# 12 # 19 # 22 # 26 # 36 # 41

Excuse the lack of research-based posts over the past few days, I’ve been busy packing and travelling back to my homeland. No more Scotland, sadly. I will hopefully be posting the first in a series of posts about writing systems and what the study of them can reveal to us about the interactions taking place between culture, development and genetics. That aside, my main reason for posting is because I just watched Derren Brown predict the lottery numbers. Very impressive. Watch his show on Friday 11th to find out how he did it. Until then, here is a clip from one of his previous shows:

Need a platform for uninformed opinions?

Then try the Guardian’s comment is free on for size. Just read Jonathan Jones’ article on religion, science and nouveau atheism. I’m not going to say much (this turns out to be a slight lie) here, other than to direct your attention to this paragraph:

[…] the Dawkins view encourages a caricature of the history of science. It dramatises a clash between scientific reason and religious superstition that is supposedly as intense today as it was in the age of Galileo. But this is a schoolchild’s version of the history of science. It is simplistic and inaccurate to imagine that scientific discovery has ever been either the fruit, or the seed, of pure reason. Science, like art, is imaginative. And the imaginative pictures of the universe created by the great scientists have rarely been free of ideas that in the nouveau atheist view are irrational.

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Negative Interest Rates

I just read this article in BBC news about negative interest rates:

If the Bank of England cuts interest rates on Thursday could the interest paid on our savings fall below zero?

Negative interest rates, where the bank charges us to look after our savings, have been seen before.

In the 1970s Swiss banks charged foreign customers rather than paying them interest to hold their money.

I don’t think we’ll see negative interest rates in the UK, although it is technically possible, and has happened before. To use the hypothetical example offered by the BBC: if you place £10,000 in the bank, and the negative interest rate is at -1%, then at the end of the year you’d get a return of just £9,900 — essentially a £100 charge for the pleasure of banking. Great.

A word of warning if this does happen: Northern Rock will, to quote one comment from the Guardian website, look like “a 6 year old emptying his piggy bank“.

Happy New Year (and get ready to die)

If you’re part of science blogging community, then you’ll probably know that my festive title relates to the Yellowstone Caldera; and how it’s going to cause our impending doom (date tbc). Basically, earthquake activity around Yellowstone has increased, as you can see for yourself, which may or may not be indicative of your death. After all, if we’re to believe the BBC docudrama of the aforementioned caldera, dramatically dubbed a supervolcano, things won’t be so rosy if the lava starts flowing and the dust begins to rise. Still, it would be slightly ironic, and even poetic, if there are still some of us around to appreciate things, that our end comes from something unrelated to greedy bankers and global warming.

Continue reading “Happy New Year (and get ready to die)”

Some simple economic advice: stop asking questions and you'll worry a whole lot less

According to the Guardian:

Gordon Brown today calls on the British people to summon the same patriotic and optimistic spirit that guided them though second world war

So people, get your flags out, your mouths shut and your wallets armed; it’s time to shop until you drop. But first, a quick message from the past to get you all in the mood:

Stop Asking Questions, just shop
Imagine him as a checkout lad, and you'll soon be inspired. After all, you're a shopper... right?
Person Gordon Brown
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Dawkins and his army of mildy irritating atheists

As many of my friends will know, I’m quite a big fan of Richard Dawkins. But for some reason his website seems to spawn an army of what can only be described as mildly irritating atheists. A particular aspect I frequently bemoan is the necessity of some members to contort a fairly innocuous article into some anti-religious rant. Honestly, it’s unceasing. Take for example this article discussing Neanderthals. Just scroll down to the comments and you’ll be greeted with:

It all just gets you thinking about why the Neanderthals died out. I’ll theorize that their bigger brains found our ancestors’ ravings about our divine origins totally hysterical — and the resulting campaign of genocide simply took the poor buggers off guard.

Funny, yes? Well, no, not when the same joke/theme/structure is applied over and over again. I’ll throw out some more, as I don’t want to single out one individual:

I like to imagine science as a massive guillotine, with creationists frantically trying to stick objects to stop it’s progress. Science may be moving somewhat slowly, but nothing can really stop its progress. (From an article about RNA as a precursor for life on Earth.)

At least one commenter was honest enough to give up any pretence of being interested in the article itself:

When you look at the big picture, Obama has a tough road ahead of him and needs to harvest the support of everyone in America, even that large swath of intolerant, evangelical America, who are Americans none the less. I can’t say that I agree with the choice but I understand it. ( About, um, Quantum computing…)

Maybe it’s a running joke? Or perhaps it’s what you should expect from a website run by Richard Dawkins? Personally, I find these comments serve as an effective cure for insomnia: their repetitive nature will guarantee instant sleep, plus you’ll probably learn something new (from the articles at least). Oh, and one more thing, what’s with Dawkins’ dvd covers:

Does this make your skin crawl?
The serene sea, the steely gaze, the god-like pose. Yes, it makes my skin crawl too.