Oh Dear Ms Lane Fox

Last week, the largest set of data from companies who have been trialling a four-day week in the UK was released and the results were compelling.

Participants agreed to produce the same output for the same pay, while only working for four days. In the 61 firms who took part, revenues stayed the same, or even increased against expectations.

No, revenues rose by 1.5%, inflation (over the 6 months) was 6% or so, real revenues fell.

We do actually have to get the facts right when evaluating a scientific experiment, no?

Pursuit Marketing in Scotland found meetings and internal communications took up too much time for a shortened week. They decided to switch to shorter, more focused meetings. They got rid of unnecessary paperwork and digitised more processes, before changing hours. This meant they were operating as efficiently as possible before the change.

We also need to analyse or results properly. Here the revelation is that the company was pissing about in useless meetings. Get rid of them and productivity improves. Great, so let’s stop pissing about in useless meetings. Ee could, indeed, take that increased productivity as more time off. We could also take it in higher profits, greater wages, m,ore output for consumers to enjoy. It’s not, that is, a proof that four day weeks work. It’s a proof that not pissing about in meetings works.

Interesting research

But of course you do need to start out with the right questions:

Since the nuclear catastrophe took place in April 1986, the area surrounding the nuclear power plant has largely been abandoned by humans.

But although radioactive contamination devastated wildlife populations there, some animals survived and continued to breed – including feral dogs, some of whom may have descended from domestic pets.

The team found that the strays had formed into packs, like wild dogs and wolves, but the groups were living close together, a behaviour not seen in undomesticated animals.

The dogs have been monitored by the Chernobyl Dog Research Initiative since 2017, and a new study of blood samples taken by the project team has shown that the animals were genetically different from other canines.

Now the team are planning to study the new genetic traits to see if any of the mutations is helping them to survive in the radiation zone.

Lots of wildlife is doing just fine in there. The radiation levels aren’t, that is, much of a problem. So, the genes and radiation thing might not be what is important, or even interesting, to study.

One of the things about domestic dogs gone feral. The mother of pups gets no aid from any other dog in the pack. As a result the usual guess is that 1 in 100 pups survives. Packs of feral dogs are rather self-limiting over the years therefore.

Among wolves, for example, only the alpha female breeds and she is aided by the rest of the pack. Including the junior females (that they’re usually closely related makes this work).

The one behavioural change which will make a wild dog population self-sustaining or even expansionary is that aid to nursing bitches. Which would be an interesting thing to find out. Which could even be genetic of course. By this time it’s likely that the aid would be to nieces and nephews which as Haldane pointed out does work, even if weakly.

Yes, yes, but we need a simple word to describe this

The words “male” and “female” should be phased out in science because they reinforce ideas that sex is binary, scientists have suggested.

Researchers studying ecology and evolutionary biology should be encouraged to use terms such as “sperm-producing” or “egg producing” or “XY/XX individual” to avoid “emphasising hetero-normative views”, experts say.

But when describing sex – not gender, but sex – then egg producing is female, sperm male. So, why not use those simple words to describe those sexes?

After all we’re doing biology here, right? Sex is the thing under discussion, not gender.

There’s also a certain wonder here. If we’re not going to talk about sex and its divisions then how can we even have the concept of hetero to be normative about? Or even positive about. Unless there is something called hetero, sperm tab into egg slot and all that, then what is there that we can compare any other arrangements with?

How very fun

Politics fucks science once again:

In normal times, the four large physics experiments using proton collisions at Cern’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland publish numerous scientific articles a year. But in March 2022, the number of new research papers by the LHC experiments fell to zero. The reason: a lack of agreement on how to list Russian and Belarusian scientists and institutes, if at all. The temporary compromise, in place up to now, is not to publish.

I assume, but don’t know, that this means formal publication. Archiv or whatever it’s called, preprint servers, are still active? That being where the actual science is done these days anyway?

So, who you gonna believe here?

As to the reason for his visit, most experts conclude it was caused by climate change, triggered by rising fossil fuel emissions, which is heating the planet and reducing the sea ice cover upon which walruses rest, hunt and digest their food. As Molly Gray, of British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDLMR) put it: “It’s not very normal to see walruses down here so we imagine it is because of climate change.”

This interpretation is not shared by everyone, however. Indeed, it was flatly rejected by climate change sceptic Matt Ridley in the Times. Everything is fine and dandy in the Arctic, he insisted. Sea ice levels are not badly affected and, far from being a threatened species, walrus numbers are rising, along with those of polar bears. Why don’t you report the good news about the environment? he demanded.

Needless to say, Ridley’s assertion is hotly disputed. Yes, numbers of walruses have been recovering slowly since 1952 – when Norway made it illegal to hunt them. That does not mean they are thriving in a warming climate, says Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change. “In fact, in 2016, the walrus was classified as vulnerable on the IUCN red list of threatened species.”

Tough one really. Matt Ridley or Bob Ward?

Or even, facts. Walrus numbers are up – therefore walrii are less threatened than before.

Panic! Panic!

China has cracked a microchip design method previously only mastered by the West, in a challenge that could undermine sanctions.

Patent filings reveal that Huawei has made advances in a crucial method of chip manufacture, raising the prospect that the company could eventually start making some of the smallest and most powerful microchips by itself.

Huawei has announced a China-only patent on EUV lithography. Which allows production of those 5 nm and 3nm thingies.

OK. We’d expect something between a few years and a decade or more between patent and machine actually working. Around and about you understand. EUV machines are already installed in “western” chip fabs and producing. China is therefore still some years to a decade or more behind.

Panic on nationalists.

At which point, something very basic about technology. Imagine that someone else out there is doin’ summat. Whatever. Sure, it’s nice if you know exactly how they’re doing it. If you can get the plans to replicate say. But that’s not, at all, the important thing. Rather, you now know that this thing is possible. You’re not thrashing around trying to explore the technological edge to see what is possible. You already know that – this makes reverse engineering it all very much simpler. Simply because you now know that the thing, the summat, is actually possible.

No one will ever have an unassailable lead in a specific piece of tech. Simply because the existence of it shows everyone else that it’s possible.

Err, ‘Ello?

US college-level biology textbooks miss the mark on offering solutions to the climate crisis, according to a new analysis of books over the last 50 years.

Fewer than three pages in a typical 1,000-page biology textbook from recent decades address climate change, according to the new study, despite experts warning it is humankind’s biggest problem.

How about the idea that climate change is a subject for climate change? Or even economics, if we want to talk solutions. Not actually a part of biology…..

What jolly fun

The original New York Times view of the Club of Rome report.

While the team’s world model hypothesizes exponential growth for industrial and agricultural needs, it places arbitrary, non‐exponential, lim its on the technical progress that might accommodate these needs. New methods of locating and mining ores, or recycling used materials, are assigned the ability to do no more than double reserve capacity;

As they go on to point out, given that the starting assumptions are bollocks then so are the results.

Via MvdR


Then there was the allegation last week by the Insider journalist Julia Black that Musk, along with other billionaires, appear to be engaged in their own personal eugenics programme via a movement called “pronatalism”. Black writes that pronatalism – an ideology centred on having children to reverse falling birthrates in European countries, and prevent a predicted population collapse – is “taking hold in wealthy tech and venture-capitalist circles”, with the aid of hi-tech genetic screening.

Bit of a misunderstanding of human nature there, isn’t there?

Men gain access to mating opportunities by gaining social position.


Err, yes?

Height is only 40pc hereditary – the rest is nurture
Study finds nurture-based traits like environment, upbringing and quality of life has greater influence over how tall a person becomes

We’ve known that for a long, long, time. Soldiers being 6 inches shorter than officers in 1914 for example. Childhood nutrition and stunting.

Even, that it’s very difficult to tell social class in the UK from height these days. Something that wasn’t true that 100 years ago.

And here in Southern Europe you can still tell social class – not exactly, obviously – from height in the older generations. Different generations in different countries too – the inability to tell coinciding with the arrival of adequate childhood nutrition for all. That leap off point in economic development. Perhaps the 1960s for Southern Italy, the 1980s even for Portugal.

That we know more of the details now is nice but the basic idea is old, old.

Erm, what?

The job would be difficult anywhere, but it’s particularly taxing in Washington. Here, wintertime low tides – when shellfish are harvested – occur in the middle of the night. This means that farmers like Cordero are out at midnight, in the freezing cold, in January.

Lunar months – which determine tides, yes? – process through the solar months, don’t they?

I am a disappoint

Really, I thought someone would have done this by now.

So, NASA, DART mission, crash into asteroid.

Clangers. Why hasn’t someone cut the Soup Dragon into the asteroid pics?

I am disappoint. What happened to ingenuity?

Can we raise an entry for next year’s IG Nobels?

Not that I know how to write a scientific paper. Nor do I have access to the cash to pay the fees to get one published.

But. “An estimation of capital turnover from baked bean can sizing”.

Standard baked bean cans are still Imperial (actually, I think, American, No. 3 cans? 330?) which equates to 430 or 440 grammes, about. But some are beginning to appear in 400. And newer varieties, or totally different sizes – half cans say – often seem to be accurate metric – 200 grammes.

Why is this? Because canning lines – including the whole deal of getting the steel cut to size and so on – last for decades. How many decades? We can estimate by how long it takes for can sizes to change after metrication.

Capital turnover/technological lockin can be estimated from can sizes. Actual real science but clearly jocular….. a shoo in, surely?

This looks like fun

Given my entire lack of engineering nous I’ve no idea whether it’s useful, or even sensible, but it is fun:

Water activated disposable paper
Alexandre Poulin1
, XavierAeby1 & Gustav Nyström1,2*
We developed a disposable paper battery aiming to reduce the environmental impact of single-use
electronics for applications such as point of care diagnosis, smart packaging and environmental
sensing. The battery uses Zinc as a biodegradable metal anode, graphite as a nontoxic cathode
material and paper as a biodegradable substrate. To facilitate additive manufacturing, we developed
electrodes and current collector inks that can be stencil printed on paper to create water-activated
batteries of arbitrary shape and size. The battery remains inactive until water is provided and absorbed
by the paper substrate, taking advantage of its natural wicking behavior. Once activated, a single cell
provides an open circuit potential of 1.2V and a peak power density of 150 µW/cm2
at 0.5 mA. As a
proof of concept, we fabricated a two cell battery and used it to power an alarm clock and its liquid
crystal display

Via Mr Katz

Ah, re first comment, this might work better.
s41598-022-15900-5 (1)

Not quite, no

I read — Lord forgive my search history — that testicle size corresponds with animal fertility.

It’s more closely related to the female propensity to shag around in that species. Being able to drown out the sperm of male rivals works. Of course, this is also relative to body size, but gorillas have smaller than bonobos, with humans in between.

The classic case of this being Soay sheep. Similar, at one point, to mainland cousins, they’ve been wild for centuries now. Which means that the rams haven’t been culled as wethers etc. The competition for access to ewes has meant the rams that do successfully procreate are those with the Buster Gonads…….an inheritable condition.

Oh, and it’s also possible to run this back the other way. Testicle size is a good guide to the long run female propensity to shag around in that species…..

Oh Dear God

The key theory of what causes Alzheimer’s disease may be based on ‘manipulated’ data which has misdirected dementia research for 16 years – potentially wasting billions of pounds – a major investigation suggests.

A six-month probe by the journal Science reported “shockingly blatant” evidence of result tampering in a seminal research paper which proposed Alzheimer’s is triggered by a build-up of amyloid beta plaques in the brain.

In the 2006 article from the University of Minnesota, published in the journal Nature, scientists claimed to have discovered a type of amyloid beta which brought on dementia when injected into young rats.

It was the first substance ever identified in brain tissue which could cause memory impairment, and seemed like a smoking gun.

The Nature paper became one of the most-cited scientific articles on Alzheimer’s ever published, sparking a huge jump in global funding for research into drugs to clear away the plaques.


Of course, this aids in explaining why I’ve been snarling at Murphy these decades. No, not because I have a differently caused Alzheimer’s, but because errors in analysis of causes lead to horrible problems in designing solutions…..

Since then, universities, research institutions and pharmaceutical companies have spent billions investigating and trialling therapies to clear the brain of amyloid, but none have worked.