Saturday, April 30, 2016

Ruby, ruby

Made some ruby red ale recently that attempted to copy a famous beer called Hobgoblin, from the Wychwood brewery near Oxford. It turned out rather well, a lovely deep ruby colour and an authentic malty, biscuit flavoured ale at around 5% ABV. As you can see from the photo above it had a nice foamy head and just about perfect carbonation, must try a side by side with the real thing. I don't want to sound big headed or anything but I have a sneaking suspicion that I might prefer mine!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Yesterday, upon the stair..

Have you noticed how the BRExit campaign seems to focus almost exclusively on the things they don't want (which is easy) rather than the things they do want (requires thought) When you do finally pin them down to concrete things they actually want then it's fairly trivial to show that membership of the EU (or any union) is a really good way of delivering those things. (immigration controls, financial security, job opportunities, less wars, more global influence etc..)

In my experience, this negative approach to debating often betrays a position that is largely based on emotion and not one that's based on reason and evidence.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


New J&M up today; I have to agree with Mo. I hate it when people say that too, In my head it gets translated as "I'm too lazy to adhere to the propitiation's of any particular religion and I don't have the balls to think for myself"... the worst of both worlds.

We're all dooomed

Back in the day one of the breakthrough computer games of the early 90s was a game called "Doom". It wasn't the very first of it's kind but it helped to give birth to a whole genre of computer games called "FPS" or First Person Shooters, these are games where the player views and interacts with a computer generated world as if looking through their own eyes (i.e. in first person) Doom was a seriously cool game for it's time, it looks "blocky" and simplistic now but back then it was leading edge. To have a 3D environment that you could wander through and pan around perfectly smoothly was a triumph. The programming genius behind the development of the graphics engine that underpinned it was a chap called John Carmack who went on to form a company called Id Software and for a while in the mid-90s, they rocked the gaming world. Carmack even has an algorithm named after him (how cool is that!) the "Carmack reverse algorithm for shadow volumes" is a permanent computer science monument to his ingenuity.

Fast forward to today and computers have become very different tools; there are still gamers and there are still cool FPS games to play, but computers have gone from being things that geeks and software algorithm geniuses played games on in their bedrooms to the mainstream of our society. Back in 1991 when Doom was written the World Wide Web only had one page, the page that Tim Berners-Lee created to test his new idea; by 1992 it had 10 pages and today there are over 5000 new pages being added every second. 

Recently it was noted that the world of Doom and the World wide web had an interesting intersection, the average WEB page became as big (in terms of bytes of data) as the first version of Doom was. So today we have pages being served up that show a picture of a kitten that are as big as a fully functional, multi-player, 3D, FPS game (with all of the ingenuity required to make that work) Perhaps I'm being over nostalgic but I do sometimes think that our society has become overly obsessed with form over function. Back in 1992 Doom could easily occupy a teenage brain for days, weeks if not months, for the exact same payload of information how long can a picture of a kitten hold your attention and is this good bang for our buck? I do sometimes hanker for the days when ingenuity was king and the marketing parasites that now infest the WEB with their bloated stock images and tiresome popup spam were still running around selling each other knock-off Rolex's from a suitcase; then again, nostalgia isn't what it used to be..


Rationalists always struggle with revelationists, to be honest, I'm surprised we weren't selected out of the gene pool years ago; then again revelationists couldn't survive without constant tech support so I guess it balances out.

Eyes in the sky

This is a picture of the James Webb telescope nearing the final stages of manufacture ready to be loaded into the nose cone of an Ariane 5 rocket and blasted into space to take over from the Hubble as our largest and most capable space telescope. It's very exciting, this beauty will be many times the power and resolution of Hubble (which has had an outstanding run) and the new science it will undoubtedly discover will, I'm sure, amaze the next generation as much as Hubble has amazed mine.

The project is quite a bit over budget; back in 1997 the estimates were around the half a billion dollar mark, today the costs will exceed 8 billion, quite an overrun. That's a lot of cash and many would argue it could be better spent on other things. I understand their point of view but I disagree; in the bigger scheme of things it's not a lot of cash, for example it's 1/250th the cost of the Iraq war so far or about the same as we spend in this country on pet grooming per year. It's something that I believe needs to be viewed with a broader perspective and weighed against long term research, technological and educational advances as well as sheer human wonder (which, like great art, is hard to value in dollars). The bigger worry for me would be at 8 billion dollars I hope the rocket boys have got their ducks in a row.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Know all..

Saw this today, made me smile; it's amusing to think about and for me resembles the classic "hype-cycle" used in technology industries to talk about how products go through different phases of their life. The hype-cycle includes sections called things like "the peak of inflated expectations" and the "trough of disillusionment" it kinda works for most things. I think the general learning from things like this (apart from the comedy value) is that we go through life only really grasping a few things well; some have the luxury of intelligence and time to be able to grasp a few of those things really well but most of us only really ever skim the surface (even though we act like we don't).

Monday, April 25, 2016

Atheists in foxholes..

A funny man, sadly no longer with us but never a truer word etc.. 

We re-watched the film Amistad at the weekend, I'd forgotten how graphic it was and how only a few generations ago (1839) the ethical standards of our (Western-European) society were simply horrific in their brutality and inequality. Strange to think that the generations who practised and justified the industrial slavery of the triangular trade were by all counts much more "Christian" than many Christians would claim we are now; but in reality their society was much more closely founded on evolutionary principals (survival of the fittest) than humanist ones; a concept they would have almost certainly rejected had they understood it at the time. It's a funny old game.

What have the frogs and the krauts ever done for us?

Love this; made me laugh out loud and I suspect not a million miles away from the truth.. (to be clear I'm very much against the UK leaving the EU)

Friday, April 22, 2016

Friday smirk..

I'll just leave this here and retire to a safe distance..

Nice quotes..

Not plugging the BHA particularly (I'm not a member) just thought this was a nice warming thought for a chilly overcast Friday morning (what the heck happened to the weather?!).

Belief in Physics

Following on from my faith based physics post yesterday I saw this little xkcd cartoon today and thought it a perfect follow-up; in my experience it's how many religious people think science works. Of course, they're not entirely wrong, this might well be an experiment you do once and, if you live, learn from, and if not demonstrate the process of natural selection. Most religions on the other hand would claim that your bloody nose was because you just didn't believe strongly enough and that's the difference.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Queens birthday..

A stiff salute to Queen Elizabeth, or a lot of old "cock" - you decide; all I can say is that if I'd had been born before the Enlightenment my neck would have been snipped quicker than you can say "orf with his head"..

Islamic Physics

This is what you get when you mix education with religion; especially when you live in a theocracy like Pakistan, this gem comes from the Sindh Text book Board in Larkana.

Still, look on the bright side, the poor kids over there won't stand a hope in hell of competing with British kids who attend purely secular schools that focus on teaching science as it really is, oh crap, hold on a minute..

Annus Horribilis

Hard to miss the latest news; along with a steady tide of boring stuff about the (UK) royal family (Windsor is just up the road from me) we have a shocker from the USA. Prince, the musician and singer has died aged 57; I wouldn't' call myself a hardcore fan of his music but boy could that lad play the guitar, and I have a deep respect for anyone who can craft sound like he could with just six strings; another entertainer that has died far too young, man, what a year so far!

Comedy gold

New J&M today; when it comes to religions, sometimes it's hard to distinguish comedy from reality.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Too soon

Really saddened to learn today that comedienne Victoria Wood died today, she bought a great deal of laughter to our house over the years. By all accounts she was a very intelligent and creative person, her performances certain suggest that and from the sentiment of the above song I think I might have agreed with her on a lot of things.

I won't repeat the usual cliches about the disease she died from but as Christopher Hitchens so elegantly said as he suffered from the same, "it doesn't feel like battling, more like resisting". I can only hope that she received the care she wanted at the end of her life, it came far too soon.

New Job?

I thought this was interesting, jobs that didn't exist just 10 years ago! I wonder what this poster will look like in another 10 years time?

Personally I wished I'd looked closer at beach-body coaching (highest growth); probably would have gotten a lot more beach-body action than I actually did in the last 10 years. Although, looking on the bright side, I reckon I could apply for 50% of the 10 jobs listed here so I suppose the last 10 years hasn't been an entire waste :)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Celebrity opinions

I'm really saddened to see that Robert De Niro has become an anti-vaxxer; he claims he isn't, but when you listen to him he simply parrots the same anti-vaccination falsehoods that the hardcore anti-vaxxers do (like Jenny McCarthy and Andrew Wakefield) He seems both unaware of his alignment to this movement and also to the widely debunked garbage that it's adherents use and which he is now regurgitating.

As human beings we all crave answers (especially around medical matters), we want to know that x causes y and the simpler the causation links the better; that way they're easier for us to understand and easier to follow. But unfortunately reality doesn't work that way, and the best way (so far) we have to determine if something is (probably) true or not is to study it using the scientific method. Even then, this only delivers a probability of truth, but 99.99999% scientifically true beats 0.00001% gut-feel every day of the week and on weekends too! But, if you're in the 0.00001% (as many parents of autistic children, like De Niro, are) then you will cling onto any and every thing you can in order to get a satisfactory (to you) explanation and when plausible hucksters like Andrew Wakefield (now a convicted criminal) come along then I can understand why some people feel compelled to listen and (the more gullible ones) may even take up the cause.

The problem for society is when the people in that 0.00001% are celebrities, but not scientists or even scientifically literate; then their voice is disproportionately large (compared to the actual evidence). The complexity and effort involved in understanding that evidence is quite often beyond them or not sufficiently valued by them, this combination of confidence, air-time and ignorance is lethal. Having people like De Niro spreading this message (however cautiously) means that children, somewhere, sometime, will now die unnecessarily. If I were him that fact would make me think more than twice before embarking on this course, and I'd certainly read a lot more (on both sides) than he clearly has before opening my mouth on the subject, I hope for his sake that he reconsiders his position before it's too late.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Lotta bottle..

Tried my hand at making some lager recently, my wife prefers it over the usual ales and IPA's that I like, and with Summer on its way it seemed like a good idea. Since I don't normally make that much beer of one type in any one batch (around 8 pints) I doubled everything up; I know I won't make this style again for a while. The bottling process was a little more taxing than normal, using smaller 330ml bottles (bit more girly than my usual 500ml ones) it seemed to be never ending. Anyway it's all done and will now spend around 6 weeks conditioning before it's ready to drink. I decided to go for a Mexican style lager with some added maize flakes and a nice Citra hop at the end of the boil to give it a bit of citrus flavour, let's hope it's OK or we've got a lot of duff beer to get through!

Prove it..

Well, you can't prove it didn't happen like this can you...

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


Balance has been restored to the force, new J&M up today..

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Officially outstanding

Just brilliant; well done to all the people working on this programme, a truly outstanding achievement!

Friday, April 08, 2016

Friday brain farts

Strains on the NHS..

When bemoaning immigrants for putting an unnecessary strain on the national health service, make sure you're smoking a fag and downing a pint ..

Pope says..

"The family is the place where parents become their children’s first teachers in the faith."

Another word for this is "indoctrinate" and in extreme cases some might even say, child abuse.

Right to discriminate..

Mississippi Governor, Phil Bryant, this week made it legal in that state to discriminate against LGBT people under the guise of "religious freedom"

Hopefully the business and entertainment communities will now exit in droves as they threatened to do when Georgia wanted to pass a similar law (but backed down under pressure) - So, come on Delta, Disney, NFL, CNN, Salesforce, Time Warner etc. show that the South can be great again by helping to kick out Christian boneheads like Phil Bryant!

Shares or no shares?

David Cameron is in trouble this week over obscuring the fact that he did indeed benefit from shares in an offshore trust..

Now we hear that he mislead us in order to protect his father (seen above) who died a few years ago but did have dealings overseas; protect him from what.. he's dead? ... look over there, Corbyn isn't wearing a tie...

Ego and evolution

It's interesting how one of the obvious side effects of conciousness is the development of ego; none of us can easily imagine the universe without us in it (or don't want to) but when you think about it, it's pretty simple. Just think about all those billions of people right now getting on with their lives utterly oblivious to your existence and who wouldn't be affected in any way at all if you were to vanish right now. Similarly, in medieval minds it looked like everything in the environment was created specifically for them; the trees, the rivers, the corn, the fruit, the animals etc. all seemed to suit their purposes eerily well. 

Of course, they reached the only conclusion a pre-scientific egotistical species could, i.e. that it was all created just for them by various supernatural gods (depending on where you were born). As Darwin showed in the mid-1800s this is, in fact, an illusion; the environment doesn't bend to suit its inhabitants, reality works in exactly the opposite way. Populations adapt over vast spans of time to fit into their environments via the process of natural selection. Despite this indisputable insight many people today (probably the majority of people on Earth) still hold with the medieval view; even in educationally advanced countries like the USA this position is still (amazingly) prevalent. Most unsophisticated religious people, even many non-religious people don't have even a basic understanding of our actual position in the universe as illuminated by Darwin and the 400 years of rigorous scientific investigation his conclusions rested upon. It's still much easier for many to kick-back and go with their egos and, for me, it's hard to see how we can rid ourselves of this endless succession of fundamentalist nutters, completely seduced by their own egos, until these crucial facts are properly acquired by all.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Funding Bullshit

It would seem that a basic lack of science knowledge among investors has helped propel a kick-starter campaign to $1 million in funds even though the basic premise of the product is demonstrably bullshit. The product in question is called "Triton" (I won't link to it) and its maker claims it filters Oxygen from water at a sufficient rate that a human being can breath underwater. The amount of water that contains enough oxygen (assuming 100% extraction efficiency) for a person to breathe is roughly 100 liters per minute or 1.7 liters per second; a pump that can do that would weight about 2 kilo and need 100 watts of power, as you can see in the picture this device is about the size of a golf ball! Not only is this physically impossible without some major star trek technology it completely ignores the fact that you need to recycle the carbon dioxide you breath since the concentration of this is the way your body regulates breathing, i.e. no CO2 then no regulation, you would hyperventilate and die. The military-industrial complex has been trying to come up with a device like this for years and they have budgets of billions; the best we have are big clumsy re-circulation devices that involve all kinds of noxious chemicals. What are the chances of some shady guy in Korea suddenly cracking all of these technical problems at once and fabricating a device with crowd-sourced funding, I'd calculate the likely probability as half way between -1 and 1.


I was surprised to read  today that a Woman in Belfast has been sentenced to 3 months in prison for the crime of having an abortion (apparently she was too poor to travel to England to get it done perfectly legally). I would argue that such antiquated laws have no place in the UK, even in the more religiously soaked back-waters. Either you're on the bus or you aren't; I vote we should have a referendum to decide if we want Northern Ireland to remain in the Union, with laws like this I would anticipate at least half the UK population SAYS NO!

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Atheist martyrs

Another atheist/secular blogger Nazim Uddin Samad, outspoken critic of religious extremism and in particular injustice inspired by misogyny was hacked and shot to death in Dhaka, Bangladesh today. This kind of religiously motivated assassination seems to becoming the norm there. It's hard to know what to say that hasn't already been said, a sad reflection on the culture of that country, a state teetering on the verge of fascist theocracy and the Bangladeshi government continue to appear indifferent. A place to avoid.

Ridiculous ideas

New J&M cartoon up today; shame it's not just a joke we can all laugh at for a moment before getting on with our lives. For a shopkeeper in Glasgow this ridiculous idea (i.e. that blasphemy is a crime worthy of death) actually cost him his life, if you ask me, a single human life has more value and potential than all the religions, cults and faiths there have ever been or ever will be.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016


Saw this today, thought it was useful in clarifying terminology frequently used when people talk about certain religiously inspired problems in our world at the moment. 

Clearly it's the middle one that we should be worried about and is the one diametrically opposed to Western secular democracy, freedom of speech, conscience and gender equality etc. The top one is just a set of ideas (and should be able to be criticised using argument, logic, evidence and ridicule as any idea should) and the bottom one is a set of people that although overlap with the middle group deserve respect and dignity not for the ideas they hold necessarily but because they are human-beings like the rest of us.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Outstanding blue

How late do they leave it to switch the rockets on to slow the craft down to land! Saving fuel I guess, just brilliant.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Be wary of cool new ideas today..

Knowing that I have an interest in making beer, I've had several people send me this now. It's obviously a joke but never the less an intriguing idea, I wonder if this would be chemically possible? Doesn't look that appetising.