Posts Tagged‘facts’

Monday Morning Skepticism.

After spending the better part of my weekend at work and subsequently feeling a bit vindictive I thought I would take this chance to take a jab at some of the anti-science garbage I’d seen a while back. Now I don’t usually like to rag on people for their beliefs as its a quick way to ensure that they never want to talk to you again. As long as you’re not doing any damage to anyone else I’m fine with you believing whatever you want, just be prepared to be bombarded if you ask me what I think ;) Still I came across this particular video some time ago and I’ve used it mostly for comedic value amongst my scientifically inclined friends:

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I’ll admit that my mind was completely in the gutter the entire time I saw the first video (thankyou sex-ed classes that used bananas as sub ins for male wedding tackle) and I didn’t really bother with anything more than sharing it around for a laugh. Interestingly enough I recently came across some evidence that showed that the video is not only hilarious for its unintended euphemisms but it is also based around some pretty glaring false pretences. Check out this article from Damn Interesting, a site renowned for its writings on all things cool and unusually fascinating:

The banana, however, is a freakish and fragile genetic mutant; one that has survived through the centuries due to the sustained application of selective breeding by diligent humans. Indeed, the “miraculous” banana is far from being a no-strings-attached gift from nature. Its cheerful appearance hides a fatal flaw— one that threatens its proud place in the grocery basket. The banana’s problem can be summed up in a single word: sex.

The banana plant is a hybrid, originating from the mismatched pairing of two South Asian wild plant species: Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana. Between these two products of nature, the former produces unpalatable fruit flesh, and the latter is far too seedy for enjoyable consumption. Nonetheless, these closely related plants occasionally cross-pollinate and spawn seedlings which grow into sterile, half-breed banana plants. Some ten thousand years ago, early human experimenters noted that some of these hybridized Musa bore unexpectedly tasty, seedless fruit with an unheard-of yellowness and inexplicably amusing shape. They also proved an excellent source of carbohydrates and other important nutrients.

Indeed a quick google fact check shows up many sites showing the original wild bananas as chock full of seeds and would be considered unpalatable when compared to the seedless fruits we are accustomed to today. Whilst they were still considered a staple food for many cultures who inhabited their native areas it wasn’t until after significant amounts of artificial genetic engineering (yes, it can and has happened without a lab. Farmers do it all the time) that the banana shown in the video was in that form. So you see it wasn’t intelligent design or anything like that, it was us humans buggering around with a couple plants to make something we enjoyed more than nature gave us.

I shouldn’t be surprised though, people like the ones in the video aren’t renowned for doing their research on a topic before they start crafting their analogies. This is, of course, because they already know the answer to any question we may posit to them and therefore anything and everything becomes part of their body of evidence. This kind of thinking is what sickens me the most when I hear that creationism may be taught alongside science in some American schools. For creationism to even approach science they would have to be able to craft a testable hypothesis for any and all claims they may seek to make. Since they have yet to do that I won’t even do them the favour of relegating them to pseudo-science since nothing of what they do should ever have the word science associated with it.

Now you’ll excuse me while I get back to work, and subsequently fuel my vindictive mood futher :)

Luna.

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Our crater faced neighbour in the darkness of space is none other than the Moon. The only other celestial body to be visited by us humans it has been something of a curiosity to us for countless milennia and it is only recently that we’ve come to realise a few things about this ball of dust and rock that don’t quite seem to add up. Today I’d like to introduce a couple things that are not-so-common knowledge about our celestial cousin and give you a run down on what they mean for us here back on earth.

Firstly it’s massive and not just because it weighs a lot. Current estimates of its mass peg it somewhere around 7.347 7 × 1022 kg or around 1.23% of that of Earth and that’s the kicker right there. If you look at any other planet with another orbiting body the relationship of planet to moon mass is no where near that high. The most comparable planet would be Mars with its moons Phobos and Deimos, which weigh in at a measly 0.0000016% and 0.00000023% of their hosts respectively. It’s a similar story for moons of other celestial bodies, especially when you consider a moon like Lo or Europa which are about the same size as our moon but are orbiting the gas giant Jupiter. Our moon is then somewhat of a enigma and its presence has caused many interesting phenomena on our Earth. This then begs the question: How the heck did something that huge manage to get trapped with us?

There’s a lot of theories about its creation. If you were to look at other planets and extrapolate a hypothesis from them your first conclusion would be that we captured another celestial object. Again the mass of the moon says otherwise, as the Earth isn’t large enough to capture something of that size without some other forces acting which we can’t seem to account for. Another possibility is that the Moon and Earth formed at the same time however the composition difference between the Moon and Earth is significant enough to throw this theory into question. Additionally, all the previous theories also fail to account for the amount of spin the Earth/Moon system has, which leaves the current best hypothesis: something hit us. The idea is that another body on a similar orbit around our sun eventually came too close and of course this lead to a massive collision. This theory still has its problems, but for now it’s the best idea we have.

Another fun fact about the Moon is that it’s covered in a fine powder referred to as regolith. Due to the lack of geological activity and zero atmosphere the surface of the Moon is for the most part, stagnant. Any reshaping of the Moon’s surface occurs in the form of asteroid impacts. These have the tendency to smash whatever they hit into a lot of small pieces and over the course of the several billion years of it’s existence the Moon has taken quite a few hits. This has lead to the entire surface being covered in around 4 meters of fine dust that is best described as crushed glass. Regolith is one of the main issues facing an established lunar base as it’s quite coarse and loves to stick to everything. Plus it’s not the best thing in the world to get in your lungs either.

The Moon is a wonder for anyone on Earth and I love the fact that so much of it is still a complete mystery to us. I can’t wait for the day when we make a permanent presence on the Moon as the things we could accomplish there would be amazing. For now I’ll just keep gazing upwards for a look at the Moon whenever it floats by.

P.S. If you want to know more may I suggest here and here.

Facts and Figures – The Internet Filter

It’s come to my attention that some lobbyists don’t agree with my figures of the slowdown being upwards of 70% in the worst case, and have dredged up some figures of their own:

ACL managing director Jim Wallace said those campaigning against the filter were selectively quoting figures.

”This is quoting the high end figure, when equally one could say that Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) trials have shown that one filter product slowed internet performance by less than two per cent, and three products slowed it by less than 30 per cent with technology improving all the time,’

Mr Wallace said the Christian Lobby believed claims that filtering was ineffective were unfounded, with ACMA trials showing about 92 per cent of illegal and inappropriate content was blocked, and over- blocking was less than three per cent.

”Rather than rallying on the basis of misinformation, people should be giving this very worthwhile proposal their full support particularly ISPs who profit so much from ordinary Australians,” he said.

Let’s be honest and state that neither of us know exactly how much this filter will slow everything down and that any solution that is currently being tested now will not behave the same way when it is implemented. Sure, we could get away with a minor amount of slow down but as Jim Wallace has shown the majority of programs will more then likely exceed 20%. It could be all the way up to 29% if we read far enough into his vague statements.

So let’s take a quick look at what this will cost Australian broadband users in real dollars using real figures. Australia has approximately 5 million broadband subscribers according to the OECD. Additionally they have provided some figures based on average price, with Australia’s coming out to approximately US$61 (AUD$89) per month. This comes out to roughly AUD$445 million per month that Australians spend on broadband connections.

If we take the best estimates of a 2% slowdown that is equivalent to all those subscribers losing 2% of their bandwidth per month, effectively costing Australians approximately $9 million a month in lost services. That’s at the very best of the figures quoted, coming out at a grand total cost to all Australians of around $107 million a year. If we go for what appears to be the majority of cases, say 20% to make it easy, it will cost us $90 million per month which over a one year period will total over $1 billion.

That’s right, if we end up with a filter that slows down only consumer level broadband by 20% it will cost Australians a billion dollars. I shudder to think of the figure that I would get if I did the calculations including high end business and government links.

Do we really want to implement something that costs us this much?