Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Loving The Alien

The Fermi Paradox:

Click to tweet: http://clicktotweet.com/9ovK1 .  There are sextillions of stars in the Universe, quadrillions of which are like the Sun and around many of these orbit Earth-like planets.  Given all that, where the heck are all the aliens?  This thought is called the Fermi Paradox, first voiced by the physicist Enrico Fermi over half a century ago.  A number of answers have been given:

1. There is something like Star Trek's "Prime Directive" in force (Star Trek and the Prime Directive are copyright Paramount - no infringement intended).  This is the idea of an ethic preventing interference with our civilisation.  This is a somewhat elaborate idea which follows from a lot more assumptions than the others.

2. There are no aliens and we are alone in the Universe, possibly because Earth-like planets are rare.  I was planning to say a lot more about this, so i'll probably do a separate video on this.  The idea is basically that the conditions which enabled a technological species to evolve here are very rare for carious reasons.  This is known as the Rare Earth Hypothesis.

3. They are here, but in disguise.  That is, it's possible that aliens visit this planet all the time but given that their technology is capable of travelling interstellar distances, it is also clearly going to be capable of making itself invisible, or alternatively, that there are simulacra of human beings among us.  In fact, it has occasionally been suggested that I am an alien.  Heaven forfend!  UFOs ("flying saucers") are problematic for this reason, and therefore i believe most of them are either misidentifications of well-known phenomena or secret military aircraft.  If they wanted to be seen, they would be.

4. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Each civilisation notices the suspicious silence of the skies and acts accordingly out of caution.

5 (Am i keeping in step with the video numbers here?).  Civilisations are short-lived because they do something to wipe themselves out, like steer an asteroid into orbit and accidentally crash it into their planet, build technological systems so complex that they can't control them, wage nuclear war, suffer from the Grey Goo Scenario and so on.  Therefore we don't have long to spot them and will very shortly go the way of the dinosaurs ourselves.

6. They don't care, either because they're not like us, they're enlightened spiritually and have no interest in such worldly things or they spend all their time on an extraterrestrial equivalent of Facebook in cyberspace.

7. We're in a nature reserve and are being observed by aliens.  This is a kind of combination of (1) and (2).

8. We've not been looking long enough or our technology is incompatible with their signals.

9. It's too expensive to travel to other star systems - maybe we could hitch-hike?

Ten.  Sorry, i can't remember.  Clearly i'm going to have to come back to this.

All images licenced under Creative Commons version 3.0, sources Celestia, Wikipedia, Wikimedia and own work.

I forgot to mention the most important thing here, but i'll include it later on another one.

OK, so yesterday's experiment seemed to show that nobody reads this blog.  This is of course my intention.  The question is, what do i do now?  Should i try to put things on it that people will read?  Should it just become an adjunct to my internal musings?  The thing is, it could be made useful, but the problem with it becoming useful is that if it's not going to be read, which was of course deliberate, nobody will read any of the useful stuff either.  I should probably look at analytics and work out what appeals.

OK.  For some reason, 'Eye In The Sky' had five dozen and ten views.  This is the fifth most popular blog entry on here.  I think it's got traffic from YouTube.  One thing i never do with this blog is link to it in the descriptions on YT.  Sometimes i think i should.  However, they tend to repeat the description and do little else, so i would feel a bit shamefaced about that.  Did i link from the video on that one?

I don't know.  Right now i feel i would like people to read this occasionally but why invest any emotion in it?

Should i just give up on this or try to add value to the videos with it?  Or maybe split it off from the videos entirely?

You know, it would really help me if occasionally someone commented.  Right now i'm just floating in a void with this place.  What would you like to see on it?

Monday, 29 April 2013


Back to "sanity" then:

Click to tweet: http://clicktotweet.com/1Ln65  .  Exothermic reactions generate heat.  The example i use here doesn't work very well and you're just going to have to take my word for it that it got warmer.  Sodium hydroxide added to water (NOT THE OTHER WAY ROUND, WHICH WOULD WORK BUT IS DANGEROUS!) makes the water hotter when it dissolves.  Other examples:  anhydrous copper sulphate heats water when added to it, and combustion is the exothermic reaction par excellence - the combination of oxygen with many different compounds and elements generates heat, a process known as burning.

The human body, along with those of other mammals, all birds, flying insects and a few species of bony fish, also has exothermic reactions going on inside it which generate heat, which is why we're not the same temperature as our surroundings.  Rather confusingly, this is known in biology as endothermy rather than exothermy (or the confusion could be the other way round depending on your perspective) and the more common phenomenon of being warmed and cooled by the environment, as found in lizards and most other organisms other than insects and some vertebrates, is known by the almost as confusing name of ectothermy.

This brings me to the second type of process:  endothermic reactions and processes.  These are processes which absorb heat from their environments.  A very common but difficult to observe example is found when sodium chloride - ordinary table salt - dissolves in water.  This process, leaving other things aside, would very slightly cool the water, or rather, the solution that results from sodium chloride and distilled water at the same temperature will be slightly cooler than either.  This is because work is done breaking up the salt into ions, combining them with water and breaking the hydrogens off from the water molecule.  Another, rather neat, example is photosynthesis, which is the synthesis of the sugar glucose from water and carbon dioxide with the help of light.  Again this is slightly cooling, unlike the opposite process of respiration, which is the release of energy stored in glucose, often with the aid of oxygen, which is exothermic, though only mildly so.  For some reason it's much easier for me to think of non-chemical processes which are endothermic than chemical ones.  Fridges generally use the same process as the one i illustrate in this video, which is the evaporation of a liquid which removes heat from a system, in this case tincture of myrrh (Commiphora molmol), which is 90% alcohol (ethanol in fact) evaporating from the palm of my hand.  Incidentally, this is also an example of osmosis, as water was pulled from my hand across the concentration gradient caused by the 90% ethanol. The same happens with rubbing alcohol (isopropanol).

This is not part of the description but a test.  Please, if anyone at all reads these entries, could you leave me a comment?  I'm pretty sure nobody does but if i put this at the top, you'd see it on your feed, so it's here.  Thanks.

Enthalpy, which i can't pronounce, is a measure of the total heat or energy in a system.  It can be calculated by the equation H=U+PV, or enthalpy in joules per mole is equivalent to the total energy of the system in joules per mole plus the pressure in newtons per square metre multiplied by the volume in moles per cubic metre.  In fact, Delta-H is a more useful quantity because the real total energy of a system is vast - see zero-point energy for example.  Delta-H is the change in total energy.  I show the concept of total energy by blowing up a balloon.  The balloon is inflated with five litres of air at my body temperature, but as it enters the balloon, because of the elasticity of the rubber it becomes compressed and will therefore start at above body temperature.  The system contains the same amount of energy as the system of the air in my lungs after inhaling, but in a smaller space.  The potential energy is also clear because of the energetic deflation of the balloon, although this is merely mechanical.  That could, however, be generated by heat if the balloon was warmed.

A bomb calorimeter is a way of assessing the usable chemical energy in a sample.  The sample is ignited and the heat released is measured.  This is useful for food and other substances such as fuel or explosives.  A calorie (small c) is the energy required to raise a gramme of water by one degree Centigrade/Kelvin/Celsius, a unit which is not very useful for measuring the energy of food, for which reason Kilocalories (usually referred to as "Calories", with a big C) are used.  However, both have been superceded by joules.

Please note that i wasn't particularly safe with how i handled the caustic soda.

To be honest, this could've had more detail on the maths side of things but i'm afflicted by the problem of not really understanding enthalpy, or for that matter even pronouncing it.  However, i did what i did with it and in fact the bigger problems are not so much the subject matter as  the excessive length of these videos and trying to come up with a title that's both catchy and brief.  The thumbnail's quite nice though, except that it looks like the logo for a band.

For the first time, my subscribers on both the main and Other Channel are equal.  The Other Channel grew from about ten dozen and nine slowly over the past few weeks and the main channel has jumped rather faster.  I now have eleven dozen and four subscribers on each.  However, as usual i'm experiencing the paradoxical issue of views going down as subscribers go up.  I think this is connected to consistency of content.  When i see a jump in views, i tend to concentrate on the subject area of the latest upload for a while, and that may encourage subs but make the content less diverse and therefore other subscribers, who subscribed for different reasons, are less likely to watch.  I'm pretty sure the diversity of content is the biggest factor in keeping views and subs down, but presumably the people who have subscribed are keen on both the diversity and frequency of posting.  On another matter, i think people are encouraged to sub by the other channels but put off by the very different content. Whereas i occasionally stray into the areas covered by the other channels, it's not frequent.  In a way, Handsonisbetter is where the educational videos should be, but that has such a tiny number of views and subs that it's not worth it.

I'm going to talk about Nyarlathotep openly now, so if anyone really is reading this you're going to think i'm a sad bastard who has gone nuts. 

I have considerable insight into why it happened and realise she is to some extent not in control of what happened, and i'm over it, but in a way i'm not.  This is because i am aware of the massive swerve my life has taken whereas most other people aren't, and i also think that she of all people should be in a position to understand that.  So i'm going to continue to make occasional bizarre references to her because on some level i am still just really, really pissed off and i don't think that will ever end.  I think people who work in the caring professions have no right to do so unless they are able and willing to empathise with outsiders, and actually choosing to place them there and keep them there is completely crap.  I realise it's a pretty minor problem compared to most of what many people have to deal with, including me, but it's an unscratchable itch and i am not going to let it go.

Nyarlathotep, you who will never read this, i valued our friendship above whatever else was going on and i think it's sad that you're unwilling to rise above that.  Have you ever wondered what direction things would've gone in for you if you'd just been a little bit more real about it?

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Between The Wars

Three videos today, two of them rather silly:



Proper video along in a bit.  This is just a bit of fun with yesterday's video on scepticism.

And finally, the aforementioned "proper video":

Click to tweet:  http://clicktotweet.com/7TdUv . People who are not paid for their work may well be doing various kinds of work. It is easy to fall into a kind of meaningless, unmotivated unhealthy state without paid work because of difficulty in motivating oneself, and if one is vulnerable to that, absence of paid work is harmful, but i'm not sure i buy the idea that people literally don't work because it's more a question of finding meaning or having it valued than actually finding work. I don't think in terms of jobs at all in my own life, but in terms of getting paid for the work i already do and trying to get to do work which is more likely to be paid. If there is really such a thing as worklessness, it's a problem for the people who suffer from it, but it may be necessary for people not to work for money if the only paid work available to them is socially harmful in various ways, so they then ought to be compensated for the mental health hazard duty forces them to risk, i.e. unemployment.

Then there's the question of useful, useless and harmful work. I would welcome the opportunity to work in the sewers in particular because that work is, along with probably farming, the most important paid work it's possible to do in this kind of society. It saves more lives than all of the NHS and all emergency services put together, probably several times as many in fact. The same applies to some extent to disposing safely of waste. That's why i value it so badly. However, there's also a problem with skilled work that is useful because then charging for that work means you are withholding the duty, for instance, of saving someone's life for money - in other words, you won't lift a finger to save a life unless you get paid. To me, that seems very wrong. Therefore, and i've said this before to you Tony, interchangeable creative work such as music, visual arts and creative writing are in a sense more honourable because there can't be another Shakespeare, but Shakespeare could've been someone else writing a different set of equally good plays, or maybe no Beatles but another band which was different but just as good. Therefore, that kind of work is better because depriving people of it won't kill them and someone else will be able to do it. For that reason, i would prefer to be "useless". That situation is complicated by the fact that "useful" work is also creative to some degree.

Regarding menial work, something i've suggested elsewhere is that if i believed and trusted in the State more, there could be a couple of years of something like National Service, but oriented towards waste management, sewage and other essential but unpopular jobs. At the end of that period, one could be offered a permanent job in the relevant industry - guaranteed employment if you so chose - or move on to something else.

There's also the question of unpaid work, e.g. childcare and housework, which contributes to the economy and is socially useful.

Oh, and another thing is that work which is not fulfilling should in various ways be abolished, through automation or simply by nobody doing anything which makes that kind of work necessary. An example of the latter, though it may not be that unfulfilling, would be the "glue" of solicitors who decide which companies in the transport industry are responsible for poor service such as late trains or missed connections. One nationalised rail industry would abolish the need for such jobs at a stroke. However, my distrust for the state means i would have to think of how to manage that in different ways.

My view of work is influenced by my residence in the outer darkness, so there may in fact be a stronger link between these videos than is at first apparent.  I'm not happy that the sound cut out at the end of 'Existential Scepticism'.  Also, 'XAH985H' is now the most recent video, which is annoying because it's knocked 'Work vs. Jobs' off the top.  I assumed that the last video to finish uploading was the most recent, but it's the last video to start.

There is an element of procrastination here.  I am keen on making the pocket universes and Yates-Leason videos but am intimidated by the prospect of animation.  Tomorrow will of course bring another chemistry one, so that's still got to happen.  I've decided to do enthalpy.

Friday, 26 April 2013


These are becoming increasingly tenuous.  Maybe i should abandon this for another method of naming the entries which actually refer to the content directly, but why change the habits of a lifetime?

Here's yesterday's main channel video:
Click to tweet: http://clicktotweet.com/zT08U .  Mental illness is of course controversial, but i'm not planning to discuss that just now.  Right now, i want to point out that there is a much better way of understanding mental illness than in terms of delusion, including disorders seen as delusional.

Most psychoses involve delusions, including psychotic depression, bipolar, paranoia (or so-called "delusional disorder") and schizophrenia.  However, it's quite hard to pin down what makes a delusion distinctive.  They are generally defined in terms of false beliefs which persist in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, but the trouble with that definition is that it applies to everyday false beliefs, many of which persist in the face of contrary evidence well beyond all reason.  It probably makes sense to adopt a tolerant attitude towards such beliefs, but this also indicates that delusion is probably not the best concept to use here.

Instead, i suggest that the overvalued idea is much more useful and inclusive of other mental health issues.  Overvalued ideas can be true and rationally held, but are the target of an unusually strong degree of focus.  Examples would include the rational but incorrect beliefs of paranoia, the irrational and incorrect ones of schizophrenia, and also the focus on self-blaming and negativity found with depression, the focus of fear in phobias, the unhealthy sexual desire for minors in paedophilia, the obsessive ideas in obsessive-compulsive disorder and so forth. In fact, it's hard to imagine any mental health problem, as opposed to organic brain dysfunction, which doesn't involve an overvalued idea.  As such, it's much more useful than the notion of delusion, which is really quite vague and has an "us and them"-type quality to it.

The thumbnail makes it look like i'm behind a glass door.  The idea was that unfocussed perception was akin to not seeing the world clearly, but in fact, given the subject of the video i think lack of focus is exactly what's needed sometimes.   People have, happily, taken this video and run with it on FB, and i like what they've said, but i want to take this in a somewhat different direction.  The overvalued idea works better, in my opinion, as a necessary condition for mental illness than delusion does.  The idea of delusion, to me, has a judgemental quality to it and includes the implication that there is an objective truth conferring authority, and it's also quite unhelpful when there is a symbolic meaning to a delusion, but aside from that, it tends only to work well for psychosis and not other areas such as paraphilias considered problematic, phobias, depression and the like.  Using the concept of overvalued ideas is far more productive than using that of delusion, which is not precisely definable and seems to imply that there are people out there who know the truth and others who don't.

Today's video is proving problematic, possibly due to the title, but i'm going to try to post it here anyway:

! to tweet: http://clicktotweet.com/lfi0w . The audio on this is unedited apart from a bit of amplification due to the subject matter.  This is about clicks, which are used by people all over the world but rarely in actual words.  The only languages which use clicks as ordinary speech sounds are the Khoisan languages of Southern Africa and the nearby though unrelated Bantu languages as loanwords, such as with Swahili and Zulu.  However, they do occur elsewhere, for instance one register of an Australian aboriginal languages uses an egressive click and around the Eastern Mediterranean, a tut represents the word "no" sometimes, so it can happen.  Apparently German also produces clicks on occasion, though i've never heard them.

Xhosa and Zulu therefore contain words with clicks in them, and in fact Xhosa (Nelson Mandela's mother tongue) has enough for a tongue-twister:  Iqaqa laziqikaqika kwaze kwaqhawaka uqhoqhoqha - the skunk rolled over and ruptured its larynx.  This is presumably a loose translation as the sentence does not seem to contain a Native American loanword and skunks are not native to Southern Africa.

Some clicks, such as the bilabial and retroflex clicks, are among the rarest sounds in human language, being found in only single languages.  Others are found in interjections and other utterances in English, such as the clopping noise, the "tsk" or "tut" of irritation, or the kissing sound.  They're unusually loud and, also unusually, can be pronounced while holding one's breath, although i exaggerate this in the video because in fact there are some other speech sounds which are like this.  The San people may also be particularly good at making clicks because their hard palates are higher than most other people's.

One of the reasons i spend so long fiddling with the audio on YouTube videos is my habit of inserting alveolar clicks at the start of words where other English speakers would use a glottal stop.  These are sometimes simultaneously articulated with other consonants such as S, and i often have to spend ages removing them from the audio files.  This demonstrates, however, that like other Germanic languages, Arabic and Hebrew, there are no words which always begin with a vowel in English.  However, English often elides the glottal stop in the middle of a phrase.  This does not occur in most other Germanic languages.  For instance, i once attempted to say "Das ist ein Problem" in German (That's a problem) but it got heard as "Das ist dein Problem" - "that's your problem".  Unlike German however, some English accents, including mine in a certain register, use glottal stops as phonemes, as in the Cockney "wo' a lo' o li'l bo'ls".  Danish also has a glottal stop as a phoneme but not in the same context.

A related subject is that of the pharyngeal plosives.  Just as it may be that the Bushmen of the Kalahari and their female relatives, in other words the San people, can pronounce clicks well due to their anatomical differences, the pharyngeal plosives are probably absent from all languages because many people lack the necessary muscles to pronounce them, a problem which is particularly pronounced in the Far East where something like one person in five cannot completely close their pharynx voluntarily.  This means that there would be a widespread unaddressable speech impediment in a large fraction of the population of speakers of any language which used pharyngeal stops, which is presumably the reason why they never occur.  However, other pharyngeal consonants are widespread in Afro-Asiatic languages such as Arabic, Egyptian and Biblical Hebrew, which raises the question of whether people from the Far East find it harder to pronounce them.

This is a kind of continuation of this:

There are certain things i can't seem to stop myself doing.  One of them is going "≠", which might look to you like a box, in which case sorry.  So, the answer, in time-honoured permacultural style, and possibly also martial arts style, though i wouldn't know, is to turn the problem into a solution.  It also gives me an excuse to give it a title which can't be detected by the YouTube search engine but which, in all probability, would make it the very first video on the site if they were put in alphabetical order, which is presumably never done.  It's a kill-or-cure approach really.

Yesterday's activities are tiring and time-consuming.  I still really want to do the pocket universes video but i'm going to have to find a way of doing the graphics.  In the meantime, i feel really that it proved to be surprisingly, how to put it, slack.  In case you're interested, here it is:

I'm not posting the doobly-do.  These are very time-consuming videos to make, so they make it harder to fit anything else in, so to speak.  As 'twere.  I'm quite happy with how the saturation changed the look of the velour.  Velour is nasty though, innit?

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Eye In The Sky

Oddly, i just read 'Eye In The Sky' and was going to review it.  I may still do so.  The Alan Parsons song of the same name is rather imponderable because it seems to go in a completely different direction.  However, it also uses the Eye Of Horus, something i also use in my paid work:

Click to tweet: http://clicktotweet.com/_Qbrg . People nick bikes less if they think they're being watched. This is presumably one reason why we have CCTV surveillance everywhere in the UK - the fear of being found out is a deterrent. In olden days, this was of course impractical, but what we had instead was the idea that God was watching us and would punish us if we were found out. Crime is not straightforwardly prevented by CCTV but is pushed out to areas where there's less surveillance. Moreover, surveillance is a substantially private and therefore relatively unaccountable practice. For some reason, in this country, the home of George Orwell, the creator of Big Brother and the dystopia of '1984', we have a very large number of cameras watching our every move along with other forms of monitoring, such as 'phone calls, emails and so forth. People acquiesce to this and see it as positive.

There was of course a time when people did believe God was watching our every move in the same way. When they did, there seemed to be less crime although i presume what really happened was that fewer things were regarded as criminal and violence was more institutional, as with wars, capital punishment and famine. So in a way, it didn't really work. Christians are often seen as policing themselves only out of fear of punishment, and the metaethical theory of theological voluntarism states that God automatically makes things right by commanding them. My view is that God simply reports on what's right from a position of infinite wisdom. Therefore, i dislike the surveillance view of God, even though i think in some ways it would mean a better society.

What puzzles me about this, though, is that many apparently liberal atheists seem to pay little attention to the social value of this belief. They're presumably opposed to the government and other organisations spying on us, but at the same time oppose the apparent myth that God is watching us which, if widely promulgated, would mean people wouldn't actually commit so much crime. However, i do agree with them because the motivation not to sin should come from inside and i don't believe in that kind of God.

I was going to talk about Bell's theorem and omniscience but i ran out of time.

This is of course the usual Wednesday blether, as reflected in the viewing figures.  However, it does kind of mean i don't censor or pussyfoot as much as usual.  Coherence is a problem with my videos although not so much with the rest of what i do.  It is very difficult to do this well.  I occasionally succeed but it's very hit and miss, mainly due to pressure of time.

I wonder what would happen if i went through all my videos and stuck links to these blog entries on them.  Probably not very much because nobody reads descriptions and it seems to be impossible to link to external sites via annotations, which is puzzling because there is something called "external annotation" on YT.  I'm not sure it would add anything of value, since this blog is itself a load of blah.

More interaction with Lindsay Atkins on Twitter, which is nice.  Hard to stay cool about it though, like the Wheezy Waiter stuff.  Am i "little people"?  Is anyone?  Is anyone not?  How old is she anyway?  Craig is thirty-two, i think.  Lindsay is, er, i dunno.  And i still don't know in spite of Googling.  I tend to think of her as a contemporary, and i know a few primary school teachers, so she's sort of in my milieu although the home ed thing could be a source of friction - she approved my video response on it though, so maybe not.  There seem to be two categories of teacher with respect to attitudes to home ed, possibly divided by age.  One is heartily in favour due to disillusionment with the way schools have gone and memories of the movement towards child-centred education, along with possibly experience of schools.  The other seems to be very much against it, and seems also to consist of younger teachers.

Anyway (waffle waffle):  apparently it takes me six seconds to drink 250 ml of water at a comfortable rate, i.e. not bolting it down.  Useful data for tomorrow's mpreg video.  Incidentally, i'm going back on the phytoestrogens in earnest.  I knocked them on the head before because they seemed to be causing weight gain, which i've never lost, which would be best avoided, but as i've said before, this needs dedication.

Quick bit of mental arithmetic:  ten minutes.  Yikes!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Never Ever

Possibly the most tenuous connection ever between the title and the subject, which is this:

Click to tweet: http://clicktotweet.com/m6Ej5 . Happy St George's Day! St George seems at first to be a weird choice of patron saint for England, since he was Cappadocian, which is in modern Turkey, and killed what i think of as a beautiful mythical wild animal, the dragon. Clearly few people today would accept the story of him slaying a dragon at face value. The story of his martyrdom is also reminiscent of Osiris, and while we're at it the dragon story is quite similar to that of Perseus and Andromeda, although clearly accretions occur. Since we see ourselves as a nation of animal lovers, the notion of a Turkish warrior going around killing animals as our patron saint seems a bit odd nowadays, particularly considering David, Andrew and Patrick. In any case i have difficulty with the concept of saints in the non-reformed sense of the word, just as i have with angels, because they seem to stand between God and humanity in a way which makes me think of henotheism or polytheism and doesn't correspond to my experience of God. I have an exotic solution to that in the case of angels, but see saints as special individuals as an idea foreign to Christianity, though not to human beings in general.

St George is also one of the "martyrs" after whom our church, the Church of the Martyrs, is named - St George, Elizabeth Fry, William Wilberforce, David Livingstone and Martin Luther. It has been noted that most of these are not in fact martyrs at all and also that it's unusual for an Anglican church to have this name. However, that's another story.

This is my reading of the legend of St George and the dragon. A settlement in Libya drew its water from a source such as an oasis, spring or well where a crocodile dwelt. Since they needed the water, they distracted the crocodile with a farm animal such as a sheep or goat so that they could get at the water. Later on, when they'd run out of livestock, which would be quite a serious problem in itself, they decided to leave girls or girl babies there for the crocodile to devour, and they chose girl babies because they were considered more expendable. George slayed the crocodile, so the practice was discontinued. There's also, i think, a subtext to the story of the reputation the Phoenicians had of sacrificing babies to a deity in a fire. I don't intend to make a big thing of this though, since many religious traditions, including mine, contains much whereof we would be understandably ashamed.

Another unusual aspect to St George is that he is venerated by Muslims.

Taking these two things together, i think it makes sense to see St George as an icon of proto-feminism and multiculturalism, and as such there's no problem accepting him as our patron saint. The fact that he originated from outside Europe and addressed a problem in Africa is also quite positive from the viewpoint of the second factor. Therefore, happy St George's Day!

I had planned one on pocket universes but decided on this instead, since today is St George's Day.  I'll be interested in seeing if anyone watches this whose opinion has led them to join the EDL or the BNP because of what i said about multiculturalism and feminism, although presumably there's something like feminism in the BNP (just found some anti-feminist stuff by them, unsurprisingly, so maybe not - i wonder what the women members think of that).

Apparently there should be more stained glass windows everywhere, so i can finally use these:

No i can't, because they're missing.  Ah well.  Anyway, stained glass windows are good.  They're a good way of getting ideas across to a largely illiterate population, like the rituals of a non-reformed church.  The last time it was my turn to perform the intercessions, i got together a slide show of stained glass windows which logistical difficulties meant i couldn't show.  Also, with reference to this video, the window of St George was on my mind, though i have no picture of it.  It might be on the Martyrs website now i come to think of it.  I'll just take a look.

Monday, 22 April 2013

The End Of The World As We Know It (Again?)

Have i already used that title?

Anyway, for some reason i don't understand, there are a number of peculiar things on the GCSE chemistry syllabus.  Either that or i've made a mistake.  If i have, it's OK because it is at least on some kind of GCSE science syllabus somewhere, and since i think no-one's following the videos i might as well stick it in anyway.

So here's today's:

Click to tweet: http://clicktotweet.com/h9p20 .  Continental drift was initially a hypothesis proposed by Alfred Wegener in 1912.  At the time, although some evidence was available it was not widely accepted, partly because there was no apparent mechanism whereby it could occur - Polflucht was the name of the process he proposed, which was a centrifugal effect caused by the planet's rotation which he saw as pulling the continents away from the poles.

There are nowadays quite a few pieces of evidence that continental drift takes place.  Firstly, as i observed in 1976 shortly before being shut in a cupboard for four months (not as bad as it sounds incidentally), the coastlines of Africa and South America fit together quite well, and similar fits can be observed elsewhere, such as between the southern coast of Australia and part of the coast of Antarctica.  The fit is better if the shallow seas around continents are taken into consideration.  There are also a number of fossils which are found on widely separated continents, such as Glossopteris, Cynognathus and Lystrosaurus.  This used to be explained by the idea of land bridges like the one between North and South America, across which plants and animals could spread, and this explanation was maintained up until the middle of the last century.  Eventually, however, more evidence and also a mechanism emerged.  It seemed that the mantle of the planet has swirling currents which act like a conveyor belt to drive landmasses along.  The ocean beds contain ridges from which the surface seems to spread - changes in the magnetic field of Earth are frozen in the rocks and are symmetrical either side of these ridges, from which lava constantly wells up.  Finally, there are mineral deposits and sometimes other geological features which match up well if the continents are pieced together.  It is now thought that there is a cycle of a few hundred million years, during which the continents form a single giant landmass which then breaks up.  Pangea is the most recent.

From outside the viewpoint of the content of the theory, Wegener's continental drift is a good example of how science changes.  I would personally link it to Thomas Kuhn's quasi-Marxist analysis of scientific change, where entrenched opinions are gradually dislodged by social forces, although clearly the evidence would have to be there.  I'd like to go into this in greater depth but unfortunately the limitations of GCSE science mean i can't really do more than mention it here.

OK.  Um, i didn't mark the two grossth video because i realise people tend to see other number bases as less significant than decimal, and i feel a little uncomfortable commenting on the three hundredth.  It might be an idea to take stock at this point and decide which videos work, which don't and what i mean by "work".  I recently made my most popular video ever on the main channel - the mpreg hoax vid, enough to spin off another channel on its strength.  It would of course make sense, in a way, to split the subjects into different channels, but i can't do that because all the subs and views are on the main one.

Here's the all-time performance for this channel in terms of views:

(I hope that fits).  My eye, but probably nobody else's, can see the rain video, Christmas series, Thatcher's death and the mpreg hoax on that graph.  Thatcher doesn't show up underneath because she's topical, and a number of other topical videos are also absent from the list for the same reason.  Liz's wee video is still at the top of course.  The two top videos date from before the kink in the views in April 2011.  What most of the videos have in common is demonstrable kinkiness.  The mpreg vid is the fastest climber and also, i think, the steadiest grower, which is oddly appropriate.  It's also, of course, physically the most difficult video to make.  So, sex sells.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

The Four Horsemen

Here's today's, actually made yesterday:

Click to tweet: http://clicktotweet.com/5YDiG .  The kind of question many people ask about the Book of Revelation is what the author was smoking when he wrote it.  It's difficult to see how the historical-grammatical method of the plain sense of the text can be applied to it.  However, that's a more general point about the book.  More specific are the questions of the Millenium, the Tribulation and so forth.  This video is intermediate, and concerns four popular approaches.

One popular attitude is the Preterist - that the book is an account of historical events in the persecution of the early Church.  This is supported, for example, in the fact that the Number Of The Beast, 666, appears to be the value of the Hebrew letters for Nero, NRWN QSR if i recall correctly.  However, regarding that, so many interpretations of the number have been made, such as Ronald Wilson Reagan - three six letter names - that that in itself is not very easy to accept.

A second approach is Idealism - the idea that the book is an account of the triumph of good over evil, or in a more Christian sense, that it's about the victory of the Church.  It would probably be generally agreed that this is a major theme of the book by anyone.  In fact, this illustrates the common phenomenon in religious discourse of the compatibility of several approaches, which is also found in theories of atonement for example.

Both of the above approaches are compatible with atheism and metaphysical naturalism.  The other two are harder to reconcile.  One is historicism, the view that the book is an account of events from the time of writing up until the end of history.  Finally, there is futurism, the most popular view in Protestant evangelical historical-grammatical circles, that the book is basically about the End Times.

There are both finer details and more general approaches to text and the Bible, but talking about those here would complicate things, so i didn't.  Probably another time.

The trouble with this video is that it's in the middle.  In more general terms there's Biblical criticism and the terrifying realm of textuality which could just make my whole world collapse, and in more specific terms there are the details of the interpretation of Biblical apocalyptic literature such as dispensational postmillenialism, the Rapture and so on.  However, to me that's way down the road from the issue of what the book is supposed to be, or rather, how we're supposed to react to it, to which of course there's not just one answer.

One thing that interests me is the question of what approaches are compatible with atheism and metaphysical naturalism, considered as two separate, though often coinciding, views.  Regarding Idealism, just as the story of Jesus can be treated as an inspiring story, so can this.  It reminds me of Iain M Banks again, in fact.  Look at the book as Ancient Greek science fiction.  There will be persecution and struggle, but in the end evil will be totally defeated forever.  Preterism is also compatible with atheist metaphysical naturalism - the book is an encoded account of the history of the church from its foundation to the end of the first century.  Historicism and Futurism, however, are dicier as both involve prophecy, and are therefore very probably not compatible with metaphysical naturalism, and at face value, whatever that is, even with atheism or agnosticism.  It is of course fuel for outlandish interpretations and in fact this is probably its greatest difficulty - resisting the temptation to read your own prejudices into it.

Anyway, tomorrow should bring another Big Science video.  At some point soon, i want to do a video on the Yates-Leason Effect, which is of course made up but i maintain is a solution to the problem of temporal paradoxes, and another on pocket universes and their relationship to the metaphysics of space-time.

Anyway, that's it for now.

Friday, 19 April 2013

I'm In A Different World

Today's video:

Click to tweet: http://clicktotweet.com/_edj1  .  This is another in my series on aliens, quite closely linked to the one on silicon-based life in fact.

Assuming life to be based on chemical reactions, which is not inevitable, it's sometimes claimed that water is unnecessary.  Water is so familiar to us that we tend to assume it's a normal substance.  In fact, although it's very common and one of the most widespread chemicals in the Universe, it is in a sense very exotic and weird, so the fact that we need it to live might be connected to its weirdness.

First of all, let's consider water.  It has a very high melting and boiling point compared to other compounds with the same molecular weight, expands as it freezes, has very strong surface tension, is a good solvent and is amphoteric - both acidic and basic.  The consequences for life are that there is less risk of bodies of water freezing solid from the bottom up - they're more likely to freeze over and this will also insulate the water underneath - membranes form more easily within them leading in the case of Earth to the appearance of cells with controllable internal environments, many substances and reactions can take place in solution and the temperature means the reactions will take place relatively fast compared to substances which are gaseous at the temperature at which life here is possible.

However, ammonia is a viable alternative.  Ammonia is also polar, a good solvent, in some ways better than water in fact, and can accept or donate hydrogen like water.  There are many organic groups which would function similarly in ammonia to other groups in water.  Two of the drawbacks of ammonia, however, are that it has low surface tension and contracts when it freezes, like most other liquids.  Therefore, on a moon or planet with liquid ammonia and an atmosphere about as dense as ours, the chances are that the ammonia would freeze solid permanently.  However, if the world either had a much denser and therefore more thermally conductive atmosphere or a low axial tilt, temperatures could be stable enough for the ammonia to stay liquid.  Higher atmospheric pressure would also give ammonia a much higher boiling point, higher in fact than the boiling point of water at sea level on this planet.  The low surface tension may mean that membranes are unlikely to form, so it might be that life on an ammonia world would have to work without a protected internal environment, or that isolation would have to come about by other means.  There are no planets or moons with liquid ammonia in our solar system.  If there were, they would be orbiting at about the distance of Mars or inside the asteroid belt, which might explain their absence.  The fact that ammonia could still be liquid at a higher temperature under pressure means that chemical reactions could also be as fast as they are in life here.

An interesting third option, not often explored, is sulfuric acid (or sulphuric acid).  There are at least three bodies in our solar system where sulphur compounds are important:  Venus, Mars and Io.  Volcanic springs on Earth are also sometimes high in sulphuric acid.  Sulphuric acid is less likely to suffer from the "freezing solid" problem due to the fact that its melting and boiling points are so far apart that a world with sulphuric acid oceans would be much more likely never to have frozen sulphuric acid on its surface.  Even high mountains are unlikely to be "snow" capped since the strongly erosive acid rain would quickly level them.  Under pressure, the boiling point of sulphuric acid is extremely high, so a high-pressure planet with the liquid form on its surface could orbit considerably closer to the Sun than Earth, and in fact even inside the orbit of Venus.  It's also clearly a very good solvent.

To an alien living on an ammonia planet, Earth looks extremely hostile.  It has oceans of boiling acid and an atmosphere high in the corrosive gas oxygen, capable of reactions so violent that organic matter can heat up to over 1000 degrees Celsius and be completely destroyed.  To one from a sulphuric acid world, Earth looks a little less hostile but still quite inhospitable, since it would be cold and covered in alkaline seas - rather like an outside toilet in a way.

Presumably this means that to us, an ammonia planet would also seem like an extreme version of an outside khazi too.  Anyway...

I'd really like to get away from the slideshow format but don't know how exactly.  Clearly the mpreg vlog is very different but is still visually appealing, so something along the lines of actually using scenery or myself, or perhaps practical demonstrations, would work well too.

In this case there's quite a lot in the doobly-do which is missing from the video because i did it unscripted.  One of these bits of information is the highly specific nature of ammonia worlds.  They would have to have dense atmospheres and/or low axial tilt to avoid runaway snowball effects.  I was also surprised how narrow the habitable zones were, not to mention how hard it was to work out where their borders were.  The same applies to sulphuric acid worlds, which as it happens feel like the opposite end of a range with Earth in the middle.  Here's what seems to be roughly the water-based ecosphere:

 This assumes pressure roughly equivalent to sea level on this planet and is about some part of the solid surface of the body involved.  Superimposing ammonia on it gets you this:

This is somewhat unfair as the inner edge of the ecosphere for ammonia assumes the critical temperature of the compound.  It also extends into the inner part of the asteroid belt, which is probably one reason there are no ammonia planets in this solar system.  By contrast, the one for sulphuric acid looks like this:

This is actually well inside the orbit of Venus.  In a sense, Venus is a sulphuric acid planet, or would be were it not for the runaway greenhouse effect.

To me, these diagrams reveal the possibility of marginal environments of this nature such as sulphuric acid planets at about the level of insolation this planet has, which would probably be snowball planets covered in, of all things, frozen sulphuric acid, another type of planet absent from this solar system.  The inner ring might include planets with acid lakes at the poles, but not mountainous glaciers due to their low topography.  There is also a Venus-like ammonia planet possibility where there are droplets of ammonia in the upper atmosphere but none at the surface.

I must admit to being rather surprised about the sulphuric acid possibilities as to me it seems quite likely that they could be quite common.  Orion's Arm argue that they require a combination of several unlikely circumstances.  They need to start off high in both water and surface sulphur, then photolysis needs to split the water, creating an early atmosphere high in oxygen.  The sulphur would then oxidise and dissolve in the water, forming sulphuric acid itself.  Interestingly, sulphuric acid worlds, referred to on Orion's Arm as "Vitriolic", benefit from the wide temperature range under which concentrated sulphuric acid is liquid and are unlikely to experience ice ages, partly because of the lack of mountain ranges and partly due to the fact that the greater density of the substance never comes into play except at the outer edge of the range.  Even thinking about them brings stinging tears to my eyes.

Meanwhile on the pregnancy vlog, i think my plans for next week are going to have to exclude leaving the house.  I've been quite physically harsh on myself and it hampers the development.  I'm also still a bit out of it when i do it, probably an inevitable physical effect of the process, so probably intense scripting and rehearsal would be a good idea.  Massage also looks like it'll help.  I've also relocated the old "equipment", so now i have two!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

It's A Sin

For once, i want to explain the title.  I was just thinking along the lines of "it's been two days since my last blog post", which made me think of the Roman Catholic version of confession, so here we are.

So the last three days then.  First of all, this:

Click to tweet:  http://clicktotweet.com/dbUhf . It's hard not to be trite about death, which is one reason this is delayed.  Obviously my thoughts are with everyone involved right now, as are my prayers.  The Boston Marathon was bombed last night and three people died, at the last count.  There were two explosions and possibly also a fire, though that may not have been connected.

People reacted by trying to fit it into our world views in various ways, for instance as a form of terrorism, part of a conspiracy or by blaming particular groups, and it was also observed that events with similar death tolls occur all the time in the Middle East, often in connection with NATO activity.  All of these things need attention, to be sure, but the fact that other equally serious events are not given the attention they deserve shouldn't be allowed to detract from the seriousness of what has happened in Boston.  When someone dies, their whole world dies with them, and that world is infinite.  Therefore, when one person dies, someone of infinite value is lost.  Two people of infinite value are still infinite, and other people of infinite value dying elsewhere don't subtract from that loss either.  In fact, the idea that a death toll being high makes something worse is true in a sense because of the suffering of those left behind, but if taken too far, this is similar to the kind of quantitative approach taken by those who would commit violence themselves - the more people dead the better.  This is one of many flaws in utilitarianism as commonly understood.

This can also be applied to the death of Margaret Thatcher.  As i've said before, that death has been personalised by both left and right, but in politics individuals are not significant because the forces of history, as it were, act through them.  Nevertheless people are important for their own sake as such.

Martin Heidegger expressed this in his existentialist philosophy of Sein vs. Seiende.  He believed that Western Philosophy mistook the question of being for the question of beings within existence, and this is rather similar.

I was rather uncomfortable about this video because it seems like i'm cashing in, but the fact is that i care and it was occupying my mind, so i vlogged about it.  I also uploaded a male pregnancy vlog:

There should by rights be a corresponding vlog for the Other Channel with this one but to be honest it was a bizarre unboxing and not very visually impressive, so i'm not going to bother with it, although i may put together the endless "What would really happen?" idea for it soon because it's relatively easy.  Incidentally, it turned out that the massage made things a whole lot more comfortable, which is going to make my plans for the pregnancy vlog quite a bit easier.  My abdomen seems to grow during this video, which is rather odd.

Then there's yesterday's:
Click to tweet:  http://clicktotweet.com/r3L5c . I see myself as "self-underemployed".  That is, there are psychological factors which keep me poor.  What those are is another question.  I think this is relevant to Thatcher's funeral because of the sense of self-reliance her rhetoric sought to sell.

Although i have applied for literally thousands of jobs in my life, i have had a handful of interviews.  This is in spite of professional HR people looking at my application process and being unable to see what i'm doing wrong.  Therefore i have had little choice but to pursue self-employment.  The difference between the two is that getting a job with an employer involves selling yourself once or a few times to an expert, and self-employment involves selling yourself many times to amateurs.  This ignores the important fact that people are expected to evaluate their work and re-apply for jobs, or pursue a career involving promotion, but it is similar to the real situation.

The question of false consciousness also arises.  Marxists claim that false consciousness exists where a member of a class is misled by capitalism into what is in their interests.  I find this idea patronising because i see it as saying that a self-appointed "expert" will have a better idea about someone's life than the person actually living it.  However, there is a similar right wing concept found in the ideas of idleness and an exaggerated sense of entitlement keeping people unemployed, which is similarly imposed by people who don't always have similar experiences to the people concerned.

The changes in welfare policy inevitably will lead to an increase in suicides and deaths from other causes among the poor, and I may choose to kill myself if it proves impossible to live a virtuous life under the new system.  This could be seen as a manifestation of depression, but there can be honour in suicide.  Moving on from that grim view, it can also be a mistake to medicalise one's experience in such terms as depression, as this can be an abrogation of responsibility.

This didn't really go in the desired direction.  I hoped for a more involved and perhaps productive analysis of our situation.  The thing is, i'm trying to nail something which i think has features in common with mental illness but isn't one exactly, and to distinguish between internalised self-repression and other things.  This video really should've mentioned FGM but didn't, for example.  I was also concerned about annoying people.  However, i stand by the idea that there can be honour in suicide, although there would probably be none in mine (see the ebook stories, for instance, if you happen to be of that contingent).  There would of course be no honour if i did myself in anyway, because of Sarada, Sleepoversweet and Theintrostealer.

Incidentally, after yesterday's events i'll be needing to edit this and in fact you might even see the edited version by the time you read this as it needs attention - i'm going to have to read up on Michael Foot and Ted Heath first though.

Finally, there's this, which is today's and not the one i originally planned:

Click to tweet:  http://clicktotweet.com/45Dbd . I'm a healthcare professional who helps people with appeals against what used to be called DLA (Disability Living Allowance), now known as PIP or Personal Independence Payment.  Although my professional body advises that i be paid for the assessments i do, i don't accept payment for them as this would in my view introduce a suspicion of bias.  Clearly there will in any case be a bias towards the patient due to the very nature of medical ethics.  However, on the other side, ATOS assessments are paid for by the government via ATOS itself, which automatically biasses them against the client.  Moreover, those who work for ATOS do not use their own professional ethics but are governed by guidelines imposed by ATOS or the government.  As a result, their assessment is not firmly based on meaningful evidence in a medical sense.

A second problem is the length of time spent assessing a client.  I generally spend forty-five minutes to an hour and a half per patient doing an assessment.  During this period, i often find that disabilities become manifest which would not have been clear over a shorter interval, for instance due to fatigue.  In any case, doing a proper job takes at least three quarters of an hour of interviewing, medical history-taking and examination.  There are also conditions which may not be apparent on only one occasion.  This is reflected, for instance, in the method used to diagnose hypertension which involves three separate measurements of blood pressure. This means that each client would need to spend up to about four and a half hours in an interview with staff assessing them for their disabilities to be evaluated accurately.

It has been suggested, perhaps accurately, that a medical model of disability is not appropriate.  Whereas this may be so, because society is indeed disabling in my opinion, the cost of the measures taken would be much higher than the cost of providing Personal Independence Payment.  There may be an issue of depression preventing a person from finding work, but this is again a medical problem and needs to be dealt with in that way.  Medical ethics also require the patient and her needs to be at the centre of the practitioner's attention, which is in any case the appropriate approach for anyone, not just a medic, to take.

There is a clear solution to this problem which accords with the espoused political philosophy of the Conservative Party, namely the Big Society:  assessments for disability should be undertaken by unpaid volunteers, who do not receive renumeration even for expenses.  This would reduce the inevitable bias resulting from payment from any source and is the socially responsible thing to do.

As it happens, i think PIP and ATOS are evidence of a discrepancy between the stated aims of the Conservative Party and what they're actually doing, because it would absolutely be in accordance with the idea of the Big Society and right wing communitarianism for there to be an assessment body staffed by volunteer professionals.  What's actually going on there?

Monday, 15 April 2013

Learning To Fly

First of all, yesterday's:
Click to tweet:  http://clicktotweet.com/oc3X_ .  Stoicism is often seen as the philosophical ancestor of Christianity and the philosophical descendant of Cynicism.  I have some sympathy with this view but don't see it as invalidating Christianity.

Stoicism was the result of the successors of the Cynics deciding to write down their views, and is more long-winded and apparently more intellectually sophisticated than its predecessor.  It's pantheist, materialist and fatalist, but nonetheless has quite a lot in common with Christianity such as the Logos, Spirit (pneuma) and the imagery of fire as the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.  New Testament references to Philosophy are in fact more or less to Stoicism, and Paul quotes a Stoic philosopher.  Cosmopolitanism and the Serenity Prayer ("God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.") are also both entirely within the spirit of both approaches to life.  The Bible also appears to say the world will be destroyed by fire, a belief also held by Stoics although they believed time was cyclical rather than linear.

This is not supposed to be a summary of Stoicism, but the basic ideas behind it are as follows:  the Universe is a living, rational creature - God - which acts to the good.  Hence the good is in a sense physiology rather than pathology, or perhaps homoeostasis.  The active principle is the Logos, or reason, working on passive matter.  The good life, eudamonia, is achieved by living in harmony with one's nature, through the control of the passions and detachment, enabling one to achieve virtue.  Evil is only apparent, being in fact either mixed blessings or an illusion caused by failure to see the big picture.  This is similar to the situation in Christianity when a prayer seems to be unanswered or we understand a particular experience as one of the trials of life.  Philosophy is the art of living that life.  Unhappiness is the result of being carried away by passion.

Further common ground exists in the form of inner freedom, kinship with God and the futility of earthly treasures.

One of the things which appeals to me about Stoicism is its surprisingly modern physics and cosmology.  If fire is interpreted as lightning, electromagnetism becomes the dominant force, or God.  The cyclical nature of history is also compatible with the now discredited oscillating Universe.  I have set my thoughts down on this on the Halfbakery, here:  http://www.halfbakery.com/idea/Flying_20Electric_20Spaghetti_20Monster .  That will, incidentally, probably be the subject of another video at some point.

Whereas many people are keen on Stoicism today, they tend to adopt the ethics without the physics, and i'm not sure that works.  The physics of Stoicism, or some similar physics and cosmology, are required for its psychology to be valid.  One essential idea to Stoic ethics is that the mind is always in control and need never be overcome by passion.  I disagree that this is so, because of mental illness for example, and in fact that it's even desirable, because, bad though it may be, passion is an essential part of humanity.

Even so, a few years ago i did adopt Stoicism as a philosophy during a time of spiritual crisis and found it useful.  I felt that i could continue as long as necessary but that i would always be missing out.

Finally, like the cults of Cybele, Mithras and other mystery religions, Stoicism probably was a major contributor to early Christianity, but i see that as God moving the human race towards the Way rather than a reductivist historical "explaining-away" of my faith.

This is a follow-up to the one on Cynicism, and since it was Sunday i decided to cover a religious theme.

Today's video:

Click to tweet:  http://clicktotweet.com/6FABb .  Air is a mixture of gases.  It is mainly nitrogen, 21% oxygen, almost 1% argon and the rest is composed of carbon dioxide, water vapour, krypton, xenon and neon.  There are also variable amounts of helium and radon in it due to radioactive decay.

The amount of oxygen present in the atmosphere can be roughly estimated as follows:  take 100 ml of oxygen in a gas syringe at room temperature, pass it through heated granules of copper, collect the resultant gas in another gas syringe and cool it to room temperature.  The accuracy of the measurement is impaired by the presence of air in the tube containing copper, but taking that into consideration the volume of the gas at room temperature should be about 20% lower, because all the oxygen will have combined with the copper, forming copper oxide.

Nitrogen can be used to prevent combustion, manufacture explosives and fertiliser and in food packaging for preservation.  It could in theory also be used as a relatively humane form of capital punishment.  It is also useful as liquid nitrogen for freezing things and is used to make pork scratchings.  Oxygen is not useful for this purpose as it causes combustible materials to explode on contact.

The Miller-Urey experiment i've mentioned elsewhere, but was basically to do with the origin of life.

Air can be separated into its components by fractional distillation like fossil fuels.

This is of course a ridiculously long video, but then the Big Science ones usually are.  It's not as long as this one:

but then that one was before i bothered paying attention to any of the "rules".  I also think it's probably slightly more bearable to sit through ten minutes of me blethering on about the atmosphere than an hour in a lesson on the same subject.  However, i also imagine they'd be doing actual experiments rather than just having teech hold up bits of paper with test tubes drawn on them, so maybe not.  It would've been really nice to have been able to do the copper experiment but there is the problem of lack of time.  I might in fact have been able to rig something up with a couple of syringes, though the only syringes i've had are normal liquid syringes and made of plastic.  I suppose this is one of the problems with home ed, but it's also a solution because that's how home ed is too.  So there is an answer out there somewhere.  For instance, it would've been possible to do this with a couple of jam jars and some tubing, some ground up copper wires and a mini-blowtorch or something.  The problem is really pressure of time.

I had the rather strange pleasure of buying a new foot pump this morning.  Obviously i didn't tell the bloke what it was for.  The old one seems to have disappeared, i think because of something Liz has done.  The pregnancy vlog is now tomorrow because of a surveyor coming on (7B92) - another nail in our coffin of course.  Having said that, today proved to be quite financially productive in my terms as i successfully held a Big Science session and sold some herbs.

There is of course a weird connection between the second video on this blog entry and the Other Channel, but then i'm sort of merging them in the pregnancy vlog anyway.

Friday, 12 April 2013


Two videos today, one of which will not see the light of day on here but was left over from yestern.  I'm tempted to post diagrams from it but i won't.  Here's the other one:

Click to tweet:  http://clicktotweet.com/ocTg1 . Suppose i said i was a chess grandmaster and on being asked why, i replied that i owned the most beautiful chess set in the world but it turned out i wasn't actually very good at chess.  That's the kind of thing that's happening now with Margaret Thatcher.  There are plenty of people who could've been Margaret Thatcher, such as Rhodes Boyson and Keith Joseph.  In the same way, i could replace the Queen on that chessboard with a Go piece, but it wouldn't mean i was playing Go - i would still be playing chess.

Politics is not about personality unless it's nothing more than show business, and whereas it has a showbiz feel about it, this is not healthy.  Politics is really about issues.  Therefore, Margaret Thatcher is completely irrelevant.

I'm Christian and probably post-scarcity anarchist.  Had i been born in South India, i would probably have been Hindu and maybe supported the Indian National Congress.  I would still, in a sense, have been the same person.  Just because someone happens to be in the so-called "nasty" party doesn't make them nasty.  It's possible to do good in a multinational, a government department or an anarchist collective, and up to a point, politics and religious belief, and a host of other things, have no bearing on whether one is a nice person.  The "nice" party sent people off to die in a possibly illegal foreign war, did behind the scenes deals with multinationals and stuck the boot in to us home edders.  So why exactly are they not the "nasty" party?  It seems to me they're the party which conned people into believing they were socialist until they got elected and it emerged that they didn't believe in anything at all but just wanted power for the sake of it.

The current attitude to Thatcher strikes me as puerile and reminds me of playground gangs.  It doesn't matter whether you love her or hate her, because she was a mere individual human being, and as such she is, like all of us, politically irrelevant.

I know this is relentless empty pounding, hence the title.  Since this is obviously getting repetitive, tomorrow's video will probably be on the Drake Equation.  It's long struck me as odd that this:

is dignified by such a name because it's so simple and is basically a verbal argument in algebraic form, which in a way would've been a lot better if it had stayed in that form.  I can mention the Rare Earth Hypothesis and the Fermi Paradox, though they may need their own videos.

In the meantime, and appropriately since i found that CEx had reduced the price of 'The Matrix' to ten bob and bought it as a result, i think i may have gone rather seriously down the rabbit hole but i should probably wait until autumn to talk about that.

I also need to get back to herbs at some point.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

I Married The Monster From Outer Space

Yesterday's video:

Click to tweet:  http://clicktotweet.com/ct7C8 .  If you express your hate for Margaret Thatcher now that she's died, it means she's won.  Left wing ideology basically requires one to understand that individuals are of no significance politically.  The well-being and feelings that we have for people are important, but they have little to do with radical politics.  According to Marx, economic determinism holds sway - we are to disregard whether people are nasty or nice because their role in capitalism decides who they are.  As a result, a cult of personality, such as the one around Stalin, is entirely inappropriate for communism, or even for a Rawlsian theory of justice based view of society, because there are no "Great Men", only people through whom social forces act.  Therefore, if you engage in passionate hatred for Margaret Thatcher now that she's died, that's entirely appropriate for a right wing perspective where there is no such thing as society, only individuals and their families.  So in a way, indulging that emotion sort of means she's won.

was a Webcam Wednesday video, meaning i hadn't got time to do very much.  However, since That Woman is very much in my mind at the moment, i really had little option but to do this.  I also think it could get tired though, so i'm kind of flogging a dead horse here.  Even so, wherever i have gone politically, i still see individuals as irrelevant to politics.  People are in particular places at particular times and as a result they become the mouthpiece or the hands of the Zeitgeist.  Irgend jemand koennte dasselb sein.  Eigentlich kann ich das ganze Blog auf deutsch schreiben und es macht nichts, weil Keiner es liest.

Heute habe ich auch ein paar (eigentlich ein Paar) der Videos gemacht.  Das erste ist hier:

Click to tweet:  http://clicktotweet.com/Q93SP . It might seem at first that we'd be completely in the dark about what aliens would be like because they're, well, alien - completely unrelated to any life from this planet, in all probability.  However, i think this is not so, although it may be necessary to restrict what we mean by alien.  Firstly, i'm going to assume that aliens are organic life forms composed of cells.  I have reason to believe that although all life may not be like that, some will.  Experiments have shown that if a Miller-Urey style situation continues for long enough, cell-like globules begin to form which have a membrane separating the internal from the external environment, divide like living cells and even form chains like Streptococcus, Saccharomyces and Spirogyra.  However, my mind is certainly open to the idea that not even all organic life forms are necessarily cellular.

One of the clues to the appearance of alien life is the Mandelbrot set.  This is a fractal containing various life-like forms, including trees, leaves and shells.  There is, for example, an area called Seahorse Valley where vaguely seahorse- or shell-like forms can be found.  On Mars, near the south pole, there are also tree-like forms which look uncannily like living things, and in fact some people even claim that that's what they are.  Even if not, it still seems likely that there could, for a start, be tree-like organisms on other planets.  Similar forms, repeated throughout the animal, plant and other kingdoms, are often found, such as flowers, worms, segmentation and, famously, the bivalve-like brachiopods.  It doesn't seem to stretch credulity very far to suppose that similar life forms live elsewhere in the Universe.  Simple shapes seem another good bet, such as spheres, icosahedra, cylinders and perhaps dodecahedra.  Streamlining also dictates the shape of animals which fly or swim under their own power such as birds, fish and insects.

Another structure which is very common and has evolved independently more than once in the animal kingdom is the hard exoskeleton, as found in arthropods.  Within the arthropods, similar forms often turn up more than once, as with lobsters and scorpions, spiders, sea spiders, spider crabs and crane flies, woodlice, other isopods and trilobites (and chitons outside the arthropods) and centipedes along with millipedes and the non-arthropod onychophora.  If a form is particularly successful, as with the insects, it would seem to increase the likelihood that a similar animal might exist elsewhere since once it has evolved it will cling on to life particularly well.

However, one form which seems unlikely to me is the vertebrate, such as human beings.  They are unusual in being the only mobile animals with hard endoskeletons, the other ones being sponges.  Hard endoskeletons usually have the function of anchoring an organism in place and preventing it from moving, so it seems an unlikely thing for an animal which does move to have.  Having said that, limb-like locomotory structures have appeared independently several times, as with arthropods, vertebrates and cephalopods.  A much clearer example of this is the similar eyes of the molluscs and vertebrates.

It's also possible that the plant-animal distinction may not exist or be reversed, so the mobile organisms are the ones which use light directly to make food and the ones growing out of the planet would be the animals.  This might happen on a planet which rotates slowly for instance.  Jellyfish or balloon-like organisms are other possible solutions to flight than what happens on Earth.

The truth is probably that the relatively simple organisms such as bivalves, sea anemones, roundworms and spherical organisms will probably turn up again and again throughout the Universe, but more complex forms of life such as vertebrates, cephalopods and insects will turn out to be one-offs or very rare in their specifics, although complex organisms of all kinds are probably very widespread.  However, convergent evolution may mean they could exist.

This is an attempt to follow up on the silicon-based life form video, though with hindsight something on the Drake Equation or Fermi Paradox would've been better. It was about time i tried another aliens video though, because the silicon one did quite well.

The other one was of course on the other channel (i.e. the pregnancy vlog channel, not the Other Channel):

The careful viewer will gather that they were made consecutively because in the upper video i have a rather thick waist, eight centimetres greater in girth than usual in fact.  Here's the dooblydo:

Click to tweet: http://clicktotweet.com/L5JI2 . Two points to today's vlog really. The first is that although some people have suggested i'm not pregnant, others have suggested i'm not a man. The second is to let you all hear the baby's heartbeat.

Firstly, i am definitely male and always have been. My hips are narrow, i have the male digit ratio - ring fingers longer than forefingers - and i can't hyper-extend my arms. I also have an adam's apple. It's been suggested that i am a female-to-male transsexual who conceived a child before the operation, as this has in fact happened once before, so in a sense there has been a pregnant man before. However, this is not what's happened to me. Nothing can induce a pelvis to get narrower so far as i know, for example.

Other requests have been to show my morning sickness and the baby moving. I don't want to do the former because it's gross and there's nothing i feel less like doing when i've got my head in the toilet bowl than making a video of it. Also, think about the logistics of doing that. As far as the baby moving is concerned, yes, i would definitely like to do that. It will have to be a spur of the moment thing though. Babies tend to move before they're born when their parents (strange wording) are still, because the rocking motion of walking and the like tends to lull them to sleep. Unfortunately this also makes it a little difficult to film because it tends to happen at night, and also unfortunately it means that once the baby's born, it tends to wake up more at night than during the day.

Regarding ultrasound, of course most of human history occurred before it was invented, but on the other hand most pregnancies were not inside men's bodies, so i can see the argument for keeping a close eye. However, there is a risk from ultrasound due to cavitation, which is the creation of minute superheated bubbles inside the fetus cells, and since a female fetus contains the egg cells of the next generation i'd rather not take the risk, in case my baby's a girl. We took the same attitude towards our first two children. Medics do in fact warn against the excess use of home Doppler fetal heart monitors for similar reasons - the ultrasound can be risky if not used responsibly. Having said that, i did try to get a recording of the baby's heartbeat at the end of this video. Let me know what you think - was it audible or not? Of course, i could easily have faked this bit with a recording.

There is a bit of an audio sync problem at the end which i'm not happy with, but it might go unnoticed.  There's a third video in the offing for the Other Channel, with diagrams and everything, but it'll have to wait.

Tomorrow might bring something on monopolies of compassion, i'm not sure.