a source of huge frustration to scientists that a rational discussion of how far that is has been drowned out by two contradictory tactics. One is to question facts we are certain about. The other is to insist that we have such a good understanding that we can plan as if only the most benign predictions will come true.

Science doesn’t bring only a warning: it can also offer solutions. We need to deploy today’s technology to make a start on reaching a low carbon future. However, huge advances are possible in the efficiency of solar cells, in storing intermittent energy, and in methods of capturing carbon from otherwise polluting power stations. A concerted campaign of investment in the scientists, engineers and companies who can deliver these improvements will give us the best chance of meeting the commitments needed at the negotiations.
I would feel ashamed to know that, in my lifetime, we set a course that might radically change the face of the planet. The past tells me that climate does change, and that when it does so, it is always disruptive. So my hope for the climate negotiations is that politicians will face the facts and have ambitious aspirations, backed by ambitious plans to meet them. That way we can avoid all kinds of hot air.

Because we already know what the economic answer is. Firstly, we want to know roughly what grand policy we should follow. From hte SRES it’s actually baked into everything that we assume about climate change.

We want a capitalist and globalised world. A1 in the terminology of the SRES.

Then, we want one that doesn’t use fossil fuels (so much). That is, we’d prefer A1T rather than A1FI. Excellent, so how do we get there? As the Stern Review, Richard Tol, John Quiggin, William Nordhaus and every other non-comatose economist who has studied the problem says, we need a carbon tax at the social cost of carbon.

At which point we’re done. Might be worth throwing a bit more money at interesting research ideas. Solar’s such a large industry that it can fund its own innovation these days, even if we might keep paying for the scientists in their labs. Something like iron fertilisation’s rather more of a public good so could usefully use tax money. But beside the carbon tax these are all near trivia.

Globalised capitalism with a carbon tax and the rest is details. That is the scientific consensus.

There could be some truth in this

Mr Putin and Mr Erdogan traded accusations as they took their respective turns at the podium at the summit on climate change in Paris.
“We have every reason to think that the decision to shoot down our plane was dictated by the desire to protect the oil supply lines to Turkish territory,” said Mr Putin.
“We have received additional information which unfortunately confirms that this oil, produced in areas controlled by Isil and other terrorist organisations, is transported on an industrial scale to Turkey.”

The story is, and it is only gossip so far, that the President’s son organises the convoys. The Russians are the first to have attacked those convoys, thus the Turkish reaction.

That I don’t normally believe or trust Putin doesn’t mean he can’t be right sometimes.