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Topics - Rai

Based on some of the discussions after the creation of the Chess topic under Games, we thought to ask all of you if you would like to see a Sports subforum.

There aren't too many sports discussions running at the moment, but maybe this is due to a lack of dedicated space.

Do let us know what you think, then, if we get enough positive votes we'll make it happen.
Public Announcements / Quetzalcoatl has been suspended
September 14, 2023, 03:51:03 AM
User Quetzalcoatl has been suspended for accruing multiple warnings in a short period of time.
QuoteLike one of the endangered species whose impending extinction it has chronicled, National Geographic magazine has been on a relentlessly downward path, struggling for vibrancy in an increasingly unforgiving ecosystem.

On Wednesday, the Washington-based magazine that has surveyed science and the natural world for 135 years reached another difficult passage when it laid off all of its last remaining staff writers.

The cutback — the latest in a series under owner Walt Disney Co. — involves some 19 editorial staffers in all, who were notified in April that these terminations were coming. Article assignments will henceforth be contracted out to freelancers or pieced together by editors. The cuts also eliminated the magazine's small audio department.

The layoffs were the second over the past nine months, and the fourth since a series of ownership changes began in 2015. In September, Disney removed six top editors in an extraordinary reorganization of the magazine's editorial operations.

Departing staffers said Wednesday the magazine has curtailed photo contracts that enabled photographers to spend months in the field producing the publication's iconic images.

In a further cost-cutting move, copies of the famous bright-yellow-bordered print publication will no longer be sold on newsstands in the United States starting next year, the company said in an internal announcement last month.

National geographic without long photography assignments and staff writers will cease being National Geographic.

Meanwhile, cutting loose the podcasting department is extremely stupid with the current popularity of the genre.

Disney, meanwhile is making record profits so it has no justification whatsoever for butchering a magazine with a 135 year history and a massive global readership.
Public Announcements / bachfiend has been suspended
December 14, 2022, 03:56:23 AM
User bachfiend has been suspended for accruing multiple warnings in a short period of time.
Public Announcements / Unlimited has been suspended
November 29, 2022, 04:21:58 AM
User Unlimited has been suspended for accruing multiple warnings in a short period of time.
General Discussion / Jordan Peterson
November 26, 2022, 09:47:36 AM
Hmm... I wonder how could the man who brought kulturbolschewismus back into public discourse be a fascist...
Quote from: Bigfoot Hunters Find Something Unexpected In Del Norte County
[...]a group calling itself the Bluff Creek Project has been setting up camera traps along the stretch of Bluff Creek where the 1967 film was shot, in hopes of getting better, less-shaky footage of the critter... or of getting none at all, to confirm most biologists' suspicions. And those camera traps have been quite productive. They haven't caught any images of Bigfoot so far, but they have captured two images of a creature so rare it was thought extinct not too long ago.

That animal isn't a seven-foot ape with large feet: it's an adorable little member of the weasel family known as the Humboldt marten.

The marten, known to science as Martes caurina humboldtensis, once ranged through the California redwood belt from Sonoma County north to coastal Oregon. Now it's down to fewer than 200 individuals, which is no surprise given that the little weasel has lost something like 95 percent of its habitat to logging and other industry.

In fact, the Humboldt marten is so rare that for a few decades, it was thought to have gone extinct... until a few individuals were sighted in 1996. It's so rare, in fact, that very few photographs of the marten exist [...]

Cryptozoology is already the least harmful of all pseudosciences and I am pretty glad that they managed to find something genuinely interesting and important, if by complete accident
User RickyDMMontoya has been banned for impersonating forum administration and insulting another forum member via private email.
Corona Virus Disease 2019 / Vaccine Inequalities
December 28, 2020, 03:08:03 AM
Now that vaccine distribution is ramping up, it'll be interesting to see how the geographic and social inequalities are, most probably not, tackled.

Europe and North America are already hogging the vaccine and started distribution. The most odious example is Canada, which ordered five times the amount it needs to vaccinate its total population, while the rest of the world either waits in line until the rich have had their share, or has to use the more problematic Chinese or Russian vaccines.

As vaccination becomes commonplace, it will also become a travel requirement, locking people from the developing world from travelling to the West, further entrenching geographic racism. These countries will also have to contend with a longer pandemic and therefore more economic damage, which will no doubt be exploited by the rich countries.

There have been efforts to avoid this upcoming colonialist disaster. A group of countries, led by India and South Africa requested the WTO to waive intellectual property restrictions on the vaccines that would allow more widespread manufacturing with no actual downsides. However, the US, UK and the EU has so far blocked this attempt, putting the personal wealth of Pharmaceutical shareholders above the lives of most of the planet's population. No surprises there.

It will be interesting to see how this issue plays out on the long run. I do hope that some hero will emerge who will leak the vaccine specifications, allowing widespread manufacture and distribution.
Public Announcements / okio has been banned
July 12, 2019, 02:43:57 AM
User okio has been banned for being a spammy spammer.
Tech Talk / Notebook suggestion needed
April 28, 2019, 06:09:28 AM
I will be temporarily moving to a different continent, and I have been looking for something very portable and not crazy expensive. My main needs are: reasonable durability, not too small, very good screen and capable of handling everyday use and photo editing and it should not be crazy expensive.

I looked at a couple of options, but I haven't been able to find the perfect one. I looked at the XPS 13 and the Thinkpad t480s, but they are both too expensive (around the USD 2000 range around here). The thinkpad has cheaper versions, but those have a reportedly crap screen.

I was also eyeing the Surface Laptop 2 and Surface Book 6, which seem fairly reasonable, but I am not sure if they are solid enough.

Any suggestions?
User mitchelsamuel61 for being a spammy spambot.
This is becoming really scary really fast. We are losing biodiversity at an extreme rate, and it is very much visible all around the planet. All thanks to global warming (can we start calling it Global Climate Apocalypse by now?), unrestrained growth-chasing (deforestation, pesticides, overexploitation, etc. Capitalism in short.). We are seeing 50-90% declines across the board, and it is just insane

Thought I'd start a thread to post the most recent super-depressive news.

The first batch:

QuoteOn 13th August 2013 the Daily Nation, the main circulating daily paper in Kenya and around east African region, reported in one of its lead stories that wild animals in Kenya have decreased by 70%.The report was in fact a media outcry, decrying the evil force behind off-the-graph percentage decreasein the number of wild animals in Kenya. In fact the caption of the story was; what is killing the Wild Animals in Kenya?The Daily Nation in fact mentioned elephants, warthogs, rhinos and zebras to be the wild live animals in Kenya hurling towards extinction at the rate of 70%.

QuoteOver the last three decades, the world's largest colony of king penguins (and second largest penguin colony in the world) shrank by nearly 90 percent, a recent study published in Antarctic Science found. In the southern Indian Ocean territory of Île aux Cochons (translation: Pig Island), aerial and satellite imagery of the penguins documented changes in the population size over the course of 50 years. The island was last visited by scientists in 1982, and the photography is a rare glimpse into the extremely inaccessible ecosystem.

QuoteSpix's macaw, a brilliant blue species of Brazilian parrot that starred in the children's animation Rio, has become extinct this century, according to a new assessment of endangered birds.

The macaw is one of eight species, including the poo-uli, the Pernambuco pygmy-owl and the cryptic treehunter, that can be added to the growing list of confirmed or highly likely extinctions, according to a new statistical analysis by BirdLife International.

QuoteBird protection organisation Vogelbescherming has named 2018 the Year of the House Martin in an effort to call attention to the dramatic decline of this migratory bird in the Netherlands, public broadcaster NOS reports. Together with bird research group Sovon, Vogelbescherming has mobilised a group of volunteers to find the cause of the dwindling numbers of house martins. Since 1970 some 80% fewer house martins have been spotted in this country and it is thought that since 1920 the decline could be as much as 95%. 'Their absence tells us something about how healthy our landscape is. Much has changed over the years,' Sovon researcher Loes van den Bremer told NOS. Van den Bremer says the main cause for the house martin's decline is the disastrous lack of insects in the Netherlands. 'People would complain about hundreds flies stuck to the windshield, now that's a thing of the past,' Van den Bremer is quoted as saying.

QuoteA global crash in insect populations has found its way to Australia, with entomologists across the country reporting lower than average numbers of wild insects.

University of Sydney entomologist Dr Cameron Webb said researchers around the world widely acknowledge that insect populations are in decline, but are at a loss to determine the cause.

"On one hand it might be the widespread use of insecticides, on the other hand it might be urbanisation and the fact that we're eliminating some of the plants where it's really critical that these insects complete their development," Dr Webb said.

"Add in to the mix climate change and sea level rise and it's incredibly difficult to predict exactly what it is."

Entomologist and owner of the Australian Insect Farm, near Innisfail in far north Queensland, Jack Hasenpusch is usually able to collect swarms of wild insects at this time of year.

"I've been wondering for the last few years why some of the insects have been dropping off and put it down to lack of rainfall," Mr Hasenpusch said.

"This year has really taken the cake with the lack of insects, it's left me dumbfounded, I can't figure out what's going on."

Mr Hasenpusch said entomologists he had spoken to from Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and even as far away as New Caledonia and Italy all had similar stories.

QuoteSomething 'fundamentally wrong' in rural landscape, scientists say, with numbers thought to have fallen 80% since 1950s

A "perfect storm" of intensive farming and rising badger populations has left most of the countryside in England and Wales devoid of hedgehogs, according to the first systematic national survey.

The scientists found no rural hedgehogs at all in the south-west of England.

QuoteEXTINCT IN SPAIN: Government adds 32 native species to the list

SPAIN has presented a tragic new list of animals no longer living in the wild in Spanish territories.

The official state bulletin list of extinct indigenous species adds three mammals, two fish and eight birds.

The list also features 19 plant species.

We have murdered the planet. At least the shareholders are happy. For now.
General Discussion / Sealioning
August 30, 2018, 02:58:56 AM
Member martintolley has been banned for spamming.
This is quite a doozie.

Strava released a global heatmap which includes anonymous data from fitness trackers.

Apparently, quite a few military and intelligence personnell use such devices, and therefore a whole bunch of secret installations and and probably also patrol routes were revealed.

Here's another video

While most of the findings were just confirming open secrets, this is still rather amusing

QuoteSince Nathan's tweet, a number of interesting findings from this heatmap have been shared on Twitter, mostly related to secret military and detention sites. However, these locations are far more often open secrets rather than actual secrets, as local reports have revealed the presence of most, if not all, of these "secret" locations. For example, Jeffrey Lewis wrote for the Daily Beast how the Strava heatmap shows the location of a missile command headquarters in Taiwan. Though personnel at this base would cringe at the idea that possible patrol routes are visible on the heatmap, the location of the headquarters itself has long been an open secret after local reporters investigated faux-delivery trucks transporting missiles.

Additionally, the information visualized in the heatmap is largely, though not entirely, restricted to the activity of particular countries. For example, Nathan Ruser found a series of forward operating bases (FOBs) in Afghanistan, likely manned by American and NATO Coalition soldiers.


While I am sure this resulted in quite a bit of shouting at fitness-conscious personnel serving at the locations in question, I, for one, am amused at this instance of surveillance tech surveilling back :D
Public Announcements / kaizen has been banned
January 02, 2018, 03:20:20 AM
Member kaizen has been banned for spamming.
Submitting bogus papers is not always bad, after all :)

QuoteAustralian computer scientist Dr Peter Vamplew submitted emphatically titled paper to 'predatory' journal and 'nearly fell off chair' when it was accepted

An open-access "predatory" academic journal has accepted a bogus research paper submitted by an Australian computer scientist titled Get Me Off Your Fucking Mailing List.


The paper, originally written by American researchers David Mazières and Eddie Kohle in 2005, consisted of the title's seven words repeated over and over again. It also featured helpful diagrams.

Dr Peter Vamplew, a lecturer and researcher in computer science at Federation University in Victoria, submitted the paper to the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology earlier this year after receiving dozens of unsolicited emails from the publication and other journals of dubious repute.

Weeks later he received good news: "It was accepted for publication. I pretty much fell off my chair."


In line with the highest academic standards, Get Me Off Your Fucking Mailing List had been subjected to rigorous, anonymous peer review.

"They told me to add some more recent references and do a bit of reformatting," he said.

"But otherwise they said its suitability for the journal was excellent."

Vamplew was required to pay a $150 fee to have the paper published, but he declined.

The scheme has earned Vamplew some online recognition, but sadly his main aim remains unfulfilled.

"They still haven't taken me off their mailing list," he said.

The editors of the journal have been contacted for comment.

Well, I guess we are doomed

QuoteGlobal declines in insects have sparked wide interest among scientists, politicians, and the general public. Loss of insect diversity and abundance is expected to provoke cascading effects on food webs and to jeopardize ecosystem services. Our understanding of the extent and underlying causes of this decline is based on the abundance of single species or taxonomic groups only, rather than changes in insect biomass which is more relevant for ecological functioning. Here, we used a standardized protocol to measure total insect biomass using Malaise traps, deployed over 27 years in 63 nature protection areas in Germany (96 unique location-year combinations) to infer on the status and trend of local entomofauna. Our analysis estimates a seasonal decline of 76%, and mid-summer decline of 82% in flying insect biomass over the 27 years of study. We show that this decline is apparent regardless of habitat type, while changes in weather, land use, and habitat characteristics cannot explain this overall decline. This yet unrecognized loss of insect biomass must be taken into account in evaluating declines in abundance of species depending on insects as a food source, and ecosystem functioning in the European landscape.

I wonder how much more confirmation of a total ecological collapse is needed, after the confirmed collapse of populations of basically everything that is no Homo Sapiens, livestock or jellyfish, to even start the considerations that maybe our current existence, systems of production and economic policies are completely unsustainable and will kill us all?

Do we really need to start putting up the guillotines so that the people in charge will start worrying about something other than their profit margins? I would be OK with that.
General Discussion / Cooking Rice
September 01, 2017, 12:18:49 PM
I got a bit bamboozled today.

Generally speaking, I know how to cook all kinds of rice, stovetop, ricecooker, doesn't matter. It is not super easy, but it is basic and not exactly rocket science. Mostly wash rice, add right amoutn of water based on quantity, purpose and type of rice, cook until the water evaporates, fluff, rest and serve (or use)

However, I came across a video that intrigued me, because it seems to make sense, but it is all wrong. The relevant part starts around 3:35

What in the Seven Hells? It seems so easy, but it just can't be correct. Is there something I do not know, or have everyone, everywhere been doing it all wrong?
Sorry but you are not allowed to view spoiler contents.

This is a topic that has been bugging me for a while. Popular Consciousness is completely filled with all these wonderful weapons of the Nazis, their technology, their battleships, how they could have won the war, but the more I read into it, the more I realise that the opposite is much more closer to the truth.

Of course, History Channel and the less technical parts of the Internet are not all that reliable, but still, where does this reputation come from? Nazi Propaganda? Allied Propaganda? Wehraboos?

I mean, if you look into details, hardly any parts of the Nazi armed forces seems that impressive. They were very effective against unarmed civilians, small countries and France but they were stopped when they encountered the first half-decent defensive effort and after 1941, they did not have any successes on any of the fronts and then were rolled back by superior tactics and weaponry (instead of sheer masses, as it is told).

Their tanks get a lot of hype, but apart from the Panzer IV, which was a half-decent workhorse, they were either already outclassed by contemporaries (PZ I, II and III) or in the case of the "big cats", were tactical, logistical and strategic nightmares. For an army that stopped tactical innovation in 1940, had absolutely terrible logistics and was in a strategically hopeless situation. It was impossible to move big cats around quickly, even basic repairs (changing road wheels, for instance) took an inordinate amount of time, manpower and equipment, their armour was lackluster (Tiger Is had a frontal armour with an effective thickness less than an inch more than a Sherman (a tank that was 24 tons lighter), Panthers had side armour that could be penetrated by AT rifles and in general German steel was mediocre in the beginning and got scary bad by the end of the war. One non-penetrating hit could take out a tank due to spalling and cracking). They had atrocious reliability issues. For instance, the British had to abandon their efforts to test Panther tanks after the war, because they could not keep even one of the five tanks they had in working order (meaning not a burnt-out hulk from random engine fires) to complete the trials. One Panther was completely disabled after it ran into a tree stump. Their guns had great anti-tank capabilities, though. Too bad that in normal engagement ranges, these differences evened out (records show that in general, the tank that fired first won the engagement) and for the most part, tank vs tank duels were exceedingly rare. This is why soldiers loved the Sherman, because it had a wonderful High Explosive round that could make quick work of fighting positions/buildings/fortifications, even if it was not able to penetrate a Tiger II at range. Considering the number of Tiger IIs vs number of machine gun emplacements, this was a decent trade.

Generally, decent trading is something the Germans just could not comprehend. The enemy is mostly using more lightly armoured, highly mobile vehicles (There is a reason why probably the most effective armoured vehicle of the war was the M18 Hellcat, with its 76mm main gun, at best 25 mm of armour and 80 km/h top speed)? Let's design giant lumbering beasts that can defeat any armour at excessive range (I am looking at you, Maus, Jagdtiger and E-series). Let's design breakthrough tanks when fighting a war of retreat. It makes no sense.

Planes are similar: they were decent in the early war, but development never concentrated on areas that mattered. Their fighters never had any range (they could hardly fly over the Channel, have a dogfight over Dover and get back to their airfield) and they never managed to field a single strategic bomber. They did field a jet fighter, but it would have been better for them if they hadn't, as if you are already lacking pilots, a plane that has a nasty habit of falling apart mid-air or exploding is not the best way to go. The ballistic missiles were a great concept, but the V2 was also the only weapon every created that killed more people in the factory than it did in the target area.

The navy is a whole other topic. Everyone keeps talking about the Tirpitz (which did nothing then sunk) and the Bismarck and the Graf Spee (which sank three ships, then ran away and sunk) and all as if they were anything but obsolete, especially when considering ships that were actually built during the War. The Bismarck is famous for one lucky shell that blew up a WWI vintage battleship that was never refitted for modern combat due to it being paraded around the Globe for years. It is less commonly talked about how its radar could not see fog. For a ship designed for the North Atlantic. The radar was also completely destroyed by the shockwave caused by firing a single salvo from the main guns. Great engineering. The Bismarck was also disabled by antique biplanes and was unceremoniously sunk without being able to even put up a resistance.

What about the great geniuses? Witmann, Rommel, etc., all of them seem much more like reckless egomaniacs that did more harm than good to the war effort. Rommel, for instance, was sent to Africa to hold Tunisia and Libya. Instead he decided to go on an offensive while completely ignoring basic logistics, not even trying to work together with his allies who provided his infantry and then lost Tunisia and Libya. He went on to work on the Atlantic Wall, which wasn't exactly a great success.

You know what were the great advances

So why all the admiration and hype, when historical facts really don't align with it at all? I can't even imagine it to be a "lost cause" nonsense, as from what I've seen of Wehraboos, if anything they tend to downplay the obviously horrible tendencies of the Nazis...
Tech Talk / PC build assistance
December 12, 2016, 07:07:24 AM
My notebook is dying and I have decided that I will build a PC to use as my main computer. I have a tablet for travelling and moving around, so I am not keen on paying a premium for portability and instead decided to go back to a good-old fashioned immovable PC.

I will use it for everyday tasks with some photo editing but I also want it to fulfill my gaming needs for a reasonable amount of time. I will be using a 1080p monitor and I do not mean to move up from there (no 1440p, no VR foreseen), or to do any overclocking. I would like some near cutting edge performace at this level, though.

I am not at all experienced in building PCs, so I thought I would ask for some advice.

This is the sketch I put together so far

How does this look?

I mean to keep my expenses down (I don't have a very strict budget, and this seems quite all right already), so if I can make some trimmings without much sacrifice, that is more than welcome.
This is rather fantastic

•The first non-avialan theropod fragments preserved in amber are described
•Vertebral outlines, curvature, and plumage suggest a source within Coelurosauria
•Branching structure in the feathers supports a barbule-first evolutionary pattern
•Iron within carbonized soft tissue suggests traces of original material are present


The evidence just keeps on mounting, all hail general non-avian dinosaur fuzzyness!!!

I will be delighted by the awesomebro tears.
Podcasts / In search of podcasts
May 12, 2016, 12:03:42 PM
Partially to fill the gap left by Caustic Soda and partially to fill the mind-numbing boredom of going to gym, a thing that I started doing recently, I need to find some new podcasts to listen to.

The topics I am looking for are: Zoology, Palaeontology, Geology, Archaeology, Anthropology, Ethnography/Folkloristics and related fields. I would prefer podcasts directly from people working in these fields (as opposed to panels of "generalists" like the SGU) or at least very knowledgeable about them, discussing preferably cutting-edge research or theory.

I am already following Tetrapodcats, In Our Time, Thinking Allowed, Palaeocast and a bunch of stuff from the Archaeology Podcast Network, but most of the latter is only there because I haven't found anything better. I tried Myths and Legends, but it pure storytelling and nothing more.

Any suggestions?
Public Announcements / supper1234 has been banned
January 16, 2016, 05:00:27 AM
Member supper1234 has been banned for spamming.
I had this idea of a game that is a bit of a mix between a Sim City, Civilisation, Caesar and Banished.

I love city building games, but I am frustrated by their lack of historical context. SimCities have an American perspective, and you start your city in the recent past, then develop it to the future. This means that you cannot organically develop your city in a way cities actually developed.

I'd love a game where you start your city in the distant past, maybe in the late Neoltihic  and then develop it from there. There would be separate stages, Stone Age,  Classical Antiquity (Bronze Age+Iron Age), Middle Ages, Early Modern age, Late Modern age, 20th century and beyond. Each age would have specific challenges to overcome through urban development: food supply, water supply, hunting, agriculture commerce, industry, public health, etc, specific to the time period.

The cities would develop based on their past and the local features.

Another feature would be that your city could be conquered by foreign nations, which would bring new laws (requirements, bonuses for trade/industry, etc) and architectural styles. There would be other destructive events, such as natural disasters, uprisings, also somewhat dependent on the time period.

A well-managed city would provide great bonuses to its nation, resulting in a much greater supply of money and prestige points, which could be used for major works, such as cathedrals, castles/fortresses, universities, etc or even great wonders, that will provide additional bonuses based on the time period. A Cathedral, for example would be good for public order and happiness in mid-game, and would boost tourism in the late game. After a destructive event, a prosperous city would have more outside help for rebuilding than one that is already bankrupt, but even a city that has barely made it through the Middle Ages could prosper later if the local conditions and resources are more favourable for that time.

There would be benefits to tearing things down, but in the long run, historical buildings would also be useful, so balancing between conservation and redevelopment would be one of the core challenges, along with keeping the city prosperous and developing.

It might be too complicated, but I think this would be doable...

What do y'all think of it, or do you have any other dream games.
This is pretty interesting news:

QuoteNew evidence of stone artifacts, faunal remains, and burned areas suggests discrete horizons of ephemeral human activity in a sandur plain setting radiocarbon and luminescence dated between at least ~18,500 and 14,500 cal BP. Based on multiple lines of evidence, including sedimentary proxies and artifact analysis, we present the probable anthropogenic origins and wider implications of this evidence. In a non-glacial cold climate environment of the south-central Andes, which is challenging for human occupation and for the preservation of hunter-gatherer sites, these horizons provide insight into an earlier context of late Pleistocene human behavior in northern Patagonia.

The idea that the Clovis people of North America were representatives of the first wave of colonising humans has been a bit shaky for a while, but this is great news. I heard of Monte Verde before, from Charles C Mann's awesome book 1491, but now it seems we have further evidence that humans were hanging out near the Southernmost tip of the Americas way before Clovis. This could be pretty groundbreaking with all the other pieces of evidence around.

Now, if only we could find definite proof for the Coastal Migration hypothesis, we could really start completely rewriting popular notions of American prehistory.
Tech Talk / Pretty Darn Impressive Vehicles
December 08, 2015, 03:49:44 PM
I haven't seen actual footage of this ship yet.

Wowzers. Looks impressively sci-fi. Thought we could have a thread of similar stuff.
Other Media / Rate the last game you played
July 26, 2012, 10:13:33 AM
Thought that we could have something like this, like the film thread in the other subsection.

Max Payne 3


A fun shooter with a good enough story/atmosphere. But there were some seriously annoying things. There's an unskippable cutscene every five minutes that has the tendency to switch or discard the weapons being used. If I'm carrying an assault rifle, I don't want to start the next fight with a pistol. Especially if that pistol has no ammo. Sometimes, the game didn't even let me switch back to the other weapon. The rail shooting parts were also tedious, and there were one or two horrendous bits where I had to do something completely counter-intuitive and downright suicidal to progress. For example, once my buddy is pinned down and if I try to go down the stairs to shoot the bad guys in the back, he instantly dies. If I jump down the balcony and land in the middle of the five shotgun-wielding goons, he lives (if I survive). Oh, and one more thing: when I see an enemy going down, I presume he's dead. But nooo. In many cases, they'll just get right up, even if they were shot at least a dozen times. Some enemies will even survive multiple headshots due to their "armour". I really really hate this in games.
Brian Dunning seems to have an interesting take on Middle-Eastern history... :P link

QuoteThroughout the Golden Age, Muslim Conquests had been stretching the hand of Islam over Asia and Africa, even touching Europe. Indeed, al-Ghazali's homeland of Persia was part of the Muslim world because it had been conquered 500 years before his birth. The growing empire began to crumble under its own weight, as geopolitical factionalization and fragmentation took their toll.

This is swell.

QuoteMongols fought back in the east, stretching Muslim armies thin.

Mongols didn't fight back, they just fought as part of their general drive towards world dominance

QuoteWhen the Muslim Conquests reached too far, an enraged Pope Urban II declared the First Crusade at the request of the Byzantine emperor in the year 1095,

The First Crusade was definitely not launched because Muslim conquests, as the broader Islamic empire was contracting by that time, with infighting between the Abbasid and Fatimid Caliphates and the Reconquista getting into full swing

Quoteand overwhelming armies of Christians and barbarians, knights and peasants, overran and destroyed the great Arab centers.

No great Arab centres were destroyed in the crusades. Baghdad, Damascus, Alexandria, Cairo were practically untouched by the Crusades. The Crusades, from an Islamic point of view, weren't even that important, the fight against the Mongols was a much more pressing matter, as the Crusaders never intended to do anything than taking over a bunch of cities of minor importance. They weren't even a real threat, as the first serious attempt (by Saladin) managed to turn them into a minor annoyance.

QuoteThe great irreplaceable libraries were burned, the universities leveled, and the Holy Land fell. Muslims and Jews alike throughout the region were killed by the tens of thousands.

There were no libraries of great importance in the cities occupied by the Crusaders. The most important libraries and centres of learning were in Cairo and Baghdad. The Former survived unscathed and the latter was destroyed by the Mongols in 1258

QuoteFor centuries thereafter, Muslim Conquests and Christian Crusades swept back and forth across the land, trading territories.

More like the First Crusade conquering a lot of territories, which were mostly lost a hundred years later. Then the Crusaders continued to launch expeditions that were effortlessly beaten back.

QuoteEurope plunged into the Dark Ages,

WhatwhatWhaaaat? Firstly, the concept of the Dark Ages is generally rejected by historians. Secondly, it definitely didn't start anywhere near the time of the crusades and, if we use it as a synonym for the Early Middle Ages, it ended by then.

Quoteand Muslims saw the death of their Golden Age. But as the skies began to clear in the middle of the second millennium, Europe entered its Renaissance, while the Arab-Islamic world did not.

This is also swell.

I don't get why Dunning wants to drag the Crusades into the debate, especially in such a sloppily researched way.

But of course I might be wrong, so feel free correct me.
Skepticism / Science Talk / Help me identify a bone
June 13, 2012, 07:41:31 AM
OK, all you sciency folks out there. This vertebra was a decoration in a hostel I stayed in in Belgrade. Could you please help me identifying it. I made the amateur mistake of not using an everyday item for scale, but it was around 18-20 cm across. My guess is that it's probably a mammoth, but I'm not really sure.

Guys and gals, I have never even heard of this thing until five minutes ago and now I declare it to be the most awesome creature to walk this earth since velociraptor mongoliensis. I present to you, the mighty Russian desman:

I mean, seriously.

Now, come on!

I rest my case. And I thought kakapos were the best thing alive. I couldn't have been more wrong. This little aquatic mole would easily out-badass even Putin when it comes to half naked tiger shooting.
General Discussion / Google's Project Glass
April 05, 2012, 05:58:08 AM!

I mean, this can'T be serious. In this format this would be the single most annoying thing ever invented. I don't want grinning douchebags popping up in my face while I'm eating breakfast and that's the least of my problems.
Here's an interesting article from Al Jazeera about, a huge and completely illegal online repository of books that was an essential tool for students and scholars in poor and less rich areas of the world.

QuoteSo what does the shutdown of mean? One thing it means is that these barbarians - these pirates who are also scholars - are angry. We scholars have long been singing the praises of education, learning, mutual aid and the virtues of getting a good degree. We scholars have been telling the world of desperate learners to do just what they are doing, if not in so many terms.

So there are a lot of angry young middle-class learners in the world this month. Some are existentially angry about the injustice of this system, some are pragmatically angry they must now spend $100 - if they even have that much - on a textbook instead of on themselves or their friends.

All of them are angry that what looked to everyone like the new horizon of learning - and the promise of the vaunted new digital economy - has just disappeared behind the dark eclipse of a Munich judge's cease and desist order.

Writers and scholars in Europe and the US are complicit in the shutdown. The publishing companies are protecting themselves and their profits, but they do so with the assent, if not the active support, of those who still depend on them. They are protecting us - we scholars - or so they say. These barbarians - these desperate learners - are stealing our property and should be made to pay for it.

I used this site a lot for scholarly purposes, to get books I could not find at the library of my university and ones that I couldn't have bought due to their horrid price tag. And I wasn't alone. The site was illegal, there's no doubt about that, but it existed as a symptom of a crisis in the free dissemination of information that exists even in scholarly circles due to the present-day attitudes towards copyright.

Fascinating stuff.
There have been teasers popping up in the past few days about Baldur's Gate. No idea what they are teasing, but considering that BG is my favourite game of all time, you can call me excited.

Baldur's Gate - Teaser

Go for the eyes, Boo!
TV & Movies / Osombie - Bin Laden Will Die Again
February 08, 2012, 07:25:56 AM
I'll just leave this here...

Osombie - Teaser Trailer
So, It seems I managed to stumble into something really problematic.

The basic thing is that we've been together with my girlfriend for about seven months now, of which the first three seemed as close to perfection as possible, then I went away for three months and the long-distance thing just never works, and for the last month I've been trying to get things back on track. Recently we've managed to unearth what went wrong and wow, it's messed up. I'll try to keep it short.

She is practically a trainwreck at the moment. Had a very rough past with a lot of very rough school bullying, a repressive relationship with a Jesus freak and a dysfunctional family living in borderline poverty. When we've met, she seemed very strong, self-confident and generally badass, but now she realised that this was not true and that she's been lying to herself. And through this, she's been also lying to me, though not consciously about exactly how good many aspects those three months were. But while it lasted, it was the happiest time of her life. But then she got scared about how great everything was and around the same time I had to go away for a job. She couldn't handle being happy and went off to ruin it and ended up cheating on me with someone who was giving her attention at the time. She was afraid that I'd get bored of her and leave anyway. It was a long process, and she felt awful because of it was having panic attacks and such, and it got the worst in the last week of me being away. In the meantime she managed to completely shut me out.

Now, finally, after a month of confusion all this was discussed openly. The self-delusions, the cheating, everything. Now she says that I should simply kick her out, that she was is a horrible person and she doesn't deserve to be with me. She hates herself and wants to suffer for what she's done. She's started seeing mental health professional and is hell-bent on sorting herself out. I am fairly certain that I can forgive her, and that I'd prefer not kicking her out. I want to be with her and she wants to be with me, but she feels that she's ruined it completely and that I should be with someone better and she should be with someone worse. It's still not certain that she can tear down the barriers she's put up and (though there's been progress made), while I don't feel angry or vengeful, I can't say for sure that these feelings won't pop up sometime in the future. I think I can trust her, at least until she does something stupid, but I can't be absolutely sure about that either. Am I being an utter fool in not wanting to throw her out?
QuoteThe US government has asked the scientific journals Nature and Science to censor data on a laboratory-made version of bird flu that could spread more easily to humans, fearing it could be used as a potential weapon.

The US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity asked the two journals to publish redacted versions of studies by two research groups that created forms of the H5N1 avian flu that could easily jump between ferrets - typically considered a sign the virus could spread quickly among humans.

The journals are objecting to the request, saying it would restrict access to information that might advance the cause of public health.

The request was a first for the expert panel, formed after a series of anthrax attacks on US targets in 2001. It advises the Department of Health and Human Services and other federal agencies about "dual use" research that could serve public health but also be a potential bioterror threat.
The Guardian

WTF? So, to prevent the negligible threat that terrorist (who can't even make explosives properly most of the time) could use these findings to weaponise bird flu, let's just stop the scientific community from easily accessing data that could save lives and help prevent a global pandemic? Bravo, bravo!

This also made me remember that line from Contagion when the Homeland Security guy is freaking out about the terrorists weaponising bird flu, to which the CDC dude's answer is "the birds are already doing that".
Other Media / A sad day for the internet
August 09, 2011, 01:57:56 PM
We are all familiar with the reboot epidemic that is raging in the movie industry. Now the plague has spread to the interwebz, and no-one knows where it'll stop.

I present to you: The Cat Scan

I am absolutely sure that a website, named, existed about 10-15 years ago with the same basic premise.

Weep for humanity.
From the press release:
QuoteToday Scientific American launched a new blog network which unites editorial, independent and group blogs under the magazine's banner. The community of 60 bloggers provides authoritative information and insights about science and technology, and their roles in global affairs. The blog network, overseen by Blog Editor Bora Zivkovic, who serves as moderator for the community, encourages discussion and facilitates the exchange of ideas with both the bloggers and Scientific American readers.

Zivkovic, known for his own "A Blog Around The Clock," a blend of chronobiology, science, media and education among other subjects, has invited a diverse group of voices for the network. Bloggers range from graduate students, who are launching their careers, to veteran science writers such as John Horgan, Director of the Center for Science Writings at the Stevens Institute of Technology.

Renowned writers including Jennifer Ouellette ("Cocktail Party Physics"), Darren Naish ("Tetrapod Zoology") and Scott Huler ("Plugged In") join veteran Scientific American bloggers John Platt ("Extinction Countdown") and Jesse Bering ("Bering in Mind") on the network. The format of the blog allows for great diversity in tone and topics. Many of the bloggers focus on the bridge between science and other fields such as philosophy, sociology, music, art, gender and race, hip-hop culture and literature.

"In its 165 year history, Scientific American has built a reputation as the leading publication for science in the general media," says Zivkovic. "The goal of the blog network is to provide a new platform for people in the science community to exchange ideas and interact with the SA readers in a dynamic way."

The Scientific American Blog Network features three new SA editorial blogs. @ScientificAmerican provides news, updates, highlights and anecdotes from the Scientific American newsroom while "The Incubator" highlights the best work by students in science writing and journalism schools. The "Network Central" blog will feature highlights from the blog network each week. Existing SA editorial blogs such as "Observations," "Solar at Home," "Anecdotes from the Archive" and "Expeditions" remain. The network also features new blogs by Scientific American Editors Davide Castelvecchi ("Degrees of Freedom"), Anna Kuchment ("Budding Scientists"), and Scientific American Mind Editor Ingrid Wickelgren ("Streams of Consciousness"). There are future plans to launch additional staff-authored blogs.

The Scientific American Blog Network is hosted on its own landing page,]Today Scientific American launched a new blog network which unites editorial, independent and group blogs under the magazine's banner. The community of 60 bloggers provides authoritative information and insights about science and technology, and their roles in global affairs. The blog network, overseen by Blog Editor Bora Zivkovic, who serves as moderator for the community, encourages discussion and facilitates the exchange of ideas with both the bloggers and Scientific American readers.

Zivkovic, known for his own "A Blog Around The Clock," a blend of chronobiology, science, media and education among other subjects, has invited a diverse group of voices for the network. Bloggers range from graduate students, who are launching their careers, to veteran science writers such as John Horgan, Director of the Center for Science Writings at the Stevens Institute of Technology.

Renowned writers including Jennifer Ouellette ("Cocktail Party Physics"), Darren Naish ("Tetrapod Zoology") and Scott Huler ("Plugged In") join veteran Scientific American bloggers John Platt ("Extinction Countdown") and Jesse Bering ("Bering in Mind") on the network. The format of the blog allows for great diversity in tone and topics. Many of the bloggers focus on the bridge between science and other fields such as philosophy, sociology, music, art, gender and race, hip-hop culture and literature.

"In its 165 year history, Scientific American has built a reputation as the leading publication for science in the general media," says Zivkovic. "The goal of the blog network is to provide a new platform for people in the science community to exchange ideas and interact with the SA readers in a dynamic way."

The Scientific American Blog Network features three new SA editorial blogs. @ScientificAmerican provides news, updates, highlights and anecdotes from the Scientific American newsroom while "The Incubator" highlights the best work by students in science writing and journalism schools. The "Network Central" blog will feature highlights from the blog network each week. Existing SA editorial blogs such as "Observations," "Solar at Home," "Anecdotes from the Archive" and "Expeditions" remain. The network also features new blogs by Scientific American Editors Davide Castelvecchi ("Degrees of Freedom"), Anna Kuchment ("Budding Scientists"), and Scientific American Mind Editor Ingrid Wickelgren ("Streams of Consciousness"). There are future plans to launch additional staff-authored blogs.

The Scientific American Blog Network is hosted on its own landing page,
Some more on the matter.

I'm pretty excited, this means that now there's three major science blogging hubs out there. I'm not sure if this is good news for, though, as they lost one of their best blogs (TetZoo), but in general, this is just great.
Can religious teachings prove evolution to be true?

QuoteBiologist Phil Senter of the Fayette State University in North Carolina, US, has published the second of two papers that uses creation science techniques to examine the fossil record.

In the first, published in 2010, he used a technique called classic multidimensional scaling (CMDS) to evaluate the appearance of coelurosaurian dinosaurs over geological time.

That long, detailed paper was published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, and you can read the abstract.

CMDS is derived from a branch of creation science called baraminology, which classifies organisms according to a creationist framework. Animals fall into types, or baramins, which were created independently, but have diversified since.

So cats, for example, are a single baramin or type of animal, that was created once by God, and have since diversified into those we see today (including lions, tigers, house cats etc).

Baraminologists trawl the fossil record for evidence that this is true. They identify "morphological gaps" in the record (for example, whether fossils of cats exist, but not cat-like animals) and use those to argue that such animal types (cats) are unique and created separately, from say dogs.

CMDS mathematically maps the occurrence of these morphological gaps, and baraminologists have used it to point out there are significant morphological gaps between modern and extinct whales, between arthropods and the worm-like annelids and arthropods and molluscs. And that, they say, is evidence that each group was created independently, and could not have evolved into the other.

Oh, but you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
Bury the rag deep in your face
For now's the time for your tears.
General Discussion / Mladic at the Hague
June 03, 2011, 09:58:37 AM
I'm really happy that he's there, even if there is no punishment harsh enough to fit his crimes.

But I seriously can't get what he's on about. I mean, the man doesn't seem insane. His actions were not insane. But then he says

Quote"I defended my people, my country... now I am defending myself. I just have to say that I want to live to see that I am a free man."

He also said that the charges brought up against him are "monstrous" and "obnoxious".

Seriously, WTF? It's one thing that, being an evil mofo, he will defend himself until his last breath. But really, by leading, as Hitchens put it, a  "sordid militia with an unbroken record of victory against civilians.", what exactly was he defending? It's hardly defence if it's only you who's doing the shooting. How is machine-gunning children by the hundreds defending anything? How the fuck is encircling an open city with hardly any armed forces and shooting at anything that moves defending anything? de How is burning the 1.5 million books the Bosnian National Library defending anything? And after committing all these crimes, and many more, how can anyone stand up and, with a straight face, dismiss the charges?
TV & Movies / Treme season 2
April 24, 2011, 05:50:41 AM
Treme: Season 2 "O Beautiful Storm" Extended Tease (HBO)

It's almost on us now. I'm stoked, anyone else share such sentiments?
Pope Benedict XVI has marked the holiest night of the year for Christians by stressing that humanity isn't a random product of evolution.

Benedict emphasised the Biblical account of creation in his Easter Vigil homily on Saturday, saying it was wrong to think at some point 'in some tiny corner of the cosmos there evolved randomly some species of living being capable of reasoning and of trying to find rationality within creation, or to bring rationality into it'.

'If man were merely a random product of evolution in some place on the margins of the universe, then his life would make no sense or might even be a chance of nature,' he said.

'But no, reason is there at the beginning: creative, divine reason.'


I thought the Catholic Church have already accepted the fact of evolution. It seems they've been lying to us. I am shocked. SHOCKED.
Skepticism / Science Talk / Falling Mice
April 20, 2011, 10:04:30 AM
I'm just reading Orwell's Road to Wigan pier and as a sidenote he mentions this wee thing:

Quotefor they say a mouse can fall any distance uninjured, owing to its surface area being so large relative to its weight.

Could this be true?

It sounds bollocks, but It got me thinking.
OK, so here's the deal. I'm a recent owner of a nigh-useless MA in English (I was in the old, Germanic system of five-year general degrees that got reformed while I was doing it) that I started just because my secondary school teachers were so successful at killing off every last bit of my love for science and I had no idea what to do. But now it's back with a vengeance. I'm planning to move into Science Communication, the only area where I could contribute without having to start all over again.

Anyone know, or of some nice graduate degrees in the field in Europe, or, more importantly, have some experiences or know some hearsay about them? I know that there's a good-looking MsC at the University of Kent, but I'd like to weigh my options, and of course I could google it together, but I thought that this is a good place to ask around.
I, being a pervert, often visit some cryptozoolgy forums just for the hell of it. There is this one argument that's been bugging me for a while, here's an example:

-Megalodon is alive in the Mariana Trench
-Megalodon could hardly live there, as it was primarily living in warm, shallow waters and it couldn't even find food down there.
-It evolved!

And this happens every single time. Sauropods in the Congo? They evolved to live in a forest. Nessie? A plesiosaur that has evolved to live in a Scottish loch (and, in one case that I saw, evolved to be a herbivore in order to live in a lake with only a few fish in it), and so on.

So, is there a fallacy to describe this way of reasoning?