Wednesday, December 29, 2010

and when pubmed is full those undead theorems shall walk the earth

My internet alert for Zombies turned up this over on P Z Myers website.The journal Diabities Care Vol 17, Issue 2, 152-154 has an article in the December 2010 issue by M.M. Tai called 

'A mathematical model for the determination of total area under glucose tolerance and other metabolic curves'.

Which is all well and good however from the abstract:

OBJECTIVE–To develop a mathematical model for the determination of total areas under curves from various metabolic studies. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS–In Tai’s Model, the total area under a curve is computed by dividing the area under the curve between two designated values on the X-axis (abscissas) into small segments (rectangles and triangles) whose areas can be accurately calculated from their respective geometrical formulas.

This sounds a lot like high school calculus to me. If you replace Metabolic curves with just curves then Dr Tai has stated the Trapezoidal rule one of the first techniques taught to calculate the integral (area under the curve). Which as we can see has many uses, not just total glucose tolerance. What is cheeky is the author has called it Tai's method, not the Leibniz or Newton method. Whats also impressive is that on google scholar the article has been cited 135 times. Which for published articles reproducing known mathematics is a lot. Scientist in some universities live and die professionally by the citations their articles garner. I am hoping this article is being cited as an example as why interdisciplinary studies are important.

It was Murray Gell-Mann who used the 'eight-fold way' (hippy) to explain the spectrum of hadrons (fancy word for subatomic particles like protons & neutrons). It was only after mixing with mathematicians, promptly pulled out 'Introduction to first group theory' that allowed Gell-Mann to open up symmetry and group theory to become one of the fundamental tools of particle physics. In his defense group theory wasn't taught in high school in the 1960s.  

I don't mean to be snarky on Dr Tai, actually I do, but its probably because I am feeling a bit snarky about the whole 'science in society' thing at the moment. Especially after hearing the conversation of customer in front of me in the Australian geographic shop:

"excuse me why is this clock reading GMT what is that?"

"thats the Greenwich standard time to which we adjust our clocks"

"So thats the time in London is it?

"No, thats the time in Greenwich"

"Why whats so special about Greenwich"

of course I had no alternative but to beat them to death with a copy of Dava Sobel's Longitude.  

Friday, December 24, 2010

Its starting to look a lot like a Zombie Christmas

Yes its that time of the year.

to also set the scene you might like to sing from Michael Spradlin's book which takes two dozen christmas carols.

Tiny tot’s eyes are no longer aglow, they’re in a bowl. Good King Wenceslas Tastes Great and we Deck The Halls With Parts Of Wally. You’ll find all the soon to be classic Zombie Christmas Carol Classics, like I Saw Mama Chewing Santa Claus, Zombie, The Reindeer and many, many more.

Good King Wenceslas Tastes Great

Good King Wenceslas tastes great;
We might as well eat Stephen,
When the brains lay round about,
Toasted crisp and bleedin’.
Brightly shown the moon that night,
Though the virus cruel.
When a poor man came in sight,
He made fine undead fuel.
Hither, Zombies chase after her.
Agnes, she is yelling.
Yonder peasant, how she screams,
For her brains they’re a jelling.
Surely she will try to hide
Underneath the mountain,
Or deep in the forest hence
While Agnes is digestin’.
Bring me flesh, and bring me brains.
Bring me Zombies hither.
Thou and I will see them dine;
They even bite through leather.
Free and screaming, forth they went,
Zombies right behind them,
Through the poor souls’ wild lament.
Bitter brains are better.

Happy Holidays

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

'Twas the NIGHT Before the uprising

Many thanks to Mira Grant the author of the excellent Feed & Deadline. Whose work I shameless recreate here

T'was the night before Christmas
  when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse
The boards had been nailed 'cross the windows with care
In hopes that the dead would pass by, unaware.

The children were sleeping -the ones who'd survived,
Though no one could say dreams of sugar plums thrived,
And mama with her chainsaw, and I with my gun,
Were just praying our brains would be ours come the sun.

When out of the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my place to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a shot,
Prepared to do battle with ruin and with rot.

The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow
Gave a luster of mid-day to zombies below.
When what did my wandering eyes there discern
But a miniature sleigh in a full four-point turn, 

With a steely-eyed driver, a knife in his teeth,
Come here to distribute some holiday grief.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Vincent, Now Stephen! Now, Mira and Jessie!
On, Robert, Romero -time's come to get messy
 To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away, Dash away, Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of weapons, and Santa Claus too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof, 
Then the fire from heaven came showering down,
Igniting the zombies who clustered around.

They stumbled and fell, faces melting like tallow,
As a voice from behind me said "Youth can be callow,
But son, this is war! Best find your guts quick!"
I turned, and I found myself facing ...Saint Nick.

His eyes, how they squinted! His mouth, how it frowned!
He was angry and lean, not a spare ounce or pound.
A bundle of weapons was flung on his back,
And he looked like a soldier, just opening his pack.

"The dead have come looking for good girls and boys,
And they're not singing carols, they're not bringing toys.
You'd best come with me, if you want to survive,
You believed in me once. Let me keep you alive".

It may have been madness, it may have been fear, 
But something about him made everything clear,
So I called for my children, I nodded my head.
"We've been good this year. Save us all from the dead"

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
Booby-trapping the house 'gainst those undying jerks,
Then he led us all up to the roof and his sleigh,
Where we took to the air, and we soon were away. 

There are undead galore at the North Pole, it's true,
But I'd rather give blood than be made into stew,
So we joined Vampire Santa and flew out of sight....
Happy Christmas to all, and to all, a good bite.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Warning this post will contain clowns

The_weapon is going up from the cub scouts to the scouts in the first week of next year. He could have gone up sooner but since they will be loosing me as a leader form cubs to scouts they wanted to hang on as long as possible.

The 2nd badge he will earn is scoutcraft. It requires him to be able to demonstrate a bunch of stuff:

 Learn and be able to demonstrate the following knots: 
a) reef knot
b) clove hitch 
c) sheet bend 
d) rolling hitch.

2. Flag
a) Describe the Australian flag and how to use it. 
b) Hoist the flag.
c) Break the flag.

3. First aid
a) Know how to report an emergency.
b) Know the first steps to control bleeding.

4. Safety with camping tools
a) Know the laws that govern the carrying and use of  knives in your state or territory.
b) Know and understand the safety rules for the use and storage of knives, bush saws and axes.
c) Demonstrate an understanding of the rules that apply to the supply and use of firewood in camping areas in your state or territory.
d) Demonstrate the use of a pocketknife or multi-tool.

5. Patrol System
a) Discuss with your Patrol Leader the requirements of the Pioneer Target or other appropriate Target of the Award Scheme.
b) Discuss with your Patrol Leader how the Patrol system operates in your Troop, e.g. election of Patrol Leader, appointment of APL, responsibilities and operation of Troop Council.

c) Show an understanding of the structure and duties of the Patrol.

all good scouty stuff.

It got interesting when the_weapon started to investigate the laws around knives, we could have just consulted an expert but instead we checked out the police and department of Justice.  There is a perception that violence involving knives is on the increase. Consequently in Victoria laws were passed to crack down on knife violence. From the Department of Justice's website FAQ
Stabby the clown

It is an offence to possess, carry or use a knife or other controlled weapon unless you have a lawful excuse. A lawful excuse can include carrying a knife for the purposes of your job, or when participating in lawful sport, recreation or entertainment activities, for example when fishing. 
Carrying a knife for the purposes of self-defence is not a lawful excuse.

The_weapon has read all this material and to explain it to his patrol leader put it like this,

"If I am a small kid getting picked on by a bully at school everyday and in fear of my life and I carry a life that's a crime. If the police stop and search me and I tell them that I am the side kick to Stabby the knife throwing clown that's okay."

Can't argue with that sort of reading comprehension.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Happy Sagan Day

In respect of the birthday of one of the best advocates of science, atheism and skepticism (like those three aren't inexorably bound) I have ever heard, the centre for Inquiry, Florida Atheists and Secular Huminanists, the James Randi Educational Foundation and a bunch of other folk are promoting Carl Sagan Day.

You'll probably come across a few references in the bloggosphere, news stories etc. The weapon and I will put up the telescope if the weather holds and revel in the majesty of the night sky,

The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home. In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty. And yet our species is young and curious and brave and shows much promise. In the last few millennia we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the Cosmos and our place within it, explorations that are exhilarating to consider. They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival. I believe our future depends powerfully on how well we understand this Cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky.

Then perhaps for desert an apple pie since as Carl Sagan said once

In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe. 

and of course watch some of the myriad footage that exists and remember how passionately and eloquently he spoke disproving that canard that the best scientist must be cold and emotionless. One of our favorite pieces at the moment is from Pale Blue Dot, his follow up to the awe inspiring series COSMOS

I realise at 9 mins its too long for most, but it is one of the most cogent arguments why I can't believe in any religion. I know in video I have embedded you see only half the screen but listen to the words.

The conclusion which begins at 7:52 minutes Sagan raises us all to the sublime. It gives the_weapon and I chills everytime we hear it.

What did you do on Sagan Day?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A fine Halloween

Sometimes things just don't work out despite you best laid plans. But sometimes the wind is right, and the star align just so and a plan comes together. 
Like this Halloween, Samhain, Day of the Dead (not the Romeroesque one) or All Souls Night whatever you want to call it.

After some of the pinheaded comments over on Birmo’s Blunt Instrument I decided to make some effort for 31 October. I picked up a decent pumpkin from the Queen Victoria Markets, and on Sunday the_weapon drew his design,  I carved and we both scooped out the innards.

The jack-o-lantern was surprisingly easy and next year will embark on a more challenging design. So Jack now displayed in pride of place in the front window next to the door. That way any trick or treaters would know they would find welcome. We had prepared toffee apples, and filled a bowl with an assortment of wrapped lollies to reward any seekers.

The seeds we kept, washed, dried added a bit of virgin olive oil and some sea salt and an hour later in a hot over and we had a bowl of Pepitas to snack on while watching a suitable Halloween movie. But which to choose. The local DVD store was of little help.

Then that confluence of good fortune came to be. The Astor is an old cinema in Melbourne east big screen, great art deco and magnificent choctops. 

When I saw what was screening tonight – the choice was obvious. I even had the right shirt  thanks to Flinthart.

The_weapon loved it, and would be happy to go to the next school book week as Herbie West


How was everyone else's Halloween? 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Most fun to be had in a Zombie novel for a while

Any book which has George Romero honored as savior of humanity and talks about his shambling re-animated corpse locked in a government research centre is ahead in my book, abiet a severed and rotting head.

FEED by Mira Grant AKA Seanan McGuire, (you'll never see them in the same room together, is the first book in the NewsFlesh trilogy to which all I can say is: Get cracking woman I want the rest of the story.

The world Ms Grant has built is set 20 years after the rising when an experimental cancer therapy combined with genetically engineered flu virus designed to give immunity to the common cold with one heck of a side effect - It raised the dead.

The amount of thought Ms Grant has given to the sort of world after 20 years of zombies giving rise to infection is impressive. The consideration of the fact that when anyone or decent sized mammal dies it re-animates shows she has spent a lot of time researching the kind of stuff I love to read about: Virus, disease control, emergency response planning and of course the best weapons/ways to take down the dead.

Sarah Palin's America has come to past with Alaska having been surrendered to the zombies, designated a zone 1.  From the book:

“They can only legally bathe you in bleach for a half a minute unless you’ve been in a Level 2 zone. At that point they can keep dunking you until they’re sure the viral blocks are clean. Travel in a Level 1 zone mean’s they are not legally obligated to do anything but shoot you” 

 The protagonists are a brother sister team of news bloggers following the presidential campaign, but its the attention to detail of the world she builds that I most enjoyed. Sure its a world where you survive the car crash only to face a bite from a passenger who died and reanimated, because everyone carries the virus- it just doesn't activate unless you die or get exposed to activated virus. It's also a world where children want to grow up to be leading virologists, the most trusted institution is the CDC and nurses stations are hardpoints.

"A good medical duty station can provide an island of safety for the uninfected, even as an outbreak rages on all sides. If you airlocks don'y fail and you have enough ammo, you can hold for days. One duty station in Atlanta did exactly that - four nurses, three doctors, and five security personnel kept themselves and eighteen patients alive for almost a week before the CDC was able to fight through the outbreak and get them safely out".

One negative point for me is that all the blood testing units that people carry are 'Apple' which conjures up brightly colored plastic equipment that is a triumph of style over substance. 

I guess for a book about bloggers no one would be suprised the book has its own website, click here it carries a nice line in pseudo advertisements.

The bond between Georgia and her brother Shaun is a dynamic I hope we get to explore in the next book Deadline due May 2011.

But what I found best about FEED? In a genre that tends towards  the bleak and sad, and don't miss-understand there is enough tragedy and despair in this tale to satisfy a teenage Emily Dikinson fan. People die in this story, good and bad, important and minor. In its willingness to kill off people it reminds me of that another great Zombie narrative The WALKING DEAD. But after 20 years of a horrific plague that has touched EVERYONE the human race is surviving and adapting. That no matter what may come or how horrible it will be humanity can make it through.

Thats why its the zombie story I have enjoyed reading the most this year. 

Oh and if the dead do walk and you run into a woman called Mira, do what she says and you might just make it through the rising.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Whats your nightmare vision of the future

I been a fan of Dr Daniel H Wilson for a while now. Does anyone know why do the news/blogs leave off his title. The man has a PhD in Robotics from the Carnegie Mellon University. Is CMU some sort of clown college or one of those one-shed divinity mills? I don’t understand why in all the links about him they don’t put on the Dr. If they are worried he might be confused for a sawbones put a Ph.D at the end.

I suspect its because he writes in an entertaining, popular way books like:

  • How to survive a robot up rising: Tips on Defending Yourself Against the Coming Rebellion,
personally I am stocking up on supermagnets and thermite and reading over this wired article How to terminate a terminator.

  • Where’s my (damn) jetpack? A Guide to the Amazing Science Fiction Future that Never Arrived Which sums up how I felt on 1 January 2001.

  • Mad Scientist Hall of Fame: Muwahahahaha! -Forget the Nobel this is the pinnacle to which all scientists should aspire, and further developed the_weapon’s interest in Science. My only request is to include Dr Horrible in any future additions.
  • How to Build a Robot Army: Tips on Defending Planet Earth Against Alien Invaders, Ninjas, Monsters, and Zombies much of this excellent advice in summarized on-line  in the wired article How to Stop a 500 foot monster

So yes I am big FAN of the good doctor's work and have been awaiting his next book, due for release June 2011 called Robopocalypse: A Novel. Which to date all I have been able to determine is

A Novel of Human Survival during an apocalyptic robot uprising, sound like a RomComRob doesn't it?  

Given that the treacherous sentient machines turning against us is my number 2 vision of the nightmare future, right after the rise of the walking dead, and just before the spread of a Captain Trips like supervirus, this book is eagerly anticipated.

Now it seems I am part of the zeitgeist as this week it was announced that Steven Spielberg has been named as a director for the film of Robopocalypse. And Jack Black will being involved in the movie version of How to Survive a robot up rising.
Seriously with World War Z movie in production I am looking forward to some serious apocalyptic filmage in the next couple of years. Any other moives I need to keep an eye on?  

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Big week in Science

The big discussions in the house the week.

The Nobel Prize prize for physics was awarded to Andrew Geim and Konstantin Novoselov for their 'groundbreaking experiments regarding the two dimensional material graphene'.  
A very small, weird net

This rocks as Andrew Geim is a CHEMIST, yeah that's right A CHEMIST won a Nobel for PHYSICS. Obviously this has put some physicists noses out of joint. As reported by Bob O'Hare over on his joint blog This Scientific Life 

"Graphene is incredibly strong and light, which makes it ideal material to make hammocks for cats. Despite the merit of this work, the award has been roundly criticised by the physics community.

"I'm outraged" said Prof. Jon Nibus of the Clapham institute of Middle-Energy Physics. "This is a physics prize -we shouldn't give it to a bloody chemist. They'll only get it wet".

We've been big fans of Dr Geim ever since he won his Ig Noble back in 2001, interestingly enough that was for physics as well. His paper was 'of flying frogs and levitation', part of his everything is magnetic series. 

The_weapon in particular impressed and now wants to try and get a paper published so that he can win an Ig Nobel. Dr Geim also co-authored a paper in PhyisicaB with his cat Trisha titled 'Detection of Earth Rotation with a diamagneticly levitating gyroscope'.   
The other BIG news in science - We have exterminated another disease from the face of the world. Rinderpest has joined Smallpox as only existing in secure laboratories for scientists to walk past and taunt. "Na Na we wiped you out.." 
Rinderpest, German for 'Cattle Plague' doesn't affect humans, but kills water buffleo, yaks and other animals relied on throughout Asia and Africa. The disease is related to measles and has an 80% mortality rate. A program to eliminate Rinderpest was announced in 1994 and the last case identified in Kenya in 2001. Official celebrations will be held in 2012 but I can't wait.
But its not all champagne and fast cars for scientists this week.

"Puny HUMAN"
The ever vigilant Flinthart has alerted me to this case of species treachery.  Borut Povse at the University of Ljubljana (they even have a University was news to me) 
 has persuaded six male colleagues to let a powerful industrial robot repeatedly strike them on the arm, to assess human-robot pain thresholds. Each volunteer was struck 18 times at different impact energies, the arm fitted with either a blunt and a sharper tool. Povse claims "Even robots designed to Asimov's laws can collide with people. We are trying to make sure that when they do, the collision is not too powerful," PovÅ¡e says. "We are taking the first steps to defining the limits of the speed and acceleration of robots, and the ideal size and shape of the tools they use, so they can safely interact with humans." ...


The boys over at Topless Robot summed this up best for me

"You want to keep robots from colliding with humans? Put a fucking sensor on them that tells them when something is close so they don't run into it. It's not hard; we have them on fucking cars now so people don't back up onto children. All you're doing is making a robot designed to inflict pain on humans. I love forward to these assholes' next experiment, which is to teach a robot not to murder humans by building a robot that does nothing but murder humans all day."

So by my count that's two wins and a giant leap backwards towards the inevitable Robot uprising.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Cub v Wild

I grew up in suburbia, and hence had a romantic image of camping out in the wild. When I was growing up the boy scouts were going through a bit of a decline, regarded as quasi-military organisation by mine and many parents so I never got the chance to join.

Perhaps if I had been able to play boy scout as a child I would have never ended up spending the last week of the school holidays looking after nine boys aged between eight and almost ten in middle of a forest in Gembrook Victoria under canvas tents. That's right I have been at 

The weather for the the week was as follows 
Monday  min 6.8 max 11.1
Tuesday  min 2.4  max 9.2 and 10 mm of rain
Wednesday  min 0.9  max 9.1 and 9 mm of rain
Thursday     min 2.4 max 9.5 
and friday we returned home

So 3500 cubs scouts and another 1000 leaders and support staff all up in the wilds of Gembrook Victoria, and DAMN it was cold and wet. 
A small section of the night time campfire circle

What is alarming that despite having a trial pack weekend where the cubs go away and camp,  nights where we invited all the parent to come so we could be sure they all know about what is needed for Cuboree, numerous newsletters, handouts, emails trying to make sure everyone understood what was expected, stressed that it would be cold and that the cubs needed to pack their own bags so they could find what they were looking for on camp.

Yet we still had conversations like this

Leader "its raining, get your rain coat"?
Cub " I don't think my mum packed a rain coat"

Leader "need to have a shower"
Cub " I don't have showers on Tuesday, I don't have any soap, I don't wanna"

Leader "Get ready for lights out?"
Cub "I don't have a sleeping bag"

Honestly, I don't know which is worse the cubs or the parents. Actually that's not true. It worse that an adult would send an 8 year old  to a camp with out warm clothes and a sleeping bag. So if nothing else then I've taught 9 boys that they need to pack there own gear if they are going on a camp. 

So what else can you learn as a cub scout on Cuboree, well watching Russell Crowe's Robin Hood the eponymous hero quotes

"I could teach you how to tie a knot that won't be slipped. I could teach you how to move through a forest. And I can help Marion teach you how to stay clean, so you won’t get sick." Add to that how to prepare meals for fifty, find your way around a camp, keep a tent dry and how to build a decent campsite in the middle of a forest and thats not a bad start.

I ended up as a cub scout leader because I used to stay and watch the_weapon when he went to cubs. They announced if no one volunteered  as a leader then the pack would have to breakup. The pack now numbers 26 and we only have myself and two other leaders. This is not an un-familiar problem with packs all around Victoria.  Next year I am moving up to be a scout leader now the_weapon is turning 11.  I don't know how they can continue to run the cub pack if more adults don't step up. Our number continue to grow, yet our volunteers are getting fewer and the ones we have are growing older. I worry other kids wont get these chances. 

Still we must be doing something right as almost all the cubs said they wanted to go the 23rd scout Jamboree in 2013. 

13,000 scouts for 10 days under canvas, watch out Marlborough Queensland. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Books I am torn

This week we were notified that on speech night  The_weapon is to receive an award for Services to the School at the Falcon Academy. I suspect this is in response to his twelve point action plan for any viral pandemic outbreak which included roving 'Health Monitors' with FULL AUTHORITY (his capitals not mine) to isolate, detain and neutralize any suspected infected.

The letter about the award came with a book voucher so we hived off to the local Borders and the_weapon got a bunch of books that will be wrapped up and presented to him by the
Teacher-General of the Falcon Academy on the night.

And here is my problem.

I am currently packing stuff to move to another place. Both my wife and I have always been voracious readers and hence we have a truckload of books we have collected over two lifetimes to pack and move.

I can only hope my son becomes similarly enraptured with the written word. But I think before much longer he will be using e-readers for most of his reading and here is my question. For special occasions such as awards an e-reader text is not going to make much of a memory.

So how do we recognize such an achievement in the world of E-texts? A Platinum Nook, unlikely.

Probably I'd go with some expensive leather bound copy of a book he really likes, but they don't make a hardened MIL-STD-810 ( its book equivalent) edition of Max Brooks 'How to Survive a Zombie Uprising' and he already has attractive hard back editions of The Art of War and The Book of Five Rings.

Any other suggestions?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I see FEMA is taking it seriously

We've had a few natural disasters around us lately. The earthquake in New Zealand, flooding in the northeast of the state, bad electrical storms towards to South Australian border. Then for some reason a work colleague who recently moved to the Dandenongs and faces bushfire risks asked me about what should go into a Bug Out Bag (BOB).

I don't know why she asked me?

Might be all the zombie squad posters I have around my office.

I admit I have a bug-out-bag for me and the_weapon, but It's not like I am over the top or anything. Not like these guys.

This is not to be confused with the Every Day Carry (EDC), which for me consists of a utility tool, a small bright torch, something I can use to light a fire, and duct tape. You'd be amazed how often you can find a use for duct tape. I like this brand.

Of course there are other organisations who are set up to provide advice for when TSHF (The Shit Hits the Fan) one of these in the US is The Federal Emergency Management Agency.  FEMA After Hurricane Katrenia there was a lot of complaints about how FEMA handled the emergency. I have more confidence in the agency now after I saw a picture of the office of FEMA's Craig Fugate.

Yes there at the front of the pile of books is Max Brooks indispensable tome.

They may not know how to handle wind and rain, but should the undead walk the earth FEMA is ready.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

I don't wanna have to do with out antibiotics

Early notice is a key strategy to surviving the zombie apocalypse.

If you want to get clear of the cities in time, and by this I mean before the paths turn into a super rush hour deadlock, with extra emphasis on the DEAD. After all one man's traffic jam is another zombies' buffet.  So I want to be well clear of the city, holed up in my alpha site and chowing down on my breakfast of  Tactical Bacon & Eggs while the newspaper and radio is still at the 'reporting a mild outbreak of a new type of rabies' stage.

This is why I try to keep up with whats going on in the world of infection & disease.  In the last few weeks there has been reports of a new type of antibiotic resistance found in bacteria with a man dying in Belgium (not of boredom). We've seen antibiotic resistant bacteria before MRSA and VRE are two I can think of that I don't have to try and spell, but this new one isn't specific to a bacteria. This resistance is due to a gene that can make an enzyme called NDM-1 and whats scary is that this gene is in the form of a plasmid. Those of us who have spent hours playing BIOSHOCK know plasmids can be incorporated into other organisms to provide traits. In this case allowing bacteria to resist antibiotics.

It was first mentioned in a British Journal in November 2009 and then in June 2010 the Centres for Disease Control in its Weekly Morbidity and Mortality report put out an alert on NDM-1.

I like reading the stuff CDC puts out.

I like to imagine there is a super competent agency well resourced with trained experts who spend all day running scenarios that prepare them for emergencies. I desperately want to believe that.

But I work for a government agency, so I know how these things work.

I don't know if anyone around remembers what it was like before antibiotics, but it sucked. The was no internet porn and TV didn't have the sci-fi channel and people would more likely than not DIE if they got an infection in hospital. 

But that's why science rocks. Medical science has know this pharmageddon was coming and has been working to developed new ways to deal with bacteria. One discovery is a paint that when applied to a surface will continues to kill bacteria that come into contact.

So I won't be bugging out to the alpha site just yet, but world you are on notice. Just remember if can always get worse.

Friday, August 6, 2010

from stress research to global conspiracy

Sometimes I despair of our civilization I really do. The level of scientific literacy throughout our culture for a society whose continued development so relies on understanding science and technology is nothing short of appalling when things like below can happen.

On 28 July I read a ‘Wired’ post titled Under Pressure: The Search for a Stress Vaccine drawing on the work of Professor Robert Sapolsky an neuroendocrinologist at Stanford University. Sapolskyo wants to create a vaccine like treatment for chronic stress.

It was an interesting piece and I thought no more about it, the article itself is 6789 words long according to my Microsoft word count tool so I realise a lot of people won’t bother to read the whole thing let alone not seek out the original published articles by Sapolsky on the subject.

Then on 2nd August a London Daily Mail article claimed “developing the first vaccine for stress - a single jab that would help us relax without slowing down”. A bit shorter and omitting a few of the subtlties of the first report but still okay.

From here it transformes in the hands of Paul Joseph Watson on American talk radio host Alex Jones Prison Planet website

‘establishment Media Pushes Brain Eating Vaccines’


What really annoys me is the article concludes with “promoting a new viral Google search term in order to attract much needed attention to this grave issue. Search for “brain eating vaccines” and by elevate this term to the top of Google trends, we can reach millions of new people who would otherwise never have come across this information".

Then on the 3rd of August the terms ‘brain eating vaccine’ shot to No.3 on the Google trends search terms. Thankfully for my own stress levels it has been replaced by such important trends as ‘Emma Watsons haircut’ and ‘Wyclef Jean president’.
The stupid it burns I found at Phil Plat's bad astronomy website I hope he doesn't mind me using it.

Can I suggest a new viral google search term in order to attract much needed attention to this grave issue.

Paul Joseph Watson is an incorrect loud mouth, how about that?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Obviously its been a week to ban things Zombie

Most of you know Australians, at least on line. You’ve met some of us. Do we come across as a bunch on wowsers? I hope not. However this is the impression you get from our news. Our proposed internet filter, police seizure
photographic exhibitions or outrage at some overseas films.

An adventure in cinema's most unmarketable subgenre - gay zombie porn

Once again its Melbourne International Film Festival MIFF time and some how every year MIFF manages to stir up controversy, and I suspect sales, by hosting a ‘controversial’ film. You know the sort of film: foreign, extreme , probably only would have been seen by six people, often involving an erect naked penis. Normally I would ignore this but this year the controversy film they have is Bruce LaBruce’s gay zombie porn film L.A. Zombie. This week the Australian Film Classification Board (AFCB) director Donald McDonald sent a letter refusing classification for the film, effectively banning it.

The film follows an alien zombie who roams the streets of Los Angeles in search of dead bodies and gay sex - an activity that reveals a gift of ''shagging'' the deceased back to life.

So even with Zombies, I probably wasn’t going to see this one. But just because I don’t want to see full-frontal nude scenes and erect penises or zombies with cucumber-shaped penises which are clearly prosthetic, doesn’t mean I think adults who want to shouldn’t be allowed.

Bad show Australian Film Classification Board, bad show.

Zombie Queen Mary

When I was in the UK I saw a tourist place called the London Dungeon – it advertises itself as “1000 years of dark history, 13 Shows, live actors and 2 scary rides” – an obvious destination for a seven year old who loves reading the Horrible History books. It seems the latest show ‘Bloody Mary’ was being advertised with digital billboards on the London Underground.

Four people complained that the zombie Queen Mary - complete with bloody gashes on her face, rotting teeth and red eyes - had terrified their children. As a result the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that the poster should not be used again as it had 'terrified' children and breached fear and distress guidelines

Terrifying Children?

Isn’t that what the stories we tell them are meant to do, cautionary tales so that they can be prepared to face the dangers of the world. Have any of these people actually read a traditional European children’s fairy tale? Read the stories in their religious texts? Or even a half way accurate account of Queen Mary’s reign? How else can we prepare them to face the wandering mutant zombies hordes in the ravaged wasteland of the apocalypse if we don’t tell them the right stories with startling moving images, preferably in 3-D.