It's the Population, Stupid.

There’s quite a bit on the news about a hose pipe ban in the East of England and I cannot help but note how the elephant in the room is being ignored (or, read The Departure).

Over just the last 20 years I’ve seen our local town of Maldon expand hugely, acquiring a suburban belt half a mile thick with its superstores, roads and other facilities. This is just one example of what has been happening across large swathes of this country yet, I don’t recollect hearing much about reservoirs being dug (though we do get nimby-ism resulting in this).  

We must also remember how people’s habits have changed since the middle of the last century when the weekly bath, shared by the family, was common. How many showers are pouring every day now, how many washing machines and dish washers churning, how many flush toilets operating? Consider how much water one person now uses each day, which can range from 50 to 150 litres, and multiply that by millions. And consider that the population of London alone is getting on for 8 million.
Another question to ask is where does the rain we do get go? With so much ground now covered with concrete and tarmac it runs off, into drains then into rivers and out to sea. This is also the cause of many of the floods the media have been getting hysterical about in recent years. You may see some old town or village getting submerged, but don’t just blame the weather, blame the housing estates and cities upstream preventing water soaking away and thus passing the buck downstream. Put a waterproof layer over the land and water runs off quickly and, surprise surprise, the land dries up.    
Yes, we have had a couple of dry winters, but they are not the main problem. The problem is infrastructure failing to keep up; infrastructure right at the limit where it fails under just a little extra strain. And of course, it’s the population, stupid.  

Science Fiction Singularity

I had gone off Horizon programs because of how dumbed down they’ve been, how so often they were lacking in content – what content they had often being spread over an hour when, if you cut out all the pointless camera shots, they might have filled twenty minutes – and by the frequent righteous environmental preaching. However, I did record one called ‘Playing God’ (a title that put me off straight away), and enjoyed it immensely.   

This was about synthetic biology – essentially genetic modification – and how far advanced it is now. In the program we see the spider goat – a goat that produces a useful spider silk in its milk – and a pre-production plant for making diesel from GM yeast as simply as alcohol is made from the normal kind. The advances are coming at an ever increasing pace what with people being able to do this stuff in home labs. They can buy ‘bricks’ which are chunks of DNA that express certain characteristics, over the Internet, and mix and match them. For example, a bunch of enthusiasts pasted a jellyfish gene into e-coli to make luminescent bacteria – this in the kind of lab any of us could put together in a garden shed.

This is massive; this is a game changer. As the presenter noted this is like Bill Gates putting together a computer in his garage.

Of course the presenter had to whiffle on about the ethics of it all and whether it should be done. All the objections were based on either the Abrahamic religions or the ones springing from the Church of Environmentalism, and of course the terror of change they like to stir up. However, it is far too late to put this one back in the box.

It has been said (well by me at least) that nothing dates faster than science fiction, and this program brought it home to me. In science fiction there’s a lot of talk about various kinds of singularity. It’s usually related to the creation of AI and is seen as an ‘intellectual event horizon, beyond which the future becomes difficult to understand or predict’. It occurs to me that science fiction itself is facing its own singularity of exactly the same kind. We’ve reached the stage now where between writing a book and it being published, part or all of the content of that book can go out of date. Of course with e-books the gap between writing and publishing can be closed but, in maybe just a little time, we’ll reach the point where even as we speculate or extrapolate we will be going out of date, then the point when we’ll simply be well behind the curve.

There has been (for a very long time) much talk about ‘the death of science fiction’.  Maybe that will occur when the need for sensawunda, which we all look for in SF, is supplied by the news every day, or even in our day-to-day lives. If that happens I’m not sure I’ll be particularly upset about it.   

Stem Cell Success

Hitting the sack last night to read for a while I did not get to see the 10.00 o’clock news (probably a good idea) but I did hear some mention of a stem cells success. On Twitter this morning I picked up on a story about two people, who were losing their sight, being treated with embryonic stem cells. One of them, a 51-year old graphic artist who was ‘legally blind’ i.e. could read nothing on an eye-chart, and a 78-year old suffering from macular degeneration.

A week after having cells derived from a days-old embryo injected into her eye, the graphic artist could count fingers, and after one month she could read the top five letters on the eye chart. She can see more colour and contrast, has started using her computer, and for the first time in years can read her watch and thread a needle. The macular degeneration patient recently went to the mall for the first time in years.

There’s some about the possible dangers of using stem cells in the article, how they can differentiate into the wrong sort of cell. I read a story somewhere (which might be apocryphal) of someone being treated for Alzheimer’s and ending up with bone growing inside their brain. Then there are the moral issues. Being an atheist myself and more inclined to the idea that intelligence is more to be valued than species this is not an issue to me. And isn’t it also the case that adult stem cells can now be used and that ways are already being found to multiply them?

This from 2006:
Researchers of the Whitehead Institute have discovered a way to multiply an adult stem cell 30-fold, an expansion that offers tremendous promise for treatments such as bone marrow transplants and perhaps even gene therapy.

“A 30-fold increase is ten times higher than anyone’s achieved before,” says Lodish, senior author on the paper.

Perhaps any biologists here or those who have read up on the subject can elaborate?

About Those Breast Implants…

So, the moment I heard this story about possible problems with industrial-grade silicon breast implants my knee-jerk reaction was, ‘Hey, you wanna buy bigger tits in France then that’s your problem and I shouldn’t have to pay for it!’ Then I thought about it for a bit and completely changed my mind. I’m guessing that someone who has shelled out for breast implants in France is someone with cash to spare on cosmetic surgery and is unlikely to be a dole scrounging parasite. Therefore, it is probably the case that they’ve been paying into the NHS, and quite likely they have paid in a damned sight more than they’ve had in return, so why shouldn’t they have medical care if there’s a problem with those implants?

NHS doctors do not have the right to lecture us on our lifestyle choices or refuse care. They especially do not have that right when we are forced to pay them. I’ve written this before but I’ll write it again: it is like going into a chemist’s to buy Aspirin, paying your money, then being asked why you need the pills. When you say you have a hangover the assistant replies, ‘You shouldn’t drink so much and, because you have, that’s your own fault so I’m not giving you your Aspirin, but I’m keeping your money.’

Of course while this has been going on some NHS berk was on TV connecting these breast implants to smoking and drinking. ‘The NHS has to pay for smokers and drinkers!’ she said, righteously offended. Okay, so the NHS has gone out and earned its own money has it? And it is now having to shell out on those evil smokers and drinkers is it? Erm, no, Mrs NHS Berk, that’s OUR money you’ve got there. We gave it to you on the basis that you would look after us when we’re ill. I don’t recollect anything about you being able to pillory people who aren’t behaving as you would wish. You can’t start changing the rules after the fact.

Incidentally, smokers provide huge revenue for the government and, no matter how the righteous try to twist the figures, they cost the NHS less than non-smokers. Did you think dying young was more expensive than the cost keeping you dribbling and in incontinence pants in an OAP home?  

This is a long and slippery slope, whatever your opinion about smoking and drinking, or fat people (or rather, how much you have responded to the constant indoctrination, de-normalization and demonization from NGOs, government and the NHS itself). Where does it stop? Why, for example, should we pay for the rescue and care of a climber who has fallen off a mountain? Why should we pay for any sports injury? Why should we pay for maternity stuff and childcare? I mean, having children is a lifestyle choice nowadays, isn’t it? Why should we pay for that guy cutting off his finger – he obviously wasn’t paying attention when using that Stanley knife. Why should we pay for that woman with malaria? It’s her fault she went on holiday. Why should we pay for that guy with AIDs? He should have used a condom. In fact, on that basis, we shouldn’t pay for any STDs.

And so continue the excuses for refusing treatment because a socialist experiment is, as always, running out of money.

The NHS was supposed to be free for all UK citizens at the point of use, but it is not. Foreigners get treatment they’ve paid nothing towards. We get charged exorbitant prices for medications that can be bought over-the-counter in other countries for a fraction of the cost. NHS dental care costs the same as private dental care elsewhere. Prescription charges are uneven, applying in England but not if you happen to live anywhere else in the UK. The NHS should be broken up and privatised and the only enforced requirement for UK citizens should be medical insurance, which would lead to real choices about your medical care. And, if that happened, the dependence on customer money rather than ‘free government money’ would rapidly shut up such righteous pricks like Mrs NHS Berk.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

We went to watch The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo yesterday – a film we were looking forward to after seeing that Daniel Craig was in it, and after one glimpse at the actress playing Lisbeth Salander. The title sequence was gobsmacking: James Bondish but in an oily and dark and somewhat disturbing way, thereafter I found the music a bit annoying at first and got that feeling of, ‘Oh dear, they’re doing the intrusive music to cover the crap content,’ but this turned out not to be the case.

As Blomkvist Daniel Craig was excellent, but then he’s excellent in just about any role he takes, though of course he is always Daniel Craig. I’d add that he was excellent in Quantum of Solace and that the reason the film was crap had more to do with the story and direction. Rooney Mara, as Salander, was simply brilliant. I think my criticism of the Swedish version was that both these roles weren’t filled adequately and, certainly, the Salander of that version wasn’t anywhere near enough as edgy, dangerous and disturbing. I reckon it was Mara’s bleached eyebrows that tipped it. The rest of the cast were great too. Christopher Plumber of course could be relied on to deliver the goods, and Salander’s new guardian did a very good job of being thoroughly detestable.

I could see where bits of the book had been excised and I could understand the reasons why. A large book of course has to be cut to fit into the film format and the need for the plot to head in a relatively straight line to the end. I was slightly annoyed by the cutting of what I will call the ‘Australian bit’ but even then could see why it might have been removed. It didn’t fit the tone and texture of the film and was, in essence, after the dramatic ending – subtext.

Thoroughly recommended.  

Resolution … well, sort of.

At last, Christmas is over, the New Year is beginning and I can get on… I quite often feel like that at this time of year and, since this is resolution time, many other do too. Now the compulsory gorging, socialising and alcohol excess has come to an end. Now it’s time to sober up and look at the costs.

The first cost I noted last night. Unable to get to sleep I sat up reading a book. While reading I looked down at my torso and noted that it’s measurement front to back is now more than the one from side to side. This is despite doing twenty sit-ups and press-ups every morning for months, and cycling 16 to 24 miles a week. It really is time for me to do something about my big fat gut.

January is our zero alcohol month so that’ll knock off the calories, prove to myself that I’m not an unrecoverable alcoholic and allow my liver to recover… Then again, I read recently an article titled ‘Janopause detox does more harm than good’. Apparently ‘doctors say’ this is medically futile and fails to rejuvenate the liver. Yet, the liver does regenerate very quickly so how can a month off the booze not be a good thing? Of course, reading between the lines it soon becomes evident that this is an article patched together by the anti-alcohol lobby – the kind of people who want the pointless minimum pricing on alcohol. Taking a month off apparently encourages people, who are of course all idiots, to think that they are immune to the effects of alcohol for the rest of the year. And we must all stick to the government advised limit on alcohol units … oh yeah, let’s revisit that (have to pay to see it now):

The safe limits were introduced in 1987 after the Royal College of Physicians produced its first health report on alcohol misuse. In A Great and Growing Evil: The Medical Consequences of Alcohol Abuse, the college warned that a host of medical problems – including liver disease, strokes, heart disease, brain disease and infertility – were associated with excessive drinking. The report was the most significant study into alcohol-related disorders to date.

But Richard Smith, the former editor of the British Medical Journal and a member of the college’s working party on alcohol, told The Times yesterday that the figures were not based on any clear evidence. He remembers “rather vividly” what happened when the discussion came round to whether the group should recommend safe limits for men and women.

“David Barker was the epidemiologist on the committee and his line was that ‘We don’t really have any decent data whatsoever. It’s impossible to say what’s safe and what isn’t’.

“And other people said, ‘Well, that’s not much use. If somebody comes to see you and says ‘What can I safely drink?’ you can’t say ‘Well, we’ve no evidence. Come back in 20 years and we’ll let you know’. So the feeling was that we ought to come up with something. So those limits were really plucked out of the air. They weren’t really based on any firm evidence at all.

In fact, take a look at this bit of QI on this matter, then google the subject and try to find anything about this in the righteous bansturbation proliferating across the Internet.

I’ll also be ramping up the exercise and cutting down on what I stick in my mouth. I often start this off by spending a day eating nothing – the next day finding I’m no more hungry in the morning than I was the day before – thereafter, eating less and having further ‘days off’ like this shrinks my stomach so I just don’t feel as hungry. Of course this is, apparently, a bad thing to do too. I disagree. What the hell is fat for? It is a way of storing up calories for lean times. So what happens if you don’t eat? You burn up fat rather than the half a pack of chocolate biscuits you ate last night. It’s quite a simple equation.

Okay, I’m off for a cycle now.  

Out in the Wilderness!

Apparently David Cameron has cast us into isolation and the icy wilderness outside Europe, if you swallow whole the propaganda belched up by the BBC. As someone noted, on one blog I was reading, this is the kind of isolation of the one passenger who failed to board the Titanic on its maiden voyage. Of course the piles and piles of bullshit here are high and ripe. First off, Britain is not the one out of twenty-seven as the BBC would have us believe. And as far as I can gather (I’m no expert) he said ‘no’ at a meeting to discuss having a meeting to work out some way of promoting stability. There was, in fact, no treaty to veto but a draft treaty. If you want more detail, check here.

However, one wonders why sticking a financial transactions tax in there which will screw money out of Britain’s economy has to be part of the deal. Could it possibly be a further power grab that actually has no effect on the vast amount of money countries owe and how, economically, they are rapidly heading down the toilet? Could it be a little bit of payback for Britain’s failure to kowtow to Brussels and join the Euro? Could it also be Merkel, Sarkozy and crew looking for someone to blame –Britain – when it all goes tits-up as it inevitably will?

Nice to note the BBC telling outright lies too. How the financial sector is just an insignificant part of Britain’s economy when it actually accounts for 10% of national income. Meanwhile the reporters all looked like they wanted to be wearing black arm bands as they promoted doom and gloom about Britain not going ‘Baaa!’ with the rest of the sheep. They then delayed for as long as possible before letting Cameron put his side of, ‘We’re not in the Euro, these changes are against our national interest, so I said no, okay?’ Of course I’ve no doubt that later that ‘no’ will become a sort of ‘no’ and eventually slide into being a ‘yes’ because Cameron is as big a europhile prick as most chiselling politicians.

Incidentally, what are these sanctions they’re talking about for profligate governments? It hardly seems logical to financially penalize a government that’s overspent: Hey, I find you guilty of shooting yourself in the foot. I am, therefore, going to punish you by shooting you in the other foot.

Higgs Boson

It appears that the good people at CERN have either discovered or are close to discovering the Higgs boson or ‘God particle’:

Rumors swirled today that data may have been found that supports the Higgs boson at ~126 GeV. Reliable sources have speculated the data will show a certainty, that something’s there, to about 4.2 sigma, the threshold for official detection is 5 sigma, but that only triggers many rounds of attempted confirmation.

Physics blogs are alive with chatter about a possible sign of the Higgs boson – or perhaps an entirely unexpected particle – in data from the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland. But the claim has not gone through the experiment’s vetting process and could easily turn out to be wrong, physicists say.

Why does this matter? I submit that knowledge for its own sake is a good thing, but also, who knows what sort of technologies such a discovery would lead to? Similarly, what kind of territory are we being led into by those FTL neutrinos? Here’s an article that purports to explain why the Higgs boson matters but, for myself, one of the commenters nailed my feelings about both this particle and those neutrinos:

Translation: the standard model describes a universe that doesn’t actually exist, and so instead of conceding some fundamental defect in the standard model, they assume it must be right and instead there is a missing piece of the puzzle. Much like dark matter and dark energy, the Higgs boson is another epicycle.

And for illuminaton:

Slang for bad science
In part, due to misunderstandings about how deferent/epicycle models worked, “adding epicycles” has come to be used as a derogatory comment in modern scientific discussion. The term might be used, for example, to describe continuing to try to adjust a theory to make its predictions match the facts.

Yup, there’s a lot of that about.

Late Turner Prize Entry?

Apparently a late Turner Prize entry said to depict the failure of capitalism in the modern world didn’t quite make the grade:

A fleet of Ferraris and a Lamborghini Diablo have been involved in one of the most expensive accidents in history after a high speed pile-up in Japan.
Meanwhile it is rumoured that an early visitor to the gallery was arrested for planking on the prizewinning exhibit:

Petrol Price

Oh isn’t George Osborn generous in not putting up the tax on petrol. Now, when you buy a litre of fuel at the pump for £1.40 you’re only paying at tax rate of 142% – that’s 83p in tax. But of course you need to pay such huge rates to finance all those enormous and completely unfair public sector pensions. But we must also not forget the billions the DFID is throwing at other countries, what we are paying for more fucking useless windmills and for another climate change jolly somewhere, or the billions thrown at the corrupt and totalitarian EU, or that biased advocate of leftwingery the BBC, or the lazy fucks on welfare, or the overpaid jerks in our councils, or the… ok, I’ll stop there.

Back to work so I can pay for all those dicks out there.