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Archive for June, 2009

SHOWBIZ Glastonbury 22

It is a truism that it always rains at the Glastonbury Music Festival.

That’s late June in England for you, though – a period that is sometimes susceptible to what is now known as “the European monsoon” but used more romantically to be termed “the Return of the Westerlies”.

Here are some people enjoying the deluge in 2007:


Glastonbury Festival 2007

In 2005 an entire field of tents simply floated away, never to return. Somehow they got caught up in the Benguela Current and were last spotted drifting past Namibia. A stoner on an airbed washed ashore on the Skeleton Coast, where he’s still optimistically waiting for Mercury Rev’s set with a broken lighter.

You’d think that maybe they’d change the dates, right? But then what would eager journalists do for their gleeful and all-too-predictable drowning-in-mud stories every midsummer?

glastonbury mud boots 2

With a sense of resigned inevitability, festival-goers this year arrived at the village of Pilton — after a week of sunshine, mark you —  just in time to watch cumulonimbus clouds climb and cavort and then dump their contents over the campsites on the very first night. Three quarters of an inch fell in 12 hours, and storms flared and rumbled like the son et lumière at a bad Zeus and the Cyclopes tribute gig. Breakfast was moist soil and drowned earthworms, washed down with pondwater.

It’s tempting to imagine that these yearly downpours are merely a consequence of the sudden covergence of 200,000 hot and sweaty bodies creating a very highly localized micro-climate in the atmosphere immediately above their heads. Moreover, the molecules of smoke from their, er, “cigarettes” would serve to exponentially increase the number of condensation nuclei around which raindrops form.

But the weather perked up through the weekend, despite no evidence of any decrease in this miasma, and of course it does not rain every year. Glastonbury 2003 is a case in point, when the sun shone each day.

Here’s somebody actually enjoying some Glastonbury sunshine, allegedly this year, while cheerfully oblivious to the ruckus provoked by the attack of that skinny Ent in the background:

glastonbury time travel

Ignoring the Tolkienesque beast as thoroughly as she is, let’s take a closer look at that ‘wristwatch’ she’s sporting, shall we?

glastonbury time travel2a

It’s sleek and shiny — but a bit chunky looking, wouldn’t you say, for a watch? Even in 1981 digital watches were more compact than that. I suspect more complex and, shall we say, ‘futuristic’ technology at work.

Let’s zoom in further:

glastonbury time travel3

It’s becoming clearer isn’t it? I think you can see where we are going with this; it’s the sort of Black Technology that I’ve touched on before:  Personal Time Travel Podules (PTTPs), I’ll bet they’ll be called.

Rotate:

glastonbury time travel4

D’you see?!!??!

It says

2003

Clearly, this is some rogue MI6 or CIA agent on a weekend off. Annoyed at the crappy weather on her only day at Glastonbury, she has created a time-travelling bubble with her PTTP that has transported her — and perhaps the whole festival — back to that halcyon weekend of 2003.  And I bet those sunglasses are really X-Ray specs as well.

So, through the tax-payers’ purse, not only can she enjoy some lovely sunshine she might get a chance to see Fat Boy Slim again.

She seems a Fat Boy Slim kind of chick.

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It’s not only the Mayan calendar that ‘predicts’ a global cataclysm in 2012.

bibc2

I’m sure that many of us have come across the drivel interesting statistical and linguistic hypotheses contained in the pages of The Bible Code, written by Michael Drosnin and published in 1997.

Very briefly, for those unfamiliar, using a method known as Equidistant Letter Sequence (ELS), he and others reckon to have discovered hidden codes in the Bible (or more properly the Torah, up to Deuteronomy) that prophesy such world-altering events as 9/11, the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, and Adam Lambert losing the final of American Idol.bibco idol

Needless to say, there were some naughty sceptics who challenged these assertions. To these ‘so-called scientists’, Drosnin issued a challenge: if they were right, he said, they should be able to uncover similar prophecies using the same methodology in any other book; but specifically Moby Dick.

Which, of course, they did, hilariously and vigorously hoisting Drosnin by his own petard.

The Australian mathematician Brendan McKay found not only a reference to Rabin being shot (including the name of the killer, his university, and, I dare say, his inside leg measurement) but also to the assassination of Indira Ghandi, of Leon Trotsky (specifying the ice pick, no less) and of John F Kennedy: ‘he shall be killed‘, McKay found, ‘in cars’. Whoa.

This grampus-themed novel eerily foreshadows the death of Princess Diana, too, clearly highlighting the words Diana, Dodi, Royal, Wales, Henri, Paul, Mortal In The Jaws of Death, Foolishly Wasted, Power and Velocity, Hearse and Skid:

moby dick© Brendan McKay

Funnily enough, McKay tried the name Drosnin and found that the oracle that was Herman Melville has predicted his assassination, in Athens. With a nail driven through the heart, disturbingly. And, here’s the kicker, by a Hollywood celebrity. Sadly McKay won’t reveal that famous name; but I have my suspicions.

Another problem for Drosnin is that he reckoned the Bible Code warned of an apocaplyptic nuclear war in 2006.

Swing and a miss.

Even more amusingly, though, amongst the other tracts that seemingly made almost identical spooky predictions are the lyrics of the hippity-hoppity style 1990s singer Vanilla Ice.

ice flat top

It’s understandable, I suppose. Like many seers, Mr Ice was unrecognized, unappreciated and hounded in his time, and his wisdom and clairvoyance only revealed later. And like the prophets Ezekiel (pictured), Amos and Jeremiah before him he favoured implausibly baggy pants and an extravagant flat-top haircut.

Something grabs a hold of me tightly,
Flow like a harpoon daily and nightly
.” Ezekiel, ch. 12, v. 108-109.

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Gotcha

spambot2We are all, I am sure, becoming increasingly familiar with CAPTCHA, the log-in verification system that reveals us as human (well, most of us probably) rather than spam-bot.

In one of those tortuously constructed acronyms, it stands for “Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart”. Although if we are being strict that of course should be the rather more stutter-ful “CAPT-T-T-T-CHA”.

Cha-cha-cha.

These are sometimes frustratingly hard to distinguish, of course:

captcha large

What the hell is that on the right?

However, I have just learned that there is a good and worthy reason for this. It seems that we know that these words are hard for a bot to work out — because a computer has already failed to do so. Words like these are generated by a program called reCAPTCHA, designed by the doyens of this research at Carnegie Mellon University.

This clever program is linked to Project Gutenberg, which admirably seeks to digitize and make freely available as many books as possible online. So far it is up to about 30,000, but sometimes the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software struggles to read portions of text. So these are disseminated through the Web in the form of CAPTCHA words, which a human person is more likely to be able to decipher — the resolved words are then sent back to Project Gutenberg to fill in the gaps. Neat, eh?

Here’s an example, though, which adds nothing to the sum of human knowledge and which, like so many of those wobbly combinations of letters and numbers, is virtually impossible to read:

captcha impossible large

Thanks for nothing, myspace.

More recently, though, we have been seeing easier-to-read examples which almost look like real words:

captcha words

In fact, I’ve even found myself twitching towards the Oxford English Dictionary to check that they are not. You saw ‘muthipic‘ and did so too, right? Go on, admit it.

Here are some more I’ve been collecting recently, with my own interpretations:

Cobrogi – a savoury Italian pastry.

Mesolabe – a medium-sized lip.

Hazathel – a recently-discovered Middle Eastern Bronze Age papyrus scroll (from the name of the prophet Hazathel. Emphasis on the second syllable. Obviously).

Coriscic – very shiny indeed.

Hapha – an ancient city in Syria. Site of the archaeological dig that uncovered the Hazathel scripture.

Conabbel – an Estonian apple pudding.

Reedic – like a reed.

Andstri – the race of bad guys in the next Star Wars movie (god help us).

Wartoket – a coastal town on Nantucket Bay, Mass. Population 7,310.

And finally:

Vendort
Humboco
Knetshi
DeRoi
Forsen
Nessen
Ronsyke
Ducali
Ancéans

– The Wartoket Pelicans Single-A starting line-up on May 1, 2009.

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Betsy

Look what I found a picture of in the bowels of the internet. Cerberus as a puppy.

The three-headed guardian of Hades has rarely looked so cute.

You know how quickly these mythological canine offspring of nymph-serpents and fire-breathing giants can turn on you, though. Best have your lyre and some fresh-baked honey cakes handy, is all I’ll say.

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jackson afro

OK, BBC. I get it. A fellow who performed for the pleasure of many millions of people has died at the tragically young age of 50. About 78 people, over an uninterrupted TWO HOURS, have so far loomed across my TV screen telling me that he was good at singing and dancing and that. We understand this. Other people — the b*stards — have revealed that his personal life took some bizarre and contentious turns during the last few years. Fancy that.

The band he formed with his brothers when he was (and I was) knee-high to a grasshopper was the first I latched onto as a child; their outrageous afros, in photographs carefully prised (this was the days before Athena) from the centre pages of excitingly glossy magazines like Record Mirror, Fab 208 (I think), and my sister’s stolen and cannibalized Jackie, adorned my walls, covering that rather questionable soccer-themed wallpaper. Until, that is, they were supplanted by fantastical Roger Dean and Bruce Pennington posters, knickerless pretend tennis players, and many things Heavy Metal-y, Prog Rock-y and Punk-y. And Farrah Fawcett in a red swimsuit, of course — who also, lest we forget, has died too young; the BBC has clearly forgotten, even if she did not influence a generation of entertainers in quite the same way.

farrah and nathaniel

When Robert Mitchum (an underrated thespian and a personal favourite) died, his legacy became overlooked almost immediately, because James Stewart happened to hop the twig the very next day. So what chance is there for Farrah Fawcett and her, bless her, rather more modest ouevre?

As an aside, Robert Mitchum was possessed of an admirable modesty and self-deprecation that others might do well to heed. He was once interviewed by the film critic Barry Norman, who began, understandably perhaps, to fawn somewhat; Mitchum cut him off mid-euolgy: “Look”, he said, “I have two kinds of acting. One on a horse and one off a horse. That’s it.”

mitchum cannes

So, anyway, this singer and I go back a fair way; I can still recall the acrid smell of the newly-rained-upon tarmac as I looked through the window listening to “Looking Through the Window”; hearing “Got to be There” immediately conjures up the taste of those peculiar lozenges I had to slowly suck as I succumbed to another debilitating throat infection. Try that one on for size, Proust.

While able to admire, or at least understand the admiration for, some of his later work I admit it was not a genre which at the time excited my interest. Nevertheless, I am happy to stipulate that this death is a shame; I will not, however, subscribe to the lunacy of comments such as this from a random person called Lloyd: “Please do not say a man like Michael Joseph Jackson is dead as I find this disrespectful to say the least. Greatness never dies but lives with us forever. So why say He Michael is Dead, Lets show some respect!!!!

Note the capitalization of the pronoun, there.

Expect more of this over the coming days; but please not from the BBC — who, may I point out to them, do not need to interview five different DJs nor three photographers who happened to snap a few publicity photographs a few years ago, relating the same obvious tales over and over. And over. Nor do we need Craig bloody David’s half-witted opinions.

Other observations the BBC has cheerfully shared with us: Madonna can’t stop crying; Brooke Shields’s heart is bursting; Al Sharpton says everyone should pray for the performer (now I’m no theological expert, but isn’t it a bit late, Al? The dude’s dead); two people in a Glastonbury field think it’s sad, and share with us their whereabouts when they heard the news (listening to a radio, I’d already guessed); and Corey Feldman is filled with sadness. Corey Feldman? Wasn’t that the fellow who …? Never mind. Hypocrisy has never been a barrier in Hollywood obits.

thriller

Now THREE HOURS into this non-stop festival of mourning and sycophancy, with only the weather forecast as light relief (there’ll be thunderstorms — “ooh, that can’t be a coincidence”), and we are treated to texts from people we have never heard of — in Benin, for example — telling us how this music has “touched their hearts” (a recurring cliché), and some words from three people outside the theatre where they are going to see “Thriller – The Musical”. Yet another unnecessarily live on-the-spot reporter asks: “Lou, how did you hear the news?” My question would have been: “Lou – why, in the name of sanity, are you outside the theatre at nine in the morning?”

Please, as your remit demands, tell us what the hell else is going on the world. Perhaps some other 50-year old people have died somewhere. In Darfur or Burma or Iran, maybe.

Or at least invite Jarvis Cocker to make a comment.

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This Flat Earth

So here is my favourite anti-science rant so far. I hope it’s yours too!!1!1!! It’s a doozy. Unless it’s a brilliant parody. Apologies in advance to the faithful; this author uses some questionably selective scriptural references.

The first paragraph is straight from the Flat Earth Society (FES), and contains what appears to be a made-up quote from the Wright brothers (I haven’t been able to source it, anyway). The whole leans heavily on Samuel Rowbotham, the inventor of Zetetic Astronomy and the inspiration for the FES:

“What is called ‘Science’ today and ‘scientists’ consist of the same old gang of witch doctors, sorcerers, tellers of tales, the ‘Priest-Entertainers’ for the common people. ‘Science’ consists of a weird, way-out occult concoction of jibberish theory-theology… nothing good has ever come from ‘science’ — In fact, technology is not in any way related to the web of idiotic scientific theory. ALL inventors have been anti-science. The Wright brothers said: “Science theory held us up for years. When we threw out all science, started from experiment and experience, then we invented the airplane.” By the way, airplanes all fly level on this Plane earth!

skydome

“The Fact the Earth is Flat is not my opinion, it is a Proved Fact! While all we need to know is that the Bible says the Earth is flat (Is.40:22, Ez.7:2, Dn.2:35; 4:10-11,20, Mt.4:8)… but for a second can you imagine what these so-called ‘scientists would have us believe — If the earth really was round, that would mean there arre people who are HANGING DOWN, HEAD DOWNWARDS while we are standing head up? But since the theory allows to travel to those parts of the earth where the people are said to hand head downward, and still to fancy ourselves to be heads upwards, and our friends whom we have left behind us to be heads downwards! LOL! What foolishness! TheWHOLE THING IS A MYTH – A DREAM – A DELUSION – and a snare, and, instead of there being any evidence at all in this direction to substantiate this popular theory, it is plain proof that the Earth is Not A Globe!

“Also, be sure to know the Sun and Moon are about 3,000 miles away are both 32 miles across. The Planets are ‘tiny.’ Sun and Moon do Move, earth does NOT move, whirl, spin or gyrate (1 Sam.2:8, 1 Chr.16:30; Job 9:6, 38:4-6; Ps.96:10, 104:5, Is.13:10, Mic.6:2). Australians do NOT hang by their feet under the world… this is a FACT, not a theory! Also a Fact the Spinning, Whirling, Gyrating Ball World Planet, Globe Idea is Entirely 100% now and at all times in the Past, a RELIGIOUS DOCTRINE… a Blind Dogmatic Article of Faith in the Religion for the Blind unreasoning beast of prey. No earthly reason for a Sane, Upright Member of the Elite True Christians to subscribe to it.

flat earth turtle“Also a Fact, today the Elite of Earth ALL live on the Flat World. Only the illogical, unreasoning “herd”… prefers the way-out occult weird theology of the old Greek superstitution earth a spinning ball! Both Copernecious and Newton, the inventors of the “modern” superstitions (400 year OLD modern) have said: “It is not possible for a Sane reasonable person to ever really believe these Theories.” Thus sayeth Newton-Copernecious. What sayeth THOU?”

Yeah … what DOST sayeth thou? I saysest naught. I am convinc-éd.

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As a ‘so-called scientist’ myself, of sorts, I occasionally amuse myself in the outer regions of the internet by observing the tenuous but stubborn grasp that those who sneer at the discipline have on even its simplest and least contentious tenets.

So, after yesterday’s introduction, I present here a few more eccentric notions found on forums, discussion groups and even Facebook, regarding the world and universe we inhabit, emcompassing subjects such as evolution, the myth of mathematical constants, the Big Bang, and, er, masturbation.

Light_dispersion_conceptual

First, in a discussion on whether the speed of light is constant:

Constants seldom are … Pi changes depending upon the strength of the gravitational field involved.

Indeed. Pi, it is well known in these circles, is only 0.605 on the Moon. And that’s why the Moon’s circumference is smaller than the Earth’s.

This next assertion is more moralistic, I suppose, than scientific; but biology is involved:

Masturbation can sometimes be wrong and it can sometimes not. If you masturbate thinking about how pretty the flowers are and how you want a puppy, essentially that’s not wrong.

Um, really?

puppy

Our frustrated onanistic pet-lover continues:

But most times, that is not the case. I believe that when one masturbates a high percentage of the time they are fantasizing about a sexual partner therefore making masturbation lust, which is a sin. But masturbation is something that people in general should stay away from because it’s hard not to lust whilst doing it.

File under “No Shit, Sherlock”.

Ready for some chemistry?

periodic table2

All elements in the universe (periodic table) get their properties based on their combinations of 3 specific sub-atomic components. Protons, Neutrons, & Electrons. No element has the same combination. (ie…Gold has 79 protons, 118 neutrons, 79 electrons) Carbon (man) has 6 protons, 6 neutrons, 6 electrons. [666]. This will be the number in which the Anti-Christ will be identified by. And because a clone does not have working sexual organs, this explains why a “cloned” Anti-Christ will not have need for a woman.

Oh, and more biology at the end, there.

By the way, there is a very strong case for suggesting that the original Greek text states ‘the number of the beast’ is 6-1-6, not 6-6-6 after all. So that kinda screws this theory, if it wasn’t screwed already. Which, let’s face it, it was.

Geology, hydrology and meteorology now. And pay special attention because this is from the website of the ‘scientist’ Kent Hovind:

One theory is that the pre-Flood Earth had a canopy of ice above it that squeezed the atmosphere down to, say, 15 miles […] If you squeezed the air down to 15 miles – instead of 100 – it would be more clear because there would be less distortion – atmospheric twinkle it’s called. And probably this canopy of ice would act as a photo-amplifier where you would actually see things much more clearly. That’s one theory that [in] the pre-Flood world you don’t need a telescope – you could see incredibly well.

How hot d’you suppose that increase in pressure would have made the Earth, Kent? Don’t make me beat you round the head with the Ideal Gas Law.

Evolutionary biology gets a look in. Kind of:

If you mean that men have ever been animals you are 100 percent wrong. No evidence under the sun can prove that I was ever my pet cat.

Confused ideas on nuclear physics here, encompassing terrorism and weapons of mass destruction (emphasis added):

I’m not talking about a simple power outage. I’m talking about enriched plutonium which comes from the conversion of uranium into WMD. It is considered the most dangerous substance known to man and absolutely will shut off the electricity present in planes. All any terrorist has to do is drop large quantities of plutonium from airplanes onto American soil and it will render electricity completely useless.

Food for thought in cosmology, and specifically the Big Bang Theory:

i know how the big bang ‘has happened’, but tell me, wouldnt an explosion, especially one that size, take away life instead of allow it? think about it.

I will think about it, Sir. I will. As should we all.

sheldon thought

Now stand by for a most splendid diatribe tomorrow.

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