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19 October 2017 @ 03:00 pm
CBC Radio's national science show "Quirks and Quarks" usually ends with a question from a listener, answered by a specialist that the show has found. This weekend's question is from me:
Given all of the TV shows and movies about "mutants", I've been wondering: what proportion of humans are really mutants? That is, having at least one gene that's different from the genes of either parent? Or, depending on the genetic error/damage rates, how many "mutant" genes does a person have, on average?
I'm looking forward to hearing what they come up with.  I've been irritated by the repeated stuff about "we have this amazing machine that detects all of the mutants in the world".  Even if one goes with a stricter definition that the genetic change must have observable consequences.

I've sent them a couple of questions before, and no doubt will come up with others interesting enough for a national audience. Really, if one has a Ph.D. in science, if one can't come up with weird questions at the drop of a hat, something is very wrong.

The show is scheduled for broadcast on Saturday Oct. 21st from noon to 1 p.m., and will also be available as a podcast.

09 October 2017 @ 04:10 pm
The packet I received from TD with my new credit card is headed: "Thank you for consenting to your TD [blah blah] Card." Though I know that that's based on recent scandals involving people being signed up for bank services without their consent, it still seems like a remarkably negative way of putting it.

Also, I consented to receiving services from the bank. I haven't consented to the card itself. What does this card have in mind? Do I need a safe word? The PIN is probably not appropriate / sufficient for that purpose.
17 August 2017 @ 05:48 pm
There was a time when getting enthusiastic support from the far right would be political death for a candidate, anywhere the constituency was not itself strongly leaning right.

Bloom county radical right

02 August 2017 @ 07:13 pm
Imagining a couple of Game of Thrones characters looking from the edge of a forest across a charred, smoking landscape.  A few of the countless bodies among the wreckage move feebly.

"Well, shit.  I think this is the end of another season."

"Fuck me.  ... Didn't we pass a cave a little while back?"

"What, to hide in?  Don't you remember Willett?"

"What, from a couple seasons back?  Is that what happened to him?  Fuck."

"Let's just get back into the forest and wait it out."

"Oh, right.  Like Joral, last season."

"Shit.  All right, say we try heading back to that farmhouse we saw yesterday.  See if it has a cellar, or a haystack, or something."

"Andar, in a cellar.  Durkin in a haystack.  Purley in a fucking cow.  No fucking farms."

"... We are so fucked.  All right, let's just sit here.  It's quiet here.  ... Why are you looking at me like that?"

"You've got these weird spots coming out on your face..."

11 June 2017 @ 10:36 pm
Someday in the Whoniverse, an evil alien invading force will threaten to disable humanity's defensive capabilities by making humans remember all of the invasions that they've bizarrely forgotten about.  When people are forced to notice things like the gaping hole in Big Ben, the weird monuments, the work camps, the missing family members, the damage to personal property, etc., humanity will be reduced to quivering catatonia.
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19 May 2017 @ 11:53 pm
I sometimes have trouble getting off my computer at night. Or, more to the point, staying off it.  There's always something I'll want to look up when I'm getting to bed.

I wrote a little program for my old machine that would fill its monitor with a full-screen window in obnoxious colours with a big message, telling me to go to bed. I made it as "stubborn" as I could, though there were still ways to minimize it. It was triggered as a scheduled task to go off every 10 minutes from 10 p.m. to 10:30, then every 5 minutes to midnight, then every 2 minutes until around 1 a.m.; every time it was triggered, it would stay up for a minute. The intention was to be annoying without making it completely impossible to look something up if it was really important.

It wasn't as effective as I'd have liked, because it was possible to make the nag go away -- too easy, really. And it didn't run under more recent versions of Windows.

So I've come up with a better version, which should run under any versions of Windows. It's a script using the AutoHotkey "language". One can change a variety of options: the message text, the colours, etc., as well as set whether it should be stubborn about keeping its windows in place.  The configurable options are at the top of the file.

Please feel free to try it, and let me know what you think. All you should need to do is install AutoHotkey, copy the following text into a file with the extension ".ahk", and run the script.

Here's the script...Collapse )

Thursday night's "Late Show With Stephen Colbert" opened with the early drafts of Trump's letter to James Comey, informing him of his being fired. Several sites have quoted them, but I haven't found any that show draft 23, which was written in Russian. So, after a few minutes of tedious copy/pasting from a list of Russian letters, I have:
я прекращаю вас, потому что Владимир Путин сказал мне.
Or, per Google Translate, "I terminate you, because Vladimir Putin told me."
10 May 2017 @ 12:57 am
The snake I was following yesterday turned out to be a gopher snake, not a rattlesnake, and anyway I did not try to pick it up.

We did see a rattlesnake today, though, and had to wait with our tour guide in the petrified wood forest until the snake could be collected for relocation.


My Nicoll number is 1.  That is, I have conversed with James Nicoll but am not Nicoll himself.

If you have conversed with me but not with Nicoll, your Nicoll number is 2.  And so on, as with the Erdős number.

If you are James Nicoll, your Nicoll number is 0.

If you are one of the James Nicolls who have perished in alternate universes, your Nicoll number is -1.
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13 April 2017 @ 11:24 pm
I'm not sure about the Latin. But I've joined the mass exodus from LJ. I've been get-around-to-it-one-of-these-days-ing about moving to Dreamwidth for quite a while; sometimes I need a kick in the pants.  LJ's new terms of service provided that kick.  I feel that if I want to quote Randy Rainbow in saying that P. and the Ritz "love dic... tatorships", that's valid political satire. Dreamwidth's automated migration tool should be copying all of my old LJ stuff to my new blog, bunsen_h.dreamwidth.org, sometime quite soon.

Meantime, here's a bit of lame chemist humour: (NbO)+[CH3(CH2)10CO2]-.

(Niobyl laurate.)

(Told you it was lame.)

26 March 2017 @ 12:32 pm
The CBC just reported the discovery of a supermassive black hole, of the kind that usually sits at the center of a galaxy, travelling at extremely high speed away from its galaxy.  It's believed to be the result of the merger of two galaxies, with their respective central black holes merging and being flung away.

My intuition explains this as being somewhat like the old children's game "Battling Tops".  In that game, players launch small spinning tops towards each other in a bowl-shaped "arena".  The tops are spinning in the same direction, so at the point of contact, the rims are moving in opposite directions.  The collision transfers some of the rotational momentum of the spins to the tops with respect to each other, slowing the spins and kicking the tops away from each other.  Eventually, the tops slide down the bowl again, and after a few collisions, at least one gets knocked over; the winning player is the one whose top is standing last.

With the black holes, getting flung away from each other after "contact" doesn't work so well.  So a massive pulse of gravitational wave energy gets flung in one direction, and the merged black hole heads in the opposite direction.

Or so my intuition says.  Dammit, I'm a doctor of chemistry, not a doctor of astrophysics.