davegodfrey: Hello Cthulhu! (Cthulhu!)

I've been meaning to post this since I saw the first images of the two rugose and blasphemous idols referred to as "mascots", but I have only recently recovered sufficiently from the searing terror of having glimpsed that solitary loathsome eye staring, unblinking at me through the dread portal opened by my foolish reading of certain portions of the Necronomicon...

Seriously, if they're not eldritch horrors then what are they?
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
Whatever Tickles Your Fancy.

There's a football tournament on. Now normally I'm not a fan of this, but the Guardian's coverage has been rather good- the minute-by-minute coverage is regularly distracted by linguistic debates, criticisms of the bizarre statements people come out with. Take this, from the Slovenia/Algeria match...

""It will be interesting to see how the African teams fare in their own backyard," Slovenia coach Matjaz Kek said in advance of this game. Algiers is 4,650 miles from Johannesburg, according to a website I just looked at. From which we can deduce that Africans have absolutely enormous backyards. Immense. Nobody asked Kek if he was disappointed with Slovenia's single gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which at just 4,799 miles from Ljubljana must qualify as being within their own backyard, unless Slovenian backyards are smaller than African ones, which is possible given the absolute vastness of African backyards."

And then there's discussion of tactics in old Amiga games, and all sorts...

To cap it all, I've just discovered "You're the ref", where one must make complex decisions based on the rules of football. Who knew there were so many opportunities to punch Gary Neville (whoever he is) in the face enshrined in the rules of the Beautiful Game.

I think my favourite response is that given by a Mr Sweeting, when a player (entirely behind the goal line) punches a ball away, peventing it crossing the line.
"Give a wry smile, pat the defender on the head, and send the keeper to the stands, 'since your friend seems to like being in goal so much'.."
Last year they ran a "You are the Umpire" during the cricket. I do hope they bring it back. I like cricket considerably more than this "Association Football" thing.
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)

H/T to Pharyngula, as always...
davegodfrey: Coelacanth (Science)
From XKCD- Break-ups are better with junior synonyms.

Well, sex is like a velociraptor: despite your movie-fueled lifelong neurotic obsession, unlikely to be found in your house.

Brontosaurus excelsus was named in 1879, two years after Apatosaurus ajax. in 1903 Elmer Riggs decided that the two species were close enough to belong to the same genus, and by the laws governing zoological nomenclature Brontosaurus had to be sunk. The "mistaken combination" comes not from work done re-evaluating bones mistakenly assigned to A. excelsus, but the mount at the Peabody Museum that used skull material from the more distantly related Camarasaurus to restore the missing pieces. Later it was realised that Apatosaurus would have had a lower, more delicate skull, similar to that of its relative Diplodocus. But even then the name carried on, although given textbooks (especially children's textbooks) habit of copying from one another, they were still copying Knight's restorations, long after they should have known better.

By this time everyone not involved in actual science was using the name "Brontosaurus". Wikipedia blames the Peabody mount, I can see why, even now it still takes a while to update labels to reflect changes in taxonomy to pick a recent example close to home, Bob Bakker named the plesiosaur genus Attenborosaurus in 1993, but it took several years for the display at the NHM to be updated. I can see the same thing happenning at Yale, and by the time they did change the name on the label, everyone who people listen to (so not the scientists) is calling it "Brontosaurus".
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
Was really very good, but it did confirm my personal dislike for Ricky Gervais. However the host, Robin Ince was very, very good, with his Hannah-Barbera Feynman impressions, and humorous rants about Anne Coulter, Stephen Green and all the other people who provide a reason for the "New Atheists" to be so vocal. Plus he gave a shout-out to Tycho Brahe. Who doesn't get talked about nearly often enough at comedy gigs.

There were a couple of acts that didn't quite work for me. Mostly it was the musical numbers. Which I'm sure were a matter of personal taste. I'm not really sure that the one-man Beach Boys parody quite fitted.

The Carl Sagan snippets were very well chosen. I never watched Cosmos when I was a child. I don't think they repeated it much in the 1980s, unlike the ubiquitous deity that is Sir David A. But on the basis of those few minutes I can understand why he was so popular with so many people. (And then the Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra played a very silly version of Thus Sprach Zarathustra).

Simon Singh was good, and it was nice to hear his Katie Melua rewrite- as sung by the lass herself. I remember hearing it on the Today programme a few years back.

I can understand why Dawkins chose the pieces he did, and it reminded me that I still haven't got a copy of Unweaving the Rainbow. Though if he'd spent the entire time talking about Fig Wasps that would have been equally enjoyable.

Stewart Lee was very good too. I will never hear the "dance as ancient as time" cliche in quite the same way.

Natalie Haynes was rather funny, and I shall have to look out for her work in future.

Ben Goldacre's polemic was fantastic. His columns are always worth reading, and he brings the same mix of wry humour and outrage at the actions of people like Matthias Rath to his spoken word stuff too, and provided a reminder that pseudoscience is not harmless.

Tim Minchin rounded off the evening with a brilliant beat poem. Someone else I shall have to look out for in future.

Sadly I couldn't find someone to take up the spare ticket I ended up having. But at least this time I remembered I was supposed to be at a gig. ;)
davegodfrey: Hello Cthulhu! (Cthulhu!)
Behind a cut )

17. Favourite xmas song?
I'm Gonna Spend My Christmas With A Dalek - The GoGo's
Red Water - Type O Negative
The Carol of the Old Ones - The Arkham Carolers. Or indeed anything from the HPLHS's "A Very Scary Solstice".

And another cut. )
davegodfrey: Flying Spaghetti Monster : Touched by his noodly appendage (FSM)
So have some True Scottish Pirate Metal. You know you want some.

They even did Flower of Scotland...

davegodfrey: Hello Cthulhu! (Cthulhu!)

Doomed! Doomed! We're all Doomed!
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Dave Godfrey)
Andrew Schlafly (Phyllis Schlafly's son) recently founded Conservap(a)edia. It is (as you might guess) an alternative to wikipedia because of the "liberal bias" it apparently has.

Dr. Richard Lenski is running the Long Term Evolutionary Experiment (LTEE). For the past 20 years he has been growing a culture of E. coli in a medium where glucose is  the limiting growth factor. Lenski has twelve evolving populations , and every 500 generations samples are taken and frozen giving them a "fossil record" palaeontologists would sell their mothers to have. The aims of the LTEE is to observe patterns of contingency and convergence. So far the bacteria have been converging- they're considerably bigger than they used to be, and show a wide variety of other adaptations that have appeared in parallel. However...

With his collaborators, Zachary Blount and Christina Borland, Lenski has discovered that E. coli in one of the populations has evolved the ability to take up and metabolise citrate (known as Cit+). The citrate is in the medium to help the bacteria take up iron, but never normally enters the cell. Importantly E. coli can't eat citrate in aerobic conditions- its one of the defining characteristics of E.coli. (It seems there have been two other reports of Cit+ in E. coli and they've both come from swapping plasmids with other bacteria). The bacteria in the experiment lack plasmids, and only reproduce asexually. The scientists used their fossil record to investigate the process of Cit+ evolution, ruling out plasmids and contamination, and then tracking the process of Cit+ evolution. It seems there are at least 3 mutations involved, they didn't happen all at once, the earliest bacteria able to survive on citrate did so very poorly, and research remains to see what exactly is going on at the genetic level.

The paper is available online (pdf). You can also read abstracts and some pdfs from all the publications to come out of the LTEE.

The fact that one population is now significantly different from the others makes it very interesting to watch, because they've got a really visible, and important example of contingency. So lots to look forward to, and plenty more research to do. Carl Zimmer's been keeping a good blog on this, and Zachary was kind enough to turn up in the comments, offered to answer questions, and point people to other papers from the LTEE. Unfortunately a creationist turned up who didn't understand the meaning of the word "goal", so the whole thing turned into a car-crash. Zachary should have a guest post up there soon, dealing with some of the questions. (Excuse me I appear to be getting teary-eyed at a scientist engaging with the public- its so beautiful when it happens.)

Anyway, why did I mention Mr Schlafly? Well over at Conservapedia he wants Lenski to provide him with 20 years worth of data. He has it seems "skimmed" the paper and quoting PNAS's rules thinks he can demand this. Lenski politely points out that 1. the data is in the paper, and 2. he isn't saying what Schlafly thinks he's saying. This isn't enough for Schlafly, who complains that he must have access because they're taxpayer funded, and they sometimes say "data not shown". Lenski replies again, and I can't summarise it other than to say that Schlafly gets his arse handed to him on a plate. There are some beautiful quotes which I shall share, but you should read the exchange, at RationalWiki.

"If you have not even read the original paper, how do you have any basis of understanding from which to question, much less criticize, the data that are presented therein?"
"Am I or the reporter for NewScientist somehow responsible for the confusion that reflects your own laziness and apparent inability to distinguish between a scientific paper, a news article, and a confused summary posted by an acolyte on your own website?"
"But perhaps because you did not bother even to read our paper, or perhaps because you aren’t very bright, you seem not to understand that we have the actual, living bacteria that exhibit the properties reported in our paper, including both the ancestral strain used to start this long-term experiment and its evolved citrate-using descendants."

And for my American friends, an explanation of the differences between cricket and baseball. (It certainly explains why I understand cricket better than baseball.)

(Via PharyngulaBad Science, and pretty much everybody else by now.)
davegodfrey: Flying Spaghetti Monster : Touched by his noodly appendage (FSM)
 The nine most badass verses in the bible. Reminds me of why I enjoyed Blood and Honey (Tony Robinson wandering around Israel telling the story of various Judges/Kings etc).
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
 Lolcreationism. John Scalzi went to that Creation "science" museum and brought back photos. They have been lolcatted. Possibly my favourite, other than the pop-culture reference ones;


He ran a competition. There were finalists, and winners, and everything.
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Cthulhu)

You've seen Lego Star Wars. You've seen The Brick Testament?
Now behold Lego Death Metal


davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
The Evil Atheist Your Mother Warned You About

November 2013

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