cdave: (Comics)
Subtitle: Juxtapositions. Or two things make a post.

I've been catching up some old Radiolab podcasts, and I've just finished listening to the episode Words.

This episode concerns four people or groups of people, who at some point have no language, and then later acquire it, and the changes that follow.

I'd read about the formation of creoles and sign languages before in some popular science book or another. The founders tend to have very simple structure, but children raised in that environment later develop a more complex grammar. What the Radiolab episode added was that this places certain limits on the founders' thought process, but if the next generation teach the adults their new structure, the adults can learn new ways of thinking.

Another interesting aspect is that toddlers who are able to speak, but are not yet able to form noun phrases like "on the LEFT of the BLUE WALL", have the same difficulty solving certain spatial puzzles as rats.

Then the episode finished, and the very next podcast was Flowers for Algernon.

Every piece of research in the Radiolab episode happened after Daniel Keyes wrote Flowers for Algernon, yet it fits so well as a response to that episode.
cdave: (Default)
1) Hypothesis: You should chew your food thirty times before swallowing.
Split a bottle of sink de-clogger between 4 glasses, and cut a steak into bite sized chunks and split between 4 bags.
i) Empty 1 bag into a glass.
ii) Hit 1 bag with a tenderiser 10 times before emptying it into a glass.
iii) Hit 1 bag with a tenderiser 30 times before emptying it into a glass.
vi) Hit 1 bag with a tenderiser 50 times before emptying it into a glass.
After 4 hours sieve and weigh the remaining solids.
Expected Results:
i) Lots left.
ii) Some left.
iii) Little left.
iv) Not too different from iii)

2) Hypothesis: People can't divine for metal.
Stolen from Dawkins.
Experimenter 1 places a metal object under a small fraction of a number of buckets, records this, and leaves.
Experimenter 2, without meeting Experimenter 1 leads the diviner into the room, and lets them test each bucket with divining sticks, and records the result.
The experimenters results are compared.
Expected results:
The number of buckets whose contents are correctly identified is not significantly higher than would be expected if the selection was at random (this number to be determined before the experiment starts).

[Poll #1486717]
cdave: (Default)
Listening to the Today programme this morning, I had two unconnected thoughts that I feel like writing down.

Firstly, they were talking about about a refereeing decision on if contact had been made between players. They then brought up the possibility of some kind of automated system to detect if a ball has crossed the goal line. Which wouldn't have helped here. I thought what they needed was one of those systems that stitches together all the photos of landmarks, and makes a 3D computer model. There's enough cameras on a premiership match. Then I thought about printing it out to make it easier to see what's going on. Then about those picture frames you can buy that subscribe to RSS feeds of photos, and wouldn't it be neat for football fans to get a little 3D sculpt of the most interesting points from each weeks matches. I've been reading Makers too much ;)

The other story that caught my ear was the advisory group on human animal hybrids. waffly thoughts on ethics )
cdave: (Default)
I recently read "The Fabric of the Cosmos" by Brian Greene. It contained a rather brilliant description of the Delayed Choice Double Slit experiment, in which effect precedes cause. Rather damaging to the notion of free will I thought.

This led to me think about an Asimov story where such an experiment takes place. They wait until the experiment says that water was/will be poured on this in 24 hours, and then seal the container. They find that the universe conspires to ensure that there always was/will be someone to do just that. Be it a Janitor spilling something, or a junior lab technician not understanding, or something more.

I was wondering what would happen if the same thing was done with this Delayed Choice test. So I started writing it up as popular science essay, that I was aiming at being understood by anyone without a science background.

I was comparing this to the Bell's inequality experiment, when I finally realised what I'd missed. In the Bell's inequality tests, non-local quantum entanglement cannot be used to send information faster than light because it involves random processes, and you need to combine information from detectors on both sides of the experiment before you can see the non-local connection.

Similarly, there is no way to send information back in time using the Delayed Choice test, as the only way to show that effect has preceded cause is to combine information from both detectors at the cause and effect time of the experiment before you can see the non-temporal connection.

{ETA} This makes the weirdness of quantum mechanics really clear to me. I knew that entanglement meant that entangled particles have some faster-than-light spacial connection, but hadn't made the obvious connection that they therefore must have some faster-than-light chronological connection.

I think this implies that all events must be predetermined.
cdave: (Default)
Please ignore this post. Just trying an incantation out.

Spellcasting L-E-W-I-S!

{ETA: Yep the J-Spam can defeat re-captcha!}

Dr Who?

Apr. 1st, 2009 11:45 am
cdave: (Default)
Old news I know, made me giggle.

This is Google's cache of It is a snapshot of the page as it appeared on 31 Mar 2009 08:59:00 GMT. The current page could have changed in the meantime. Learn more

These search terms are highlighted: gillian mckeith These terms only appear in links pointing to this page: doctor  

cdave: (Join Me)
It's the monthly late night at the science museum tonight, and it's one of the rare ones that doesn't clash with the BSFA's monthly author readings. I'm planning to be in the queue at 6:30, if you want join me.

[ profile] raven_mocara, floo and <<nickname not found error>> should be there. [ profile] hawkida said she may head along later.
cdave: (Default)
Big thanks to [ profile] major_clanger for inviting me to a talk on invisibility at the IET. It was actually about the new materials with interesting optical properties, that don't exist in nature. His write up is worth a read.

I've tried to find some copies of the ray diagrams from the slide show to illustrate the fantastic properties of this stuff (if you made a milk bottle from it, you would see the milk outside the edge of bottle), but couldn't find any online. If I get time, I'll write them up from memory.
[ profile] chiller has found what causes the squigly things you see when you look up at clear blue sky.

It reminded me of an odd visual distortion I've noticed a few times.

If you press you palms to your closed eyes, applying a light pressure simulates the retina. When I do this I see sort of yellowy-greenish-purple blobs. It wasn't until I tried to photoshop the image you'll see below that I realised this is the colour of magic and being made up from opposite sides of a colour wheel shouldn't exist e.g. (red+green = white, blue + orange = white, yellow+purple=white, etc).

To get the point, I've noticed that I occasionally, when having a shower in the morning, and I'm scrunching my eyes up to stop soap getting in them, I see an Phosphene that looks a bit like this:

It gets brighter the longer and tighter I screw my eyes up. If I leave them closed long enough I even get afterimages. Never happens at any other time.

Anyone else have any intersting visual distortions?

Being a Friday Afternoon I doubt there's many LJ readers out there, but thought I'd ask just in case
cdave: (Default)
*) The DFC
I'm still so sad that this is almost certainly ending. There a list of where most of the artists and writers can be found online, compiled by a fan.

There's no sign of it in the comic though. I hate to be pragmatic about it, but I guess I'll need to look at what happens to my direct debit.

*) Whatmen! by author Scott Lobdell, artist Alejandro Figueroa
A one shot Watchmen parody. 300 pages down to 30. If I tell you that the second page features the comedian falling out his window, butt naked, after slipping on a piece of smiley faced soap, you get the idea.

The art is very much captures the style of the original. Often times a panel is a detailed joke based on the original. For instance the first time we see Doc NYC, he is gigantic and standing in the same pose as the first time we see Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen. But the giant machine he's poking at is a washing machine.

12) Gunnerkrigg Court: Orientation by Tom Siddell
This is the print collection of the first school year at Gunnerkrigg Court webcomic. It's absolutely gorgeous. A hefty hardback with shiny black paper that really shows the muted colours well. The pull quote on the back is from Neil Gaiman.
"Lots of different flavours in there -- it's a semi-gothic funny-sweet school story with mysteries and robots and so forth -- but I kept finding myself reminded of the early days of reading Bone. Nice stuff."

Distributed by Diamond, I ordered this from my local comic shop.

Meanwhile back at the webcomic we've just found out a major part of the main character's back story. Nearly 4 years after the comic launched! He's a master of the slow reveal.

Check out his answers to fans' questsions too. He somehow manages to answer most questions without actually telling anyone about the plot. :)

13) Bad Science by Ben Goldacre
Based on Ben's Blog and Guardian column. A series of detailed, well thought out, often irreverent chapters debunking everything: from homoeopathy to big pharmaceutical companies, and from the media driven MMR frenzy to nutritionists. A passionate argument for evidence based medicine.

Nice to see a shout out to [ profile] shpalman in the back.
cdave: (Brains)
Colour is (badly) defined as the relative amount of one three frequencies of light waves reflected off a visible point.

Could you make a false colour ultrasound image by using three different frequencies of ultrasound? If so would they be of any use?
cdave: (Default)
Science: 2008 Gene linked to effectiveness of placebos on social anxiety disorder.

Reminded me of:

Gattaca: 1997 "There is no Gene for Human Spirit"

I think it's pretty clear that people are neither built solely by Nature or Nurture, but by a complex interaction of the two.
cdave: (Default)
Went to see WALL·E last week. It's brilliant. The best thing I can say about is: that about 3 hours after seeing it, I suddenly remembered that it's supposed to be a kids film (I've been watching a lot of Ghost in the Shell recently, so animation does not equate with kids film in my head)
Went to a treetop adventure place over the weekend. Part of a chain called Go Ape. Seriously good fun. A couple of hours of Rope ladders, treetop bridges, zip lines, and Tarzan swings into cargo netting. It really deserves a better write up, but I don't have time right now.

Icon love! Seen here, based on these T-shirts.
I hate the cost of transatlantic shipping.
Science is like a good friend: sometimes it tells you things you don't want to hear.
From Charlie Brooker's TV rants seen at [ profile] andrewducker's
cdave: (Default)
I caught last night's file on four. It was an interesting discussion on recent theories involving the use of stored red blood cells.

IIRC They tend to be stored for between 10 to 30 days before being given to someone. Scientist know the cells change slightly with storage. For instance they become less flexible, so cannot fit down the smallest capillaries as easily. They can take up to a day to recover.

A lot of blood goes to people who've lost red cells through traumatic accidents, surgery, complications in birth, and haematology (leukaemia, chemotherapy, bone marrow transfers, etc.), and no-one disputes this saves lives. But some goes to people who read as anaemic on charts, or as a precaution during elective surgery, and the debate was around the benefits to this group, and the length of storage of blood.

Ben Goldacre would have liked it, as there was lots of discussions of methodology, and statistical evidence.

Both main participants were in favour of funding a proper randomized controlled trial, but disagreed on the validity of the retrospective study that had already been taken place. This study had found that people who receive older blood are more likely to have complications than people who hadn't

Participant 1 said that the retrospective study wasn't valid as the patients weren't randomised, and generally sicker people who receive blood in the first place. This would only affect the 10% who didn't fall trauma/surgery/birth/haematology group. So we should continue current practice while further evidence is gathered.

Participant 2 said that 30% of blood goes to people who haven't lost it in trauma/surgery/birth. And that they had taken account of the effects of the level of illness properly in their study, so we should stop storing blood for as long.

I don't have time to go through all the literature myself, but I know who I trust more at the moment. The scientist who didn't spin the statistics by leaving out haematology patients, and deflecting the question ("Yes, but the research is important because...") when confronted on it.
cdave: (Default)
When a bus driver turn off the engine at a random stop, it usually means someone's got on without paying. If someone staggers upstairs swaying, you can guess who it was. Especially if they're muttering that the driver is a "dirty foreigner" under their breath.

But the daft part was that he had the broadest Irish accent I've heard since Brad Pitt in Snatch, and the driver had a Cockney accent.

Mini linkdump!

Apprentice Fan pays five grand to watch episode, from overseas, via mobile broadband.

The Mars Probe has a twitter!
Via the Evil Mad Scientist

[ profile] major_clanger points out a series of ever more nifty photos from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
cdave: (Default)
I did it. If it's a very slow news day, you can see me in a labcoat, and an Science. It works bitches. t-shirt, crouching down behind an MP, trying to make sure the stem cell billboard doesn't blow away.

In other Democracy related news:
Number of tourists taking pictures of Parliament from Waterloo Bridge; 3
Number of tourists taking pictures of the London Eye from Waterloo Bridge; 10
cdave: (Default)
I'm tempted to give the old Lab coat an Iron over the weekend, and attend this protest in support of the Second Reading of Human Fertility and Embryology Bill.

I'm in favour of what I've heard of the bill.
It's not my biggest concern politically, but I don't have any plans, and I do work nearby, and own a lab coat.

The only question is would wearing Mad Science goggles hurt the cause?
cdave: (Default)
Canadians weigh less than Americans even if they have the same mass!


cdave: (Default)

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