Monday, March 29, 2010

The Writers see sense.

It's a funny thing, but most of the sensible people in the world seem to be writers. Maybe it's because writers tend to think about things rather than accept them. Maybe it's just that most people are too busy to read up on the details of things they are told and just accept them. Writers look up details for a living.

Many scientists are sensible, but then science also involves a lot of reading, writing and researching. Far too many scientists are too busy to look outside their own fields, and end up accepting far too much dogma without really thinking about it. And of course, scientists are human, and any group of humans will include some crooks.

Today I read that smoking can cause bacterial meningitis and asthma. These are not mistakes. These are out and out lies. Bacterial meningitis is caused by bacteria. Smoke has been burned and is therefore sterile. You cannot catch any form of infection from it. It is not possible for any real scientist to make that mistake. It is a deliberate lie.

The main causes of asthma (which is increasing, while smoking is in decline) are the day-to-day changes in modern life. We now have fitted carpets rather than wood or flagstone floors. Dust mites love carpets. We also seal our homes against the weather - especially true this last winter. Few of my windows have opened at all over the last months and it's all set to come back again this week. That's if the weathermen are right. I notice they aren't pushing their 'global warming' line quite so hard at the moment.

We used to complain about draughty old houses and we'd huddle around the coal fire in winter but there was a benefit. The draughts, combined with the constant flow of air up the chimney, meant that the whole of the air in the house was changed for fresh air every few hours.

Now we have double glazing and insulation and draughtproofing and radiators. No chimney. In many houses, it would take well over a week to get a complete change of air. Dust mites, trapped dust, vaccuum cleaners blasting fine particles into air that doesn't leave the house for many days, all a recipe for respiratory disease. Smokers are healthier than non-smokers these days. They spend much more time outside.

These things are among the reasons for the rise in asthma and a lot of other diseases. It's all being blamed on smoking simply to push a Puritan world on us all. I'm still Electrosmoking rather than real smoking, but they want to ban that too. The reason? It looks like smoking.

Seriously. That is the reason.

On global warming, smoking, drinking, butter vs. plastic butter-like substance, salt, fat, driving, all sorts of things, those who want controls and bans are the shrill, hysterical ones while those who consider the matters with reasoned arguments are, in one form or another, almost always writers. Most of those who come here are writers and it's about time I started linking to them.

Perhaps writers should be put in charge. They would certainly show much more imagination than the drooling oafs who currently rule us.

I came across another writer today. So, I'll start a 'writers' bloglist in the sidebar.

Well, I can't do much as far as investigation goes. The snow is coming back. So I'll fiddle with the blog and try not to break it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Email messed up.

The Email account linked to this blog has a 10 Mb capacity which is fine most of the time - as long as I remember to clean it out periodically.

I haven't been active online very much over this winter, so the Email filled to capacity without me noticing. I only realised something was wrong when I logged in and saw a comment which Blogger hadn't notified me about.

So if you've sent me an Email and it bounced, or left a comment and you think I'm ignoring you, it's all down to a full mailbox and me being far too lax about clearing it.

Sorry about that.

Dead fish.

Thanks to global warming, which has resulted in my pond being continuously frozen for three months, all the fish are dead. The floating polystyrene device that should have kept a patch clear of ice just wasn't enough. It's never frozen under that thing before, but this year it did. The ice even cracked the retaining walls around the pond!

The lawns are now yellow and composed mostly of moss after being under snow for all that time, and most of my well-established plants are dead too.

Well, I had been planning to overhaul the garden anyway. Looks like this is the year for it.

Since it's been virtually eradicated, and since it's not sensible to put out new plants here before May, some of those more ambitious schemes are now possible.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A good ghost movie.

Most ghost films are depressingly predictable. You know who the ghost is pretty quickly and from there, the ending is easy to work out.

Passengers is the first one in a long time to actually surprise me. It follows the survivors of a plane crash and the psychoanalyst charged with helping them. It's not even clear at the start that there's a ghost involved at all!

I wish I could go into detail but that would ruin it. A film well worth watching while you're waiting for the weather to stabilise (although if you're in the UK, the definition of 'stable' is 'you might not need your hat but best take it anyway').

Weather is warming here, the equinox approaches (March 20th) and I'm dusting off the investigation equipment. Also the gardening equipment - I usually have the clematis trimmed back to first buds by this time of year but I still have snowdrops! No sign of the daffodils at all. I'm also wondering if there are any fish left in that pond after three months frozen.

I've never seen or heard of a ghost fish. I wonder...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Life in the ice.

Six hundred feet below the Antarctic ice is not somewhere you'd expect to find much of anything. There's no light, it's well below zero (Celsius) and it's only accessible from underneath.

When scientists cut a borehole and lowered in a camera, they were not expecting a shrimp-like creature to land on the cable.

Is there anything bigger down there? They pulled up something they think is a jellyfish tentacle but aside from that and the shrimp, they report nothing more.

It depends on how many shrimp there are. If there are enough to support a predator further up the food chain, then there might well be one. If that predator is numerous enough to support a bigger predator, there might be one of those too. How far up the chain you can get depends on how many are in each level. On the other hand, the shrimp might be the biggest thing there. I still think it would be worth looking further, although I'm not going to do it. Antarctica is even colder than Scotland. Even so it would be interesting to see what strange things lurk in the icy darkness.

Jupiter's moon Europa is encased in water ice. There is considerable speculation that there might be an ocean of water under it. If so, might there be something living there too? Something a bit more interesting than a few bacteria?

If life can exist under six hundred feet of ice, in total darkness, then it is indeed possible. Life (the kind we know) needs liquid water. That's the basic starting point. It can be a sub-zero brine but as long as it's liquid, something can live in it.

If there is life on Europa, it would be very interesting indeed to compare it with life under the Antarctic ice sheets. I would expect it to be very different, as a scientist. If it turned out to be exactly the same, certain people are going to be very pleased and certain other people are going to be very annoyed.

So if there is a trip to Europa in my lifetime, I'll be settling down with popcorn to watch the show.

That trip is not likely to happen. Not while everyone's taxes are going into mad schemes.

Still, it's fun to speculate.


I'm back from the dead. I've been climbing the walls for the last three months because the snow has prevented any sort of investigation of anything, and most days I couldn't even get to the lab. Global warming? I wish.

With the UK's decline into Soviet squalor, and the impending general election, there has been nothing in the news beyond the corporeal. Nothing even to comment on.

Now the snow has pretty much gone - just a few piles of it here and there - and life should get back to normal soon. There is rain but at least rain doesn't hang around in big piles and get in the way. Temperatures are warming, almost 40F some days, and I'll be out and about soon.

Then perhaps I'll have something worth writing about.