Graphics that lie, systemantics, thai coup, Hitler ice-cream, the world’s largest employers and the limits of knowledge

We tend to believe what numbers say, but just because they’re on a chart, that doesn’t make them true.

The idea is to organize access to the Deep Web’s content, and build a search engine alternative to Google, that will give NASA a better way to access data being uploaded by their machines. A not unintended byproduct of this will be, eventually, allowing everyone more access to the hidden parts of the Internet.

Homeopathy is a 200 year old pre-scientific system of medicine based upon magical thinking. It is mostly based on two notions, the first of which is that like cures like. In other words, a substance that causes a symptom can cure that symptom in extremely low doses. There is no scientific basis for this, despite the desperate attempts by homeopaths to invoke vaccine-like analogies, or their new favorite, hormesis.

The second notion is that you make a remedy more powerful by diluting it to extreme degrees. People have fun making comparisons, such as the need to drink a solar-system’s worth of water to have a 50% chance of getting a single molecule of active ingredient. No problem, say the homeopaths, homeopathic potions contain the magical “essence” of what was previously diluted in them. It’s turtles all the way down.

Here’s a fun game (if you’re a geneticist): Google “scientists discover the gene for” and wander through the headlines returned in their millions. A gene for homosexuality, for political bent, for cocaine addiction, for fear, for what time of day you will die, for spree-killing evil, for happiness, for brain size… For no other reason than utter vanity I propose this fallacy be known as Rutherford’s law: these simplistic narratives are just wrong. Genetics doesn’t work like that; there aren’t really any genes for anything. Some diseases do have a single root cause in a single gene, but how that disorder manifests can be highly variable, a genetics concept called “penetrance”. Inheritance is a game of probability, not of destiny.

Farming, by definition, is the opposite of natural. Nothing we eat could be described as “natural”, regardless of the marketing or labelling, whether it’s organic, or from Waitrose, Aldi or Abel & Cole. Breeding any organism for food, fuel, sport or for pets is effectively genetic modification – and we have been doing that for thousands of years. For example, a Granny Smith is a genetic hybrid of two other apples and even a blackberry plucked from a bramble is the product of a deeply ancient, seemingly natural but actually very human design – the hedgerow.

The Thai military coup of May 22nd 2014 had been months, if not years, in the making. Ever since PM Yingluck Shinawatra’s landslide election win in July 2011, it had been clear – to all those who were willing to see – that the Thai people’s genuine commitment to democracy was doomed to be usurped by the wealthy entrenched establishment and their willing henchmen in the Thai Army.

Scandinavia was once the praetorian guard of Europe’s Left but with the Danish election result only Sweden now has a non right-wing government. Labour, of course, suffered a devastating defeat in Britain last month. It was all but wiped out in both southern England and Scotland. The centre right Angela Merkel remains the dominant figure in German politics. The new Polish president is even more conservative than the last. Tony Abbott has bounced back in Australia and is now favourite to be re-elected next year. John Key won his third consecutive victory in New Zealand last September. Even where the left is in power it’s in trouble. France’s Hollande is deeply unpopular and he is currently third in presidential opinion polls – trailing both the mainstream centre right and the toxic Marine Le Pen. Barack Obama may be loved overseas but his US approval rating dipped below George W Bush’s in one recent survey. The Republicans are more dominant in US politics as a whole (when you count Congress, Senate, Governorships and state legislatures) than at any time for a century.

A man found dead early Monday, June 15 in Riberas del Pilar appears to have been the victim of a freak accident attributed to excessive drinking and bad weather.

The deceased has been identified as Ajijic resident Martin Anguiano Morales, 41. His corpse was discovered lying face down on Paseo de la Ribera, near the Mirasol subdivision, with a plastic bag containing an alcoholic substance at his side.

Although the official autopsy results were not available at press time, officials at the Ministerio Público (district attorney’s office) attributed the cause of death to asphyxia from the aspiration of fluid. Presumably, Anguiano passed out in the street during a drinking binge, tumbling face first into a pot hole. A storm blew while he was unconscious, filling the rut with a fatal dose of rain water.

A new ice-cream to hit India’s streets is called the Adolf Hitler and has sparked anger and frustration in Germany and the rest of the world.

Hitler’s name has been branded all over the new ice cream cone, its packaging and boxes throughout India.

German newspapers are labelling the ice cream as an untasteful public relations stunt, but in India the lack of knowledge about the Holocaust means that it is having little impact or consequences there.

The UK only has a population of 63 million people. How can 1.7 million of those work for the National Health? That’s over 2.5% of the total population! And that doesn’t account for children and old people.

As a starting point, here’s a graphic from the US Geological Survey with a planetary view of water. The bar on the far left shows that of all the water on the planet, 2.5% is fresh water. The second bar shows that out of that 2.5%, about two-thirds is in glaciers and ice-caps. Most of the rest is groundwater, including underwater aquifers. The surface water that we actually see–like lakes and rivers–is a tiny percentage of the available freshwater.

Our favorite example is the robot (technically, the set of robots) they named “Poppy” — because the system went live on Remembrance Day in the UK, when it is traditional to wear poppies. For the knowledge workers at Xchanging, Poppy took over the laborious task of processing the structured premiums that come in from London’s insurance brokers. She adds supporting documentation, checks for errors, kicks out exceptions, and adds validated information to the official market repository. Poppy hands over the exceptions to her human teammates for processing. They think of her as a “fresher”— the kind of newly-hired employee that has traditionally done the support work for the team — but an especially industrious one.

One intern joked, “The best thing about working at SpaceX is the flexibility. You can work whatever 80 hours a week you want.”

Read more:

When the history of the early 21st century is written, the defining event of the period may not be recalled as the global financial crisis or the rise of militant Islam. It may be the convergence of interests between China and Russia, which led them to create a united front against the US and the European Union, and to challenge the global dominance of western economic and political values.

will empirical evidence remain the arbiter of science?

information graphics


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s