undyingking: (Default)
There's been a lot of research into personality, intelligence etc effects of one's birth order, ie. being the youngest, middle, only, etc. Results are mostly highly disputed, with each study showing some effect met by another showing none. About the only thing that seems certain is that if a man has mutiple older brothers he's more likely to be gay.

Rather than go into all that, though, I wanted to do a quick survey that will allow us to jump to all kinds of crazy and unfounded conclusions – or not, as the case might be.

One thing I've noticed myself, although I've yet to assess it properly, is that quite a lot of my closer friends are either elder, eldest or only children1. (I myself am the middle one of three.) In particular, of the five women with whom I've had serious relationships in my life, three are the eldest of three siblings, and the other two are the elder of two siblings. There's probably something very Freudian going on there… but enough about me! – this is about you!

[Poll #1643741]

Note: count step-, half-, and prematurely deceased siblings in the normal way if you spent most of your childhood living with them, but not otherwise. Similarly, don't count siblings who are much much older or younger than you. Use common sense with adopted / fostered children, or if you were so yourself. Basically, we want to know where you were in the sibling group you spent your formative years in.


1 And yes, I do realize there are going to be more of these around than the other kinds. But even so.
undyingking: (Default)
There's been a lot of research into personality, intelligence etc effects of one's birth order, ie. being the youngest, middle, only, etc. Results are mostly highly disputed, with each study showing some effect met by another showing none. About the only thing that seems certain is that if a man has mutiple older brothers he's more likely to be gay.

Rather than go into all that, though, I wanted to do a quick survey that will allow us to jump to all kinds of crazy and unfounded conclusions – or not, as the case might be.

One thing I've noticed myself, although I've yet to assess it properly, is that quite a lot of my closer friends are either elder, eldest or only children1. (I myself am the middle one of three.) In particular, of the five women with whom I've had serious relationships in my life, three are the eldest of three siblings, and the other two are the elder of two siblings. There's probably something very Freudian going on there… but enough about me! – this is about you!

[Poll #1643741]

Note: count step-, half-, and prematurely deceased siblings in the normal way if you spent most of your childhood living with them, but not otherwise. Similarly, don't count siblings who are much much older or younger than you. Use common sense with adopted / fostered children, or if you were so yourself. Basically, we want to know where you were in the sibling group you spent your formative years in.


1 And yes, I do realize there are going to be more of these around than the other kinds. But even so.
undyingking: (Default)
  • DNA crime scene analysis -- a wonderfully useful investigative tool. Or is it?
"It turns out that standard molecular biology techniques (...) enable anyone with basic equipment and know-how to produce practically unlimited amounts of in vitro synthesized (artificial) DNA with any desired genetic profile. This artificial DNA can then be applied to surfaces of objects or incorporated into genuine human tissues and planted in crime scenes. Here we show that the current forensic procedure fails to distinguish between such samples..."
  • This excellent site collects the Daily Heil's ongoing efforts to divide the world into things that give you cancer and things that cure it. Their assiduity is indeed remarkable.
  • Evan Dahm, of Rice Boy and Order of Tales fame, has just started his new webcomic, Vattu. I'm interested in his work because I think he has a peculiar kind of imaginative genius unrelated to what anyone else is doing. If these first three pages pique your interest, you may want to friend [livejournal.com profile] riceboyart.
  • Another rather unusual webcomic is Lackadaisy, which is about a bunch of anthopomorphic cats who run a speakeasy in Prohibition-era St Louis. I like it because I find the artwork and overall design rather beautiful -- and the characters are fun. Just don't ask me why they're all cats: it probably has all sorts of furry overtones that I'd rather not know about. This page of button art gives you a feel of it.
undyingking: (Default)
  • DNA crime scene analysis -- a wonderfully useful investigative tool. Or is it?
"It turns out that standard molecular biology techniques (...) enable anyone with basic equipment and know-how to produce practically unlimited amounts of in vitro synthesized (artificial) DNA with any desired genetic profile. This artificial DNA can then be applied to surfaces of objects or incorporated into genuine human tissues and planted in crime scenes. Here we show that the current forensic procedure fails to distinguish between such samples..."
  • This excellent site collects the Daily Heil's ongoing efforts to divide the world into things that give you cancer and things that cure it. Their assiduity is indeed remarkable.
  • Evan Dahm, of Rice Boy and Order of Tales fame, has just started his new webcomic, Vattu. I'm interested in his work because I think he has a peculiar kind of imaginative genius unrelated to what anyone else is doing. If these first three pages pique your interest, you may want to friend [livejournal.com profile] riceboyart.
  • Another rather unusual webcomic is Lackadaisy, which is about a bunch of anthopomorphic cats who run a speakeasy in Prohibition-era St Louis. I like it because I find the artwork and overall design rather beautiful -- and the characters are fun. Just don't ask me why they're all cats: it probably has all sorts of furry overtones that I'd rather not know about. This page of button art gives you a feel of it.
undyingking: (Default)
  • Acceptosaurus -- this, and the comments underneath, are very funny whether or not you're involved in submitting papers, evolutionary biology, etc.
  • Lady GaGa is an Illuminati puppet -- does this surprise anyone at all? And the Bad Romance song and video are all about Baphomet, as they would be.
  • George Monbiot slams the feed-in tariff -- my own feeling is that micro does have some place, eg. solar hot water. But he does a good job here of exposing the skewed financing behind the current plans. I'd be interested to hear your critiques, if you disagree.
  • Flip Flop Fly -- an excellent collection of sport-related infographics. Mostly to do with baseball, but toward teh foot of the page there are a load to do with other sports. Not all of the data is especially interesting, but it's a great showcase of different diagramming / design techniques.

[Poll #1533213]
undyingking: (Default)
That'll do for now! So a quick poll, if you'll indulge me:
[Poll #1527090]
undyingking: (Default)
Did anyone see this on Channel 4 last night? I'll try and pick it up on a catch-up service when I have a moment, but this article on the subject by the presenter is interesting reading. Although, being the Telegraph, many of the comments are frankly scary.

I don't know enough genetics to critique her arguments about health benefits, but I'm living proof (or possibly disproof) of the bit about mixed-race people being more attractive ;-)

Book!

Oct. 26th, 2009 02:51 pm
undyingking: (Default)
Just learned that Bob Lloyd, who I haven't seen in ages (as he went to live in Spain, and me in Ipswich) has got his book out -- Leaving the Land of Woo.
"Leaving The Land Of Woo takes a critical look at the strange theories underpinning the claims of alternative medicine, food therapies such as diets and detox, religion, and the paranormal. Whether it is a claim to talk to supernatural being, or to be able to detox our bodies with a special, whether it is to be able to cure us with homeopathy, or align our chakras, these claims rely on untestable theory and a belief in undetectable forces and energies. They require us to be believers rather than critical consumers. Leaving The Land of Woo shows how these areas of irrationality are closely related, and how to leave them behind."
I haven't read it myself, but Bob is a very decent sort as well as being a funny guy, so give it a go if you think it sounds like your cup of detox tea. He used to be in the Donnington Arms B pub quiz team, with me, also with such luminaries as [livejournal.com profile] venta and [livejournal.com profile] quantumboo, back in the day -- that's how I first knew him.
undyingking: (Default)
In all this recent kerfuffle about ZOMG sperm!, I haven't yet noticed any of the media coverage making reference to John Wyndham's 'Consider Her Ways'. Which you'd think would be obvious. A small kduo to the first mainstram commentator to do so, I think -- tell me if you spot one.

(And a very large kudo if anyone spots a mention of Gene Wolfe's interesting but rather baffling 'In Looking-Glass Castle', which is also relevant.)


In other news, thanks to the people who came up with ideas and who helped me test my PHP -> MySQL problem the other day -- it turns out it was indeed in the server configuration. The hosting tech support eventually told me that they've set it up deliberately so as to forbid any communication with external databases. The reason being that they see this as a major security risk. (I didn't ask them why; I'd lost most of the will to live by that stage.)
undyingking: (Default)
Is anyone else watching The Incredible Human Journey? I'm finding it pretty interesting. Not about two dogs and a cat (or even a human) traipsing across North America, but about the early migrations of the human species. Paleoanthropology is a discipline that has been shaken up so radically in recent years, with the arrival of DNA analysis techniques, that I needed a catch-up to what is now the accepted view.

The presenter, Dr Alice Roberts, is excellent, and also has a lovely accent. (Close your eyes and it could almost be [livejournal.com profile] floralaetifica talking.) She mingles knowing her stuff with enthusiasm and clear explanation. The show has a bit too much "here I am, doing something only vaguely related to the subject but it looks exciting on camera", but that's modern documentaries for you I guess.

I just watched the Asia one, and was susprised and somewhat horrified by what I learnt about the Chinese ethnic origin modern-myth. I knew that the Chinese, according to the cliched image,  traditionally viewed themselves as superior to other races, but I hadn't realized that they'd worked up and sanctioned an evolutionary backstory to it. According to the programme, the official line is that they evolved separately from local Chinese Homo erectus, rather than descending from the results of such evolution in the African Rift Valley like the rest of humanity. And this is actually taught in Chinese schools as being correct biology.

Dr Roberts examined the "evidence" for this theory warily but politely, and then went on to talk to an admirably open-minded Chinese researcher who'd recently done a DNA analysis that (to his surprise) rubbished the idea. But I wonder how long it will take before they change what they teach in schools? As politically-driven scientific absurdity goes, this must be up there with Lysenkoism, although at least nobody's starved because of it.
undyingking: (Default)
The Open University / BBC are giving away a rather nice-looking poster showing the branching evolutionary descent of various assorted interesting animal groups -- click here to get one. Nice if you have or know kids that you want to indoctrinate, or just want to know more about it yourself of course. UK and RoI only though, sorry.

And while signing up for that, why not put yourself into the Natural History Museum's draw to win a nifty-looking velociraptor skeleton replica? Maybe not quite so suitable for kids (it's a metre long!), but they'd surely be envious.
undyingking: (Default)
Two roundups which between them demonstrate just how useless humans are at thinking things through.
  • Does ideology trump facts? Studies say it often does
    "If the findings of some political scientists are right, attempting to correct misinformation might do nothing more than reinforce the false belief...
    "Could this response be why, despite being repeatedly refuted in the media, the percentage of Americans who believe Sen. Obama to be a Muslim continues to grow?
    "It seems to suggest that this effect might lead to problems when it comes to efforts to educate people about controversial or politically charged topics..."
And, as if to neatly support those findings:
  • Green idealists fail to make grade, says study
    "According to the researchers, people who regularly recycle rubbish and save energy at home are also the most likely to take frequent long-haul flights abroad...
    "Some people even said they deserved such flights as a reward for their green efforts...
    "[O]ne respondent said: 'I recycle 100% of what I can, there's not one piece of paper goes in my bin, so that makes me feel less guilty about flying as much as I do.'"
I'm sure I'm as guilty of this sort of thing as everyone else. Systematic denial of this sort is a mechanism that humans must have evolved very early, as an important species behavioural trait: if we estimated risks and consequences accurately, we'd probably never have bothered coming down from the trees. What's interesting though is that clearly it is possible to overcome it under certain circumstances. How can that effect be spread wider?
undyingking: (Default)
Would you like some delicious tasty vinegar in your beer? Don't knock it until you've tried it! Interesting experiment. The first result -- people liked the blind taste more than the idea -- is not surprising these days, we know people are prejudiced against such bizarre-sounding concepts. And the second result, that people liked the taste less if they knew vinegar was going to be in it, is only mildly surprising. But the third, that people still preferred it if they were told afterwards that vinegar was in it, I found remarkable. As the abstract puts it (my italics), "Disclosure of the secret ingredient significantly reduced preference only when the disclosure preceded tasting, suggesting that disclosure affected preferences by influencing the experience itself, rather than by acting as an independent negative input or by modifying retrospective interpretation of the experience."

Birmingham atheists and Wiccans under the council's cosh -- what I find surprising here is that the "system allows staff to look at websites relating to Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and other religions". Why? Is this a common exception at workplaces that generally ban leisure Web use? If so, then clearly religious websites are the places to site your games. Surely it can't be that so many of the Council staff have work that involves religious sensitivity etc, they found it easier to make a blanket allowance?

Thomas Doyle makes what are basically snowglobes without (usually) the snow, but each depicts an enigmatic scene. Somehow one gets drawn into speculating who these people are, what they're doing here, etc. It's not obvious to me why I find these so appealing, which is a good sign in itself.

Farah Mendlesohn wrote this interesting essay about the Out of this World series of anthologies. These were pretty much my introduction to "proper" SF -- I read them out of the library, around the age of 11 -- for which I count myself rather lucky. She expresses very well what made them remarkable. I have to admit that at the time I didn't know quite what to make of the stories by Calvino etc that were included alongside the genre greats and Eastern European obscurities, but they all helped form me as an SF reader and gave me the important sense of the artificality of genre boundaries. I now want to track down the books, because there are a number of stoies mentioned here that I haven't seen since but remember loving.
undyingking: (Default)
Does anyone know, or can find out, the details of a service to which one can send a DNA sample and get back a report about one's ethnic mix -- a seen on that TV programme from last year or whenever it was?

I would expect it to be commercially available by now, as all sorts of other DNA-related stuff seems to be.
undyingking: (Default)
A few things that have caught my eye just lately:
  • PMOG, The Passively Multiplayer Online Game -- mentioned by [livejournal.com profile] killalla, basically a way of making ar$ing around on the Web more fun. Needs Firefox. See also [livejournal.com profile] pmog.
  • What does atheism mean to you? Interesting finding from the Pew Foundation that an impressive 15% of US atheists are either absolutely or fairly certain that there is a God. (As are a mighty 40% of agnostics.)
  • Nice little film of a mechanical escalator device. I just think this is a really ingenious design.
  • Labrador have released their free 2008 Summer Sampler, to which I can't find a link on their site, but here's a direct link to the zip itself. "A summerish mix of recent favourites from The Sound of Arrows, The Radio Dept. and Club 8, lost classics from Acid House Kings, Caroline Soul and Chasing Dorotea and sun packed songs by [ingenting] and lots more." Many of the 30 songs will already be familiar if you know Labrador stuff, but if not then you really should.
  • Typetester is a neat little online utility that allows you easily to compare your chosen sample text in a variety of fonts, spacings, colours, weights etc. I anticipate using this a lot.
  • Relatedly, see your chosen text as smoke, droplets, lovehearts, fireworks etc, here. Pretty!
  • This looks like a good recipe for elderflower cordial, which now is the time to make. Anyone tried doing so?
  • Does reading Stephen R Donaldson's Thomas Covenant books make you feel as gelidly preterite as a carious scoria? It does me, but this useful page helps make sense of it all.
  • Conservapedia has posted this email exchange with evolutionary microbiologist Professor Robert Lenski (longish, but worth reading). Good example of how a scientist can comprehensively demolish an idiotic opponent. I can only guess that one of the other Conservapedia editors hates Schlafly.
That'll probably do for now!
undyingking: (Default)
"... this is science, science, science! That is what is so fantastic about it."

I know we get the newspapers we deserve, but really, FFS.
undyingking: (Default)
I was intrigued to note (courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] mrsdanvers63) that, according to Google, this LJ is the world-leading authority on the subject of dialect terms for gigantic buzzing beetles, thanks to this entry from last year.

(I can add that I've now also seen stag beetles in flight -- we had two males competing for a female in the garden this summer -- and, as suspected, it's a very impressive sight, preferably viewed from a fair distance.)

Has anyone else noticed Google declaring their journal an expert on any such somewhat random subject?
undyingking: (Default)
Amazing and fascinating supertree of mammal phylogeny. Here's the BBC article, here's the pdf. Who1 knew that elephants were most closely related to hyraxes, etc?

Admittedly I had to blow it up to 20x to actually read the end nodes, but if you've got a monitor approximately the size of a garage door, you won't have that problem.



1 (apart from [livejournal.com profile] al_fruitbat)
undyingking: (Default)
I was reminded last night of a summer evening a few years ago when I was sat out in a meadow with friend M (who grew up in Suffolk), and a huge ungainly great beetle came buzzing into us out of the darkness.

Flutter, flutter, flap )
undyingking: (Default)
... or some of it is, anyway. This interesting article by John Ioannidis claims that "[i]t can be proven that most claimed research findings are false", because of things like rushing to publication, bias towards publishing 'positive' results, conflicts of interest and the like.

I'd be interested to hear if any of you pro scientists out there disagree with his arguments or conclusions. The real reason I picked this out though is because there's a very pleasing Epimenidean quality to the notion "Scientific papers' conclusions are false, concludes scientific paper"...

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