Tag Archives: sciencey-stuff

Polar Snap and UK weather

Climate Change droughtWe always hear a lot about weather in the US, and right now, it’s cold.

Prolonged cold, prolonged rain or wind, are all more dramatic than the dangers of drought.

Prolonged dry spells, as recently seen in parts of Europe, can cause the ground to sink by so much that cracks appear in the earth, tearing apart the foundations of houses, bridges, factories and other structures. In the worst case, whole buildings can collapse. Climate change will magnify these risks as factors such as rising average temperatures and more erratic rainfall continue to alter soil conditions.

And extreme cold of course means that people who know nothing about science but like bloviating about weather are claiming that unusually cold weather means climate change isn’t happening.

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For Science!

I was on the train last night from Helensburgh to Waverley. By the time I got on, the train was more or less empty: I picked the nearest empty group of seats so that I could take the giant Eskimo coat of warmth off and was about to settle down to reading Darwin’s Watch and texting Kreetch, when I noticed something weird on the window for the seats opposite.

Chocolates on window

Chocolates window on train Taking a closer look, I realised that they didn’t just look like chocolates stuck to the window, they were chocolates that had been stuck on the window. Someone had taken five little moulded chocolates and fixed them on the window glass.

Weird.
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Filed under Children, Chocolate, Education, Public Transport

Monday of destruction

I am a fan of disaster movies. There’s nothing I like better than huge, improbable explosions, and roads crumpling up behind a moving car, giant waves pictured rolling in through canyons of steel, giant alien spaceships – or the sun – burning up cities – in fact all the best in CGI’d total destruction.

Obviously, this is for the movies. Real life is usually not nearly as dramatic as CGI. (Though I could watch this video created of the explosive breach of Condit Dam forever.)
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Filed under Feng Shui Kitten Fixes Stuff, Other stuff on the Internet I like, Travel

The Monkeysphere and Marriage

The Monkeysphere for humans is about 150 individuals: the number of people you think of as being in your social group.

I think it only fair to say that the phrase the Monkeysphere came from Cracked.com, though it’s based on serious scientific research done at the University of Liverpool:

Humans are primates, too – so do they fit into the pattern established for monkeys and apes? This is the key question which Robin Dunbar sought to answer by using the same equations to predict human social group and clique size from neocortex volume. The results were… ~150 for social group size, and ~12 for the more intimate clique size. He subsequently discovered that modern humans operate on a hierarchy of group sizes. (Research Intelligence)

The number of people in Scotland who are willing to tell any researcher with a clipboard that their sexual orientation is lesbian, gay, or bisexual, has been calculated to be 47,923. Continue reading

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Filed under Feng Shui Kitten Fixes Stuff, Fruit, Justice, LGBT Equality, Scottish Politics

When is an abortion not an abortion?

Twenty years ago the Irish government, in the person of Attorney General Harry Whelehan, sought to take custody of a child made pregnant by rape, because she needed to have an abortion and the Irish government thought it entitled to prevent that: their intention was to force the child to have the rapist’s baby.

This became the “X” case, and on appeal, the Supreme Court of Ireland ruled that the Irish government did not have the right to force a woman through pregnancy/childbirth at the risk of her life – and that risk to her life included her suicide. (Note: edited substantially. I’d misremembered the chronology quite seriously. My apologies.)

Nothing has been done in the twenty years since: the Irish government claims there are no lawful abortions in Ireland, prolifers claim this proves abortion is never medically necessary, and women silently vote with their feet.

The ECHR has ruled:

  • first, anyone may leave their prolife country to have an abortion if they wish and the prolife government is not allowed to prevent them; and,
  • second, that the Irish government must take steps to be sure that a pregnant girl or woman whose life is in danger can have an abortion in Ireland.

The first part the Irish government couldn’t stop, but the second – this the Irish government still refuse to do. Action on X is a campaigning group trying to bring about a change in the law in Ireland. Cardinal Sean Brady, who cares so much for children, is against it.

(There is an agreement that Northern Ireland, while part of the UK, will not pass legislation that would put it significantly out of step with the Republic of Ireland. As I understand it, it’s this agreement that makes it improbable that Northern Ireland will make abortion legal so that women living in NI can have abortions where they live, on the NHS, as they would if they lived in any other part of the UK. Put simply, if abortion was legal in Northern Ireland, women in the Republic of Ireland who needed an abortion would head north to the Six Counties, much cheaper and much less inconvenient for them than going over to London or Liverpool – but also very openly, Northern Ireland would be doing for the women of all Ireland what the Irish Republic will not do for their own citizens – though many think they should.)

how not to be a ‘legitimate’ rape victim:

When I was in eighth grade, a classmate – let’s call her Anna — said that she’d been raped. She told me during lunch at our desks, tipping her chair until it seemed she might fall over. It happened on a rocky lakeshore. The man came off a boat that was anchored nearby and she could hear voices yelling to him in the darkness. She was freezing. When it was over, he threw her jeans in the water and said, “I hope you get pregnant.”

Abortion has been legal in Ireland only on the most tightly-defined grounds, but where it is legal, it is obtainable. Only when an Irish hospital can be absolutely certain that the woman will not survive unless the abortion is performed and the fetus will never be viable.
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Journalism and science

One of the problems journalists have with scientists is that scientists are very bad at providing good illustrative quotes for the story the journalist’s employer wants to sell. One of the problems scientists have with journalists is that instead of reporting accurately on the exciting results of years of research, journalists want to tell a human interest story.

If you listen to the very end of the webcast from CERN the morning they announced they had found a Higgs boson, you hear journalists who need a nice short quote to illustrate their story, questioning scientists who are happily conscious that, just for once, they don’t have to cooperate: they’re not dependent on the journalists reporting this piece of research to get publicity.

This morning, the Guardian reported on research from Finland suggesting that:

Multiple abortions ‘increase chance of premature or underweight births
Finnish research suggests slightly increased risk of problems for women who have had three or more terminations

You know, of course, the kind of use the prolife movement will make of this sort of reportage. They are still trying to claim a link between breast cancer and abortion despite years of research showing there isn’t one. SPUC has an entire presentation for schools consisting of pseudo-scientific lies about how abortion is bad for your health. Continue reading

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Filed under Healthcare, In The Media, Women

Where’s Mum?

The Turing Festival is being held in Edinburgh, 23rd-25th August, to celebrate the centenary year of Alan Turing, “father of modern computing”:

Turing is a non profit festival that brings together the digital technology and the web into the world’s largest arts and creative gathering in a celebration of digital culture and creativity. Named in honour of Alan Turing, father of modern computing, the festival moves beyond traditional tech conferences to explore the ways in which technology is affecting all aspects of culture and society.

The keynote speaker is Steve Wozniak. Okay, cool.

On Friday 24th August, at Our Dynamic Earth, the Interactive Scotland@Turing “Connected World” Day Conference will be held, which:

aims to capture the hearts and minds of developers, business leaders and digital technology champions from across Europe. Run as part of the internationally renowned Edinburgh Festival, InteractiveScotland@Turing is the main digital conference of the Turing Festival.

This year’s conference theme is “Our Connected World” where you will hear from a line-up of international speakers who will address the opportunities and key issues facing businesses across a range of areas including the future of platforms, data analytics, the social graph and the emergence of developer tools.

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