Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tea or Coffee

I realise its a foolish question when the obvious answer is coffee.

I want to say I respect those of you who choose to drink tea, but I can't. Unless it's the post apocalypse and you weren't adequately prepared. You are searching the rubble and in that last ration box before you go into terminal caffeine shutdown you just have to drink tea. In which case shame on you.
Unless its one of those fruity caffeine free herbal teas in the box. There is just no reason to drink those, ever! even in the post apocalyptic wasteland or Earl Grey - Captain Picard be damned.
Why? for when Earl Grey tea is too much for you?

While there is much waffle written about the way tea is prepared, waxing rhapsodic about its origins, history blah, blah.

"the budda discovered tea when he found it picked him up after spending the day mediating...."

what a powerhouse of a drink, being able to revive someone after a hard days thinking. Given the simplicity of the the process it is easy to see why tea was invented early in our history. Its so easy hippies can do it.

Lets consider the process of making tea.
its not like boiling it in the old days

  1. Grow plant, 
  2. Dry leaves,
  3. Dump in hot water. 
  4. Drink.
Over the years tea swillers have tried to make the process more interesting. Bizarre rituals - see the milk in first controversypickling it, having to wear uncomfortable pants while you make it such as in Japanese Tea Ceremony and I don't want to know what goes into those black malteser sized tapioca pearls in bubble tea drinks. shudder. Attempts to add some engineering goodness to the process of tea have at best resulted in Samovars which are just about making hot water. The 3000 year old version of one of these.  

Praise the earth for it has given us TEA.

But trying to dress it up as much as you can its still dried leaves in boiling water. This is why when I think of tea all I can picture is  Hippies.

I'm not saying if you drink tea you are a hippy, it's just that's the image that is called to my mind whenever someone offers me a cup of tea. Plus the smell.

COFFEE on the other hand, calls to mind images of industry, steam engineering and madness.

Such as the great Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel calling for coffee as he carries a temporarily overwhelmed Ada Lovelace through the vice and verse ridden poet's corner of London. For more of the thrilling adventures of Lovelace and Babbage go here.

A big shout out to Melina Sydney Padua the author of the above panel  

Real coffee, and by real coffee I mean espresso, is made through a much more exciting process of drying, roasting and in special cases the beans being eaten and shat out by the Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hemaphrodutis), then pushing water heated to around 96 centigrade through a sieve of the ground roasted coffee beans at around 9 bars of pressure. 

and perhaps the finest expression of this symphony of engineering and madness with coffee in the real world, is a mystic brew called Black Blood of the Earth. It's produced by a company by a chap at Funranium  Labs who after sampling a cup produced by a Viennese Triple Cold Extraction Coffee set up in Japan 

Either that or Walter White's work bench

described the experience as 

"I could see colours that weren't in the visible spectrum, and could vibrate through walls" 

and with access to a decent supply of glassware and a passable knowledge of chemical engineering Voila, he built his own machine and with continual tinkering  produced Black Blood of the Earth -a beverage which concentrates the caffeine but extracts much of the bitterness inherent with the beverage. The caffeine content per cup is a touch excessive and I tend to like my coffee dark and bitter, like my heart, so my search  for the perfect coffee continues.

The  pinnacle of beverages, the ULTIMATE coffee will result in such experiences as described below from the comic Girl Genius, click here for the full tale

Isn't this always what you hoped the first time you tasted coffee?

So in summary when I think of tea, I see hippies. When I ask for coffee I want it to be prepared using this

so what's your beverage of choice? and why isn't it coffee?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Are you people nuts?

Obviously not you people who read this, I was referring to these people. For those that don't do links the story is about a group who having decided that they don't trust the very effective and safe chicken pox vaccine and instead not satisfied with organizing a get together at a public venue like McDonalds so their and other children get exposed to a child who currently has has chicken pox.  Did the last fifty years of public health and science just pass these people by, did somehow the 20th century not happen for these people?

Whats worse is instead of hooking up on the new social media ie Facebook to arrange these parties,

I am trying to put together a chicken pox party and am looking for someone to donate their chicken pox to the event. i was thinking of having it at McDonsals or some place with toys to play on. if you know of anyone who would like to contribute or would like more information on a time and place let me know...."

now we even have these folk you don't trust them modern doctor types who,  on a request from a parent will send lollipops that have been licked by children currently suffering chicken pox through the GODDAM POSTAL SERVICE! 

"after a woman in Nashville, Tenn., advertised lollipops contaminated with the varicella virus on Facebook. The tainted pops were intended for parents who want to expose their children to the disease. A Nashville TV station spotted the woman's posts, in which she also offered to ship spit and cotton swabs, all for a mere $50, payable through PayPal. The woman, Wendy Werkit told WSMV reporter Kimberly Curth that she had shipped lollipops that had been sucked on by her children, "so that other peoples' kids can get chickenpox."

I have been unable to link to a facebook site promoting chicken pox parties, only a link to an interest site that warns about the danger, and one that links to a online game starring a cartoon chicken called Pox,  so I am hoping this is all some kind of twisted hoax but there is no mention of it on the scopes urban myth website.

So these folk don't trust the varicella vaccine developed in 1995 and shown to be safe and effective, however they will trust some one so clueless as to send a biologically invective sample unsecured through the mail. As others have pointed out, including a US prosecutor, this is effectively what we all feared bioterrorists would do.

Dr Rafael Harpaz, epidemiologist for the Centres of Disease Control was much more restrained than I would be when he said 'Its an incredibly bad idea for a variety of reasons.... Before the vaccine was licenced, there were on the order of 100 kids (in the US) who died of chicken pox every year. Now there are very few among vaccinated children...Its like playing Russian roulette with your child'.

I was going to post about the family fun Friday movie the_weapon, my_reason_for_living and I went to see  Contagion. But I will leave that for another day.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Why I liked OUTCASTS more than I am enjoying TERRA NOVA

As others have noted, thanks Orin, next year will be the first time since 1974 that there are no live action space based science fiction shows on Television. This of course is unacceptable. While science fiction on TV thrives the future looking science based tomorrow seems to have disappeared and instead we are stuck with inward looking, supernaturals and superpowers. For comparison look at the fate of BBCs short run series OUTCASTS and compare with the finally on air TERRA NOVA.

In Summary
Terra Nova is about a colony sent from a future earth that has a destroyed biosphere due to environmental collapse. The colony is settled in series sent through a time fracture to a prehistoric earth. The trip is one way and they can not contact the future and rely on the information carried back by settlers.The sixth wave of settlers had a dispute and leave to set up an alternative colony elsewhere on planet. The character selection process is meant to bring the best and the brightest but there are obviously flaws and some people have go through that shouldn't.There is a whiny, annoying teen whose sole task seems to be a plot device to drive the story when he does something stupid.  There is a big mystery hinted at by some cryptic markings. Not everything is what it seems.

Outcasts is about a colony sent from a future earth that has a destroyed biosphere due to environmental collapse. This is a alien world reached over a number of years by a series of colonizing ships, News from earth can only be provided by the people on the ships as they arrive. Engineered humans called Advanced Cultivars were part of the first settlement teams but where blamed for a disease which wiped out most of the colonies children, they left to found another colony elsewhere on the planet. There is a whiny annoying teen who only function seems to screw with the emotions one of the competent officers in the colony. There is a big mystery hinted at when some hominid fossils that turn up. Not everything is what it seems.

See Spaceships therefore cool
For a start at least OUTCASTs had spaceships, big honking planet settling spaceships. It had a colony that looks like it had been build from cannabilized spaceships ' The houses on Terra Nova look like they could double as an Apple Store. And while TN has dinosaurs and that is a plus they aren't anything that wasn't perfected by the Walking With Dinosaurs crew.

Also given a disease that wiped out most of the children mean they aren't up to their shoulders in annoying teen angst every week unlike Terra Nova. So a plus to OUTCASTS there.

Even the title TERRA NOVA sh*ts me. That translates as Earth New. Not a very imaginative title requiring no great geek knowledge. The planet in Outcasts is called Carpathia which is never explained, no block of  talking exposition but as everyone knows Carpathia was the name of the ship that rescued the survivors of the Titanic. See clever. So of course it only got eight episodes and ended on a cliff hanger that will never be resolved.
Oh great now the moons going to crash into us

Even in the first episode of TERRA NOVA they screwed up the maths on how big the moon should be, hint it shouldn't be THAT BIG.

So the little girl asks her big sister, "Is it always so big?"

Big sis: "Not always. It moves about a half a centimeter away from the Earth every year, so it’s much closer than it was yesterday."

The moon does move around 4cm/year, it was moving away a bit slower millions of years ago but lets assume 4cm/year close enough for government work. Therefore how much closer 85million years ago thats 425 kilometres. Given that it currently orbits at around on average 400,000kms thats a tiny variation about 0.1%. Since the moon travels an ellipitcal orbit over a two week period is varies by about 50,000kms every fortnight there is NO WAY that the could percieve a difference. So once again SCIENCE FAIL.

Terra Nova has only had a couple of episodes so far but its not looking good.  

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Breaking the laws of physics

Recently I have had to question my understanding of one of the fundamentals of the universe.

No I don't mean the experimental result which suggests they detected superluminal neutrinos. Although that result did generate much discussion around the dinner table, yes its that sort of household. That report is just the sort of investigation which is what science is all about. Randall Munroe of xkcd has a good take on how we should deal when such scientific results are reported in the news.


No my discovery involved a recent visit from My_reason_for_living when I thought she had violated one of the fundamental laws of thermodynamics. It was one evening, we had been in our centrally heated home for a few hours. Sufficient time for all internal bodies to reach thermodynamic equilibrium and then she placed her feet on my bare skin.


I have a scientific mind, and I had no idea how this can happen. By all the rules of physics her feet should be the same temperature as everything else, including me. It wasn't until I watched ABCs science program Catalyst that I worked out what was happening.

Obviously  My_reason_for_living's feet are made of some highly thermal conductive material. Diamond has one of the highest conductivity know to science. Q.E.D her feet are made of diamonds.  

Makes as much logical sense as the argument made HERE in the New York Times by Robert Bryce. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

In crappy news for Zombie fans

American Movie Channel just made my list.

Last year the big standout hit for the network was their TV series THE WALKING DEAD, based on the awesome ongoing comix book series by Robert Kirkman. The series which premiered on Halloween last year attracted 5.3 million viewers, its season finale drew more than 6 million. Its one of the most successful television series ever produced by the network. In the coveted 18-49 demo is is the biggest numbers of any drama ever shown on basic cable. So what does a success like this breed.

The director Frank Darabount was sacked three days after the company used him to promote season 2 at comic con. They slash the per episode budget available from $3.4 to $2.75 and come up with a series of bone headed suggestions to the save cash.

"The show shoots for eight days per episode, and the network suggested that half should be indoors" and insider points out "this is not a show that takes place around a dinner table". Another suggestion "couldn't the audience hear the zombies and not see them saving on make up?"

needless to say I am no longer looking forward to the see what this has wrought for season two.

And next in the kick to the head in stupid ideas 

A synopsis was released by for the movie

"The story revolves around United Nations employee Gerry Lane (Pitt), who traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments and threatening to decimate humanity itself.  Enos plays Gerry’s wife Karen Lane; Kertesz is his comrade in arms, Segen.”

serious WTFage????? Have they not read Max Brooke's book? Here is how the book is described

Brooks plays the role of an agent of the U.N Postwar Commission who published the report a decade after the Zombie War. The United Nations left out much of his work from the official report, choosing to focus on facts and figures from the war rather than the individual stories that form the bulk of Brooks' novel. The interviews chart a decade-long war against zombies from the view point of many different people of various nationalities. The personal accounts also describe the changing religious, geo-political, and environmental aftermath of the Zombie War.

AFTER THE ZOMBIE WAR NOT DURING and it is not just me who noticed they have fundamentally changed the story.

Topless Robot "And speaking of crushingly disappointing zombie news"

Io9 "WWZ movie synopsis is nothing like the book, internet melts down

Peter Hall over at sums up the problem best. "I Hate you Mac Foster. "

Me too. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Beauty pageants and science

The Miss USA contest and science are two phases you tend not to see together. Some Miss USA contestants have claimed science cred, but when the finalists to the 2011 Miss USA contest were asked "Should evolution be taught in school?" the results were both encouraging and depressing
Yay Science

On the plus side the eventual winner Ms Alyssa Campanella came out and said that it should be taught and later claimed

"I was taught evolution in high school. I do believe in it. I'm a huge science geek....I like to believe in the big bang theory and, you know, the evolution of human beings throughout time".

 But she was only one of two who came out unequivocally in favor of teaching evolution in school.


The many other responses where either political weasel words about choice, or openly against such teaching.
Perhaps if the question was rephrased to teaching mathematics in school.

If you want to see the actual responses click here but I think the video above sums it up.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Its not always about the Zombieapocalypse

Back off man, I'm a Zombiehunter
Though as a card carrying member of zombie squad (motto We make dead things deader) admittedly 97% of my free time is spent with rehearsals, drills, checkinga and re-evaluating my go-bag and every day carry, checking literature, consulting health records, watching for Patient Zero, recharging torches seemingly endlessly recharging torchs, restocking food and medical supplies, watching training films and reading manuals like DEADLINE by Mira Grant.

Occasionally I feel the need to widen my horizons, albeit only slightly. Such as this week when this arrived in the mail.

Don't think me being in a hardcopy will save you
Its Dr Daniel H Wilsons's ROBOPOCALYPSE. I've lauded his work ever since first his lament to the 21st Century  'Where's my Jetpack? A guide to the amazing science fiction that never arrived. He has go one to write a series of how to texts on

How to survive a robot uprising

How to build a robot army:Tips on defending Earth against Alien invaders, Ninjas and Zombies.

The book even before it became available was Steven Spielberg was committed to direct the movie.

In case you were wondering why I bought it in hard copy and not e-text. Manly because I haven't chosen my e-reader yet though when this becomes available I will be sorely tempted. The reason is if it on an electronic device that will make it far to easy for Archos to locate me.

Here is the winning fan made trailer for the book.