Sam Woollaston is a witless ninny

March 13, 2011

I suppose this witless TV reviewer would rather people didn’t try and make interesting and informative programmes about science.

I suppose he already knows everything there is to know about the evolution of the universe.

I suppose he could explain the somewhat tricky concept of entropy in about 5 minutes flat with only a sandcastle for a prop.


Even if there are valid criticisms of the programme (possibly slightly too many sunsets and not enough hard science), writing a stupid sarcastic review is hardly the way to stimulate useful discussion on the matter.

Criticism is a study by which men grow important and formidable at very small expense. He whom nature has made weak, and idleness keeps ignorant, may yet support his vanity by the name of a critic.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

Pseudo-science and BBC and choir singing

January 6, 2011

Arrgh, what an irritating load of piffle this story is:
Choir boys’ and girls’ distinctive voices studied

The gist (according to the World’s Greatest Media Outlet) is that there is some ‘magic frequency’ around 8KHz in choir boys’ and girls’ voices that makes it ‘something that communicates with the soul. It’s way beyond the words, it’s way beyond the music’.

Whilst Dr Howard, who is the researcher responsible for the above, appears to be a serious acoustic researcher – his credited papers include Intonation drift in a capella soprano, alto, tenor, bass quartet singing with key modulation and Nonlinear modelling of double and triple period pitch breaks in vocal fold vibration – he is also quoted as saying “maybe you can get to the point where maybe the computer could be at the back of the choir.”

Yeah, a computer – they can do anything!

All he’s really discovered is that a well trained voice has a frequency response with a peak in a certain area, which happens to be around 8KHz. Well, yes, I would expect a trained voice to have a strong response in certain frequencies, that’s why they sound different (and louder) than untrained voices. It’s quite a step though to claim that there’s something ‘beyond music’ about it, or that there’s something peculiarly magical about it.

Although Mr Howard is obsessed with choirs (which is no bad thing in itself!), he’s going into the realms of pseudo-science with this claim. And of course, the media lapped it up – they love being told that computers operated by, ooh, scientists have discovered the secret of something.

I just hate the way way science is presented by main stream media, as typified by this non-story. It’s always the secret of something being revealed by boffins, when usually nothing of the sort has happened. They’ve either misunderstood the science, extrapolated unreasonably, or, as is the case here, made a whole story (5 minutes on BBC 1 BreakfastNews, 5 minutes on the Today Programme) out of absolutely nothing.

I think choirs are more likely to sound lovely because of the music they sing . Highly harmonious choral music sung in very reverberant spaces is something that appeals to the human ear. It took hundreds of years of singing in churches to develop these combinations of voice, music and space to create these particular emotional effects. And the reasons  it works on the human emotions are lot more complex than a simple boost to the 8KHz region in the individual voices, that’s for sure.

And we definitely don’t need to be told that this so-called discovery could ‘in the future even help scientists to develop a synthetic choir’. FFS.

…especially as they already exist:







Simon Jenkins has written a stupid article

April 23, 2010

Danger Lurks Everywhere

“There are two skies up there overhead. There is one for the rich and another for the rest of us. The jet charter business has just had the week of its life. It assesses risk for itself and spent the Icelandic eruption finding ways round it. From the moment Europe’s transport ministers went collectively mad last Thursday, not a small jet was idle.”

A few hundred private jets can fly around ash clouds on an ad-hoc basis; thousands of commercial airliners can’t.

“No one flew up to test the cloud when the volcano erupted.”

Factually inaccurate:

Do your research Simon.

“The 90 jets throughout history that have encountered volcanic ash – surely enough to yield reliable science – had one thing in common. They all reportedly passed through dense ash concentrations and not one crashed.”

Er…but they have caused all four engines in a boeing 747 to cut out in one instance,  so not that great? One percent of 1000’s of aircraft in Europe having all engines fail means hundreds of 747 gliders in the sky.

Other instances of ash causing engine failure.

“Hurricanes and electric storms must have killed thousands of air passengers over the years, but skies are not closed for the risk from them.”

‘Must have’?? Excuse me, is that a properly researched fact Simon? Sounds very thorough.

And in any case, planes avoid electrical storms where possible for obvious reasons, but as storms are localised  whole fleets are not grounded. So your point is Simon?

“Lawyers may be smacking their lips over transport secretary Lord Adonis’s brave admission of overcaution. This could see the first significant class action against “hypersafe” regulation in history – and most significant it would be. The airlines claim to have been punished to the tune of £1.7bn by the government’s mistake, but the secondary cost in lost business, ruined freight, insurance and general mayhem must be as high as that of bailing out a bank – another result of regulatory dysfunction.”

Lawyers would be smacking their lips if planes had crashed through bad advice.

“A decision cannot be validated just because no planes crashed. Such absolutism is now casually used to justify any amount of over-regulation, such as the absurd measures taken against terrorism, swine flu and such menaces to the official peace of mind as from male teachers, swimming pools, scaffolding and stale food. So long as no one dies, ministers are comfortable. Protest the cost and you are damned for “putting a price on human life”, which is what good risk assessors do all the time.”

Oh this really is just gibberish, I can’t be bothered to go through all of it.

Yey Simon Singh!

April 15, 2010

Take that, you fecking chiropractic c*nts.

Your ‘cures’ are a disgrace to the scientific method and your actions were disgraceful in their abuse of the already shameful UK libel laws.

Can’t tell you how happy I am for this branch of the alternative medicine industrial complex to have so comprehensively and effectively shot itself in the foot with their stupid, stupid attempt to sue someone’s right to free speech.

Ha, ha, serves you right, you bogus placebo-based practictioners of pseudo-sciencitifc rubbish – which was even labelled an ‘unscientific cult’ by the American Medical Association in the 1980’s.  (Who incidentally boycotted chiropracty until, yes, they were sued by the Chiropractors under Anti-trust laws. What a bunch of c*nts, eh? If the science can’t be proven, just sue everyone into oblivion to protect your income from the gullible.)

Funnily enough, I didn’t even realise Chiropracty was made up rubbish until this case. Then I looked into it and like so many of these things it turns out it was invented in the late 19th century by a proven charlatan with his own personal ‘theory’ of disease.

DD Palmer – the Canadian inventor of Chiropracty in the 1890’s – believed that all disease is rooted in the nervous system, hence manipulation of the spinal column will cure all ills. Patent bollox.

He also promoted Magnetic Healing and was put in jail for 17 days for practising medicine without a license.

He was also apparently killed by his own son who ran him down during a parade, following a bitter dispute about the ownership of the chiropracty business.

Ha fuckin’ ha.

Science write wins bitter libel battle (Times Online)

Science writer wins libel appeal (The Guardian)

Up Yours BCA (Skepticat)

(this is all opinion btw, not fact, before you trying suing me, y’feckers)

Looking for some uranium?

August 26, 2009


Any website that has uranim for sale using an animated gif like the above is ok in my book.

Also check out their maiming super-magnets:

Two Supermagnets can very easily get out of control, crush fingers and instantly break ribs or even your arm if opposing poles fly at each other.”

What a super website!


May 19, 2009
The shuttle Atlantis transitting the Sun
The shuttle Atlantis transiting the Sun

Apparently one of the Atlantis crew members stared at the sun too long, went mad and then turned into a burnt crisp person and chased the other crew members around the spaceship until he fell into a gravity well. Oh – hang on, that was that other documentary Sunshine, wasn’t it?

Venus of Hohle Fels

May 15, 2009

The Times: “A piece of Prehistoric pornography”

The Telegraph: “Could be seen as bordering on the pornographic.” (quoted without attribute)

The Guardian: “Erotica through the ages”

The Irish Independent: “Porn from prehistory”

The Independent: “Erotic art for cavemen discovered”

So, the Venus of Hohle Fels is declared ‘pornographic’ by the quality press. How predictable and depressing. Presumably that’s how these journalists are used to assessing images they find on the internet…

Apart from the difficulty of speculating on the uses and reasons behind something 35,000 years old, surely this object is more likely to be a fertility object of some sort rather than ‘masturbatory accessory’ as they seem desperate to imply.

Have these journos never heard of the Venus of Willendorf, of which this object would seem closely related to?

What is even sadder is that the World’s Greatest Media have focussed entirely on this one, rather unattractive object, when in fact there have been other far more beautiful objects found at Hohle Fels, and which give even more an insight in the creativity and artistic impulses of human beings in the neolithic period:

The head of a horse:

Water bird:

(This is exquisite. If you’d rather look at an ugly figurine with big tits, go for it)

(the above two from:



Humour, skill, artistry.

And yes, sex is important too, but the relentless obsession…?

Gets tired. Move on press people.