Author Archives: uthinki

Alien Size Calculations

Aliens are expected to exceed 300kg (661lb). Or so the recent paper by Fergus Simpson calculates. His contention, is based on two main things: Mathematical modelling of what is likely to be the radius of an inhabitable planet. Suggesting these are likely to be closer in size to Mars than to Earth. In addition to noting trophic levels and that the population density for a species is negatively correlated with the size of the organism. Meaning that because of the requirement of food sufficient to sustain them, there are likely to be a greater amount of smaller animals (such as ants) inhabiting an area than there are to be numbers of larger animals (such as whales). Leading to Simpson’s conclusion that intelligent alien species (if they exist) are expected to be 300kg or more in mass. Which given the calculations, places humans on the smaller end of the scale. Weighing ...

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American Pie Lyrics Sale Makes Don McLean Smile

Don McLean’s original manuscript of lyrics for his song American Pie, was auctioned and sold on 7 April by Christie’s in New York. Written back the 1970-1, the manuscript fetched a sale price of US$1,205,000 from an anonymous buyer. It achieved the third highest auction price for an American literary manuscript. As Tom Lecky of Christie’s said: “This result is a testament to the creative genius of Don McLean and to the song’s ability to still engage and inspire.” Don McLean apparently released his manuscript because he wanted to help people better understand the true meaning of his song. Stating in the Christie’s February catalogue: “It was an indescribable photograph of America that I tried to capture in words and music.” Maybe it was also as much as about the money and Don’s “mercantile instinct” as well. The true meaning of the song American Pie, however, still remains rather mysterious. ...

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Human Head Transplants: Science or Fiction?

Transplanting a human head. The very mention of the idea evokes such things as ranging from Dr Victor Frankenstein to the Head Museum of Futurama. Yet one Italian physician, Dr Sergio Canavero, believes transplanting a human head onto a human body is but a few years away. For this to happen, Dr Canavero is aiming to gather more funding, along with finding a medical centre or hospital capable of performing the operation. Doctors and nurses have reportedly expressed an interest in being involved; some 150 are expected to be required for the anticipated 36-hour operation. As for the patient, it’s not a defrosted Walt Disney. (Disney’s cryonics is actually an urban myth.) Instead a Russian man named Valery Spiridonov is said to be a potential volunteer. Spiridonov reportedly suffers from Werdnig-Hoffman disease. A rare genetic disorder of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) characterised by the degeneration of nerve cells and the wasting of ...

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Greyhound Racing Scandal: From Patterns to Pets?

Every dog has its day. So the saying goes. Yet for some greyhounds, what that day has involved has not exactly been pleasant. Following in the wake of the ABC’s Four Corners exposé in February of the greyhound live baiting scandal, which saw rabbits, possums, and even piglets being used as lures on training tracks for the greyhounds to chase and kill, positions in the official greyhound industry have met a similar fate. The board of Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW) was dismissed by the NSW State Government; standing down 10 trainers and suspending 28 dogs. Racing Queensland has acted similarly, 36 greyhound trainers have been suspended, six of which have been banned for life. Two Queensland men were charged over the live baiting incident. Were the live baiting scandal not enough, this was followed shortly by the discovery of a mass grave of 55 greyhounds near Bundaberg, Queensland. Like dominoes ...

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A Tax on Bank Deposits: Thought Bubble or Preventing Economic Bubbles?

Taxes, Bread, and Circuses The Australian Government is now proposing a tax on bank deposits. Set to be introduced in the May 2015 budget. Intentions, apparently honourable, are that such a tax would be used to ensure sufficient funds are available to be paid out to depositors in the event that the bank (or other Authorised Deposit-taking Institutions, ADIs, which includes banks, building societies, and credit unions) were to become insolvent. That is, the deposit tax (or levy, if preferred), would serve as a bail-out to depositors in the event of a bank collapse. This is in contrast, but little different, to the current system of the Financial Claims Scheme (FCS) where deposits of up to A$250,000 per account-holder per ADI are protected for free. The Australian Government guaranteed deposits seal may be displayed if the institution is covered under the FCS. That the current system is truly free, is ...

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Ban the Haka from Sport?

It’s bold, could be in the faces of others, and maybe it’s even a little intimidating. It’s the haka. Traditionally a dance by the Maori people of New Zealand, it has been used as a war dance or challenge. Though in various forms it has also been used as a greeting or ceremonial acknowledgment. The haka is not one thing, but many of a particular form. Used in sport by both the New Zealand rugby league team, currently the Warriors, and the New Zealand rugby union team, the All Blacks; it’s a tradition which dates back to 1888 and 1905 respectively for the football codes. The haka, although coming in various forms, when used on the sporting field is more akin to its war dance and challenge origins. Acts of stomping, slapping, yelling, poking the tongue out, and showing wide open the whites of the eyes, all have primal physiological ...

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Germanwings: Reassessing Risks

In the wake of the Germanwings tragedy, much focus has been placed on the co-pilot Andreas Lubitz. Looking for signs, clues; and more generally questioning mental health issues and screenings associated with airline pilots. This is understandable. There is the sense of the need to do something, so that such an occurrence on an airline is not allowed to happen again. It’s also putting humanity into what was the senseless loss of human lives. Which, those suggesting better psychological screening methods, argue could be used to prevent in the future. Although there is undeniably merit to the psychological screenings in understanding and helping to ensure pilots’ mental health, from a risk management perspective other approaches are likely to be more effective. The Germanwings disaster which killed 150 people when the plane crashed into the French Alps, reportedly occurred when the pilot left the cockpit to go to the toilet. Then ...

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Don’t Feed the Ducks Bread

Londoners have been given a simple request: Please don’t feed the ducks bread. The Canal & River Trust are the ones currently making this request. With it comes a warning as well. Apart from the estimated six million loaves of bread annually entering London’s canals and waterways, it’s being warned that bread is like “junk food” to ducks. Suggesting that the diet for the ducks would better include handouts of lettuce, peas and corn, oats, seeds, and rice. Grapes are apparently also acceptable. Portion control and varying the places of feeding is encouraged as well. Much like the path to hell may be paved with good intentions, for ducks it may be paved with bread loaves. Which has nothing to do with Hansel and Gretel because it’s not just breadcrumbs. Although it is about fatted ducks of sorts. Problem is, the bread that is housing itself in the waterways is ...

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Deadpool’s Suit Irresponsibly Great?

There you have it fans, Deadpool’s official suit for the forthcoming Deadpool (2016) movie: With great power, comes great irresponsibility. #deadpool #officialsuit @deadpoolmovie pic.twitter.com/MPM89bYz1B — Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) March 27, 2015 Which is maybe better than the featured image for the article probably suggested. Sane though Lady Deadpool may be. Speaking of, hopefully this time around the Merc with a Mouth actually has a mouth to use. After the debacle that was Deadpool towards the end of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, one can only hope. How exactly that movie ended up with some mouthless, uninspired Mortal Kombat-esque Baraka rip-off in place of Deadpool is more mysterious than the serious origins of this hirsute superhero (also kindly tweeted by Ryan Reynolds). Surely even Dogpool had to have been a barking lot better than pseudo-Barakapool? Even with Deadpool’s freakish healing abilities, it has taken many years for him to recover from that misstep! Fans are a ...

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Pitt the Elder vs. Lord Palmerston

Who Was England’s Greatest Prime Minister? The question is admittedly a little misleading, since there’s only going to be a choice of two here: Pitt the Elder versus Lord Palmerston. First a bit of background, even if it’s known what’s coming. Pitt the Elder William Pitt the Elder, 1st Earl of Chatham, also known as “the Great Commoner” was described as an aloof individual and a commanding speaker. Although only holding the office of Prime Minister for two years (1766-68), his political career was both far longer and more contentious. Mainly in part due to the wars over the period, tensions with the British colonies including America, and divergent views between the people and the monarchy at the time. He also gave the world the following quote: “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it.” Variants of which are still used today (though the concept ...

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