Science

Idiot

Ecological collapse is within sight – and yet parenting is still viewed as a moral imperative. But countless women like me are building a new normal: a life without children

It’s not a moral imperative – it’s simply the purpose of life. We are DNA’s reproduction system.

Would be interesting if true, eh?

Researchers in Barcelona say they have detected the presence of Covid-19 in a waste water sample collected in the Spanish city in March 2019, nine months before the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China, was first reported….

Most likely a contaminated sample but if not, well, changes a few things, no?

Capitalism and pharmaceuticals

Back in 1980 the number of viruses – virii – that the human species knew how to treat was around and about zero. We could vaccinate against some and provide bed rest for others but other than that, well, not much treatment around.

Like many people living with HIV today, Thomas takes one pill every day at 6am, which stops the virus from replicating in his body. Modern antiretroviral medication reduces the virus in the bloodstream to such an extent that a person becomes “undetectable” – they are unable to pass on the virus through sex.

That’s a pretty good outcome after only four decades. A rather good advertisement for this private sector actors, pharma companies, patents, capitalism and markets, don’t you think?

Sure there’s philanthropy in there as well, government spending and all sorts of other bits and pieces. But the claim that the current system set up fails us is rather disproved, no?

First (US) recorded cases in 1981, disease identified itself in 1983, Up until what, 1992 or so it was a death sentence, by 1994, perhaps, treatable. That’s actually a pretty damn good record there.

Think on it, if Freddie Mercury had lived another two years – which is generous, perhaps only a year – he’d probably still be with us.

Difficult to think of any system whatever that would have done better than that.

Not quite right

Most scientists believe that genes play a role in how people respond to infections.

All scientists believe that.

Those people who don’t aren’t doing science.

The interesting question is – as so often with human reactions to anything at all – “How Much?”.

So here’s a thought

So, some extinct species. Say, Neandertals. Or mammoths, whatever. We do the Jurassic Park thing, revive them.

So, Matt Ridley, Red Queen stuff.

Don’t they just get wiped out again, near immediately? For the bacteria, virii, bugs and parasites have been evolving these millennia. And the immune systems of those revived have, by definition, not.

Also, time travel won’t work because anyone who travels into the future will drown in their own snot as the then modern cold gets a grip….

That is, our immune systems are the products of a time and place and won’t work well elsewhere or elsewhen.

This is entirely impossible to achieve

A former paratrooper is isolating on a usually uninhabited Shetland island after lockdown measures were introduced when he was on a fundraising challenge to walk the UK coastline.

As we all know, coastlines are infinite in length…..unless you’re going to cheat and ignore a certain level of granularity.

Research is a rocky road

“I have some electronic equipment but really no experience or expertise in building circuits or things,” he told Guardian Australia.

“I had a part that detects magnetic fields. I thought that if I built a circuit that could detect the magnetic field, and we wore magnets on our wrists, then it could set off an alarm if you brought it too close to your face. A bit of boredom in isolation made me think of that.”

However, the academic realised the electronic part he had did the opposite – and would only complete a circuit when there was no magnetic field present.

“I accidentally invented a necklace that buzzes continuously unless you move your hand close to your face,” he said.

Well, trial and error, yo know.

Of course, then he carried on playing with the magnets and got them stuck up his nose.

But I do like inventing the opposite. He is from the counterweight continent after all.

Well, call me Captain Obvious

From humans to black-tailed prairie dogs, female mammals often outlive males – but for birds, the reverse is true.

Now researchers say they have cracked the mystery, revealing that having two copies of the same sex chromosome is associated with having a longer lifespan, suggesting the second copy offers a protective effect.

Err, yes?

X,X and X,Y are fairly normal among humans. X,X,Y, and X,Y,Y happen and so on. X,O does too – but O,Y never does.

Further, it’s long been assumed – ‘cuz even I’ve read about it – that if there’s some buggery on one X then the other can take over and correct it, something that can’t happen with the Y, for the same reason that O,Y can’t happen. And I’m alo why no one even speculates about the possible existence of Y,Y.

I’ve not the knowledge to evaluate this

Nonsense, like that electricity from raindrops? Or a potentially useful source of power?

Here we show that thin-film devices made from nanometre-scale protein wires harvested from the microbe Geobacter sulfurreducens can generate continuous electric power in the ambient environment. The devices produce a sustained voltage of around 0.5 volts across a 7-micrometre-thick film, with a current density of around 17 microamperes per square centimetre. We find the driving force behind this energy generation to be a self-maintained moisture gradient that forms within the film when the film is exposed to the humidity that is naturally present in air. Connecting several devices linearly scales up the voltage and current to power electronics.

What’s 17 microamps at 0.5 volts when it’s at home? 8.5 microwatts is, umm ?? A million cm 2/8.5 to get one watt? 12 sq metres a watt?

I’ve got these numbers wrong, haven’t I?

Ahhh, more on race

The claim that there is a link between race and intelligence is the main tenet of what is known as “race science” or, in many cases, “scientific racism”. Race scientists claim there are evolutionary bases for disparities in social outcomes – such as life expectancy, educational attainment, wealth, and incarceration rates – between racial groups. In particular, many of them argue that black people fare worse than white people because they tend to be less naturally intelligent.

Although race science has been repeatedly debunked by scholarly research, in recent years it has made a comeback. Many of the keenest promoters of race science today are stars of the “alt-right”, who like to use pseudoscience to lend intellectual justification to ethno-nationalist politics. If you believe that poor people are poor because they are inherently less intelligent, then it is easy to leap to the conclusion that liberal remedies, such as affirmative action or foreign aid, are doomed to fail.

That’s a lovely non sequiter, isn’t it?

For it’s entirely possible to believe that poor people are poor because of something about poor people – say, something rather common within economics, that poorer people have shorter time horizons, or perhaps that having a shorter time horizon is likely to make you poorer – without using race to define that. It’s even possible to insist upon a genetic disposition to such differences without using race as the demarcation line.

This though I would agree is comprehensively wrong:

One of the people behind the revival of race science was, not long ago, a mainstream figure. In 2014, Nicholas Wade, a former New York Times science correspondent, wrote what must rank as the most toxic book on race science to appear in the last 20 years. In A Troublesome Inheritance, he repeated three race-science shibboleths: that the notion of “race” corresponds to profound biological differences among groups of humans; that human brains evolved differently from race to race; and that this is supported by different racial averages in IQ scores.

It’s the middle contention that has to be. Whatever we think of “races” today they long post-date the evolution of the human brain.

Here’s my problem with this

Watson apologised for his remarks, but later appeared to reassert them when he told a 2019 PBS documentary that differences in IQ scores between blacks and whites were driven by genetics. When asked to comment on the furore, Francis Collins, a leading geneticist and director of the US National Institutes of Health, said he was unaware of any credible research that backed up Watson’s view. He expressed his dismay that a prominent scientist was perpetuating “such scientifically unsupported and hurtful beliefs”.

It’s that use of the word “credible”.

I don’t know what is true either way here. The idea that populations have different average IQs doesn’t worry me, whether true or not. That variation within the population is greater than across them is all we need to know that each individual should be treated as an individual – pretty much the basis of any reasonable form of civil liberty anyway.

I’m also not entirely sure about the value of IQ tests, whether that point that they are culturally specific is true or not. We know that from within economics such things can be true – the results of the ultimatum game vary wildly dependent upon the culture of the players.

So, in terms of nailing down who is right here I’m all at sea and perfectly happy to stay there.

It’s just that use of the word “credible”. It is used, in my experience, to mean “everyone who disagrees is politically unacceptable.” Which isn’t how science works at all. And the thing is, when I see people using it in that meaning – as above – then I simply don’t believe the proposition they are advancing.

It really is in the genes

People who persistently lie, steal and bully have smaller brains, a major study suggests. Scientists said young children who kept being naughty should be targeted with far more help, and parenting classes, to save them from a life of crime.

Researchers said that going “off the rails” as a teenager was fairly normal.

But they said far more attention should be paid to toddlers and young children who were persistently badly behaved, and could be at risk of a life of antisocial behaviour, because of the way their brains were formed.

Don’t think we’re talking about stunting here, this is design, nature not nurture.

As ever we’re going to have that grand old sight. The left will tell us that we must do summat, be cause the left always does. It’s also the left that insists that evolution is right – in which they are of course correct for perhaps their only moment, And the left’s solution will determinedly ignore the implications of evolution being right. That, you know, some peeps are just made that way.

Eh?

A centrifuge large enough to contain a football field will whip a rocket around in circles for roughly an hour, its speed steadily ramping up to more than 5,000 mph. The vehicle and its payload—up to 200 pounds’ worth of satellite—will experience forces that, at their peak, will be ten thousand times stronger than gravity.

Err, no, don’t think so. The reason it’ll take an hour is because no one wants to subject anything to 10,000 G, right?

Genetics, eh?

The youngest of three children, Kobe Bean Bryant — he was named after a high-end type of Japanese beef and his father was nicknamed “Jellybean” — was born in Philadelphia in 1978, where his father, Joe, was a 6ft 9in basketball player for the Philadelphia 76ers. His mother, Pamela (née Cox), is the sister of a former professional basketball player.

Well, no, not really, no

The oldest thing ever found on Earth has been discovered by scientists, and it is more than two billion years older than our planet.

Tiny specks of stardust, dating back seven billion years, have been uncovered in a meteorite which landed in Victoria, Australia, in 1969.

Can’t recall who did “We Are Stardust” (Hawkwind?) but they’re generally right. Every atom from iron on up is made inside a nova or supernova, no? And everything above H is made in a star? So pretty much everything must be old enough to have been through one cycle of star and boom.

Well, yes, seems reasonable

A donkey was the ideal choice to carry the Virgin Mary, say scientists following study which shows the species is best adapted to hot climates.

The experts believe that the animals cope better with warmer weather and would have been the ideal mode of transport to carry the son of God on his way to Bethlehem.

Researchers from the University of Portsmouth found that donkeys are better adapted to the hot and arid climates common in the Holy Land than other members of the horse family.

Give that donkeys evolved in around and about such conditions, horses in cooler places, this seems fair.

And that is the result they come up with too.

Don’t believe it

The world’s first uncrackable security system, which even quantum computers could not hack, has finally been developed by researchers.

Computer scientists had feared that the dawn of quantum computing would allow even the most fiendishly-encrypted data to be easily decoded, causing a major headache for banks, government agencies and communications providers.

As far back as 1917, scientists had proposed that ‘perfect secrecy’ could be achieved if it was possible to change the key which encrypts a message each time, based on the message itself.

Now, the University of St Andrews and international partners, have done just that, creating a type of chip which effectively creates a one-time-only key from the data being sent, scrunching it all up before sending, in a way that could never be hacked.

I’m perfectly willing to agree that some forms of cryptography, of communication, can be made safe from certain sorts of hacking and decoding. But one from all? Don’t believe it.

We’ve got human beings involved here. There will always be a door somewhere in the system. And anyone who assumes that the system really is uncracked will likely get a rude surprise – Enigma worked out badly precisely ‘cuz the Krauts insisted it couldn’t be broken. Which, with the technologies they knew about, what true.

So here’s an interesting historical and social question

Six in 10 teenage girls say they are “completely unhappy” – with poor self-image and a “toxic” social media culture fuelling despair, research suggests.

The study of more than 11,000 teenagers found that misery levels among girls were twice those among boys the same age.

Researchers said young girls were suffering from “toxic social comparisons” in a culture based on unrealistic beauty images, airbrushing and “likes” on social media.

The study of 14-year-olds by Warwick University found 63 per cent of girls and 37 per cent of boys described themselves as “completely unhappy” when asked to complete a questionnaire.

Can anyone point to any period in history when teenagers were balanced and entirely level headed? Even, any period when it was desirable that they should be?

Or one in which teenage girls were not competitive with each other over looks etc? Or boys with each other during and just after adolescence? I mean, you know, given that every army ever has relied upon that male grouping thing when wasn’t it?