Why the hell is sitting so bad for us?

The numbers are scary. Sitting really seems to be bad if the observational studies and meta analysis studies are to be believed. Sitting for lengthy periods of time contributes to all sorts of nasty diseases like cancers and heart disease. It’s a wonder I’ve reached this age at all!

It doesn’t matter how much you exercise, it has no effect on how bad sitting is for you. You’re better off getting up and walking around for 2 minutes every half hour or hour than doing that intensive hour of walking in the morning. (damn)

And the findings were sobering: Every single hour of television watched after the age of 25 reduces the viewer’s life expectancy by 21.8 minutes.

By comparison, smoking a single cigarette reduces life expectancy by about 11 minutes, the authors said.

Looking more broadly, they concluded that an adult who spends an average of six hours a day watching TV over the course of a lifetime can expect to live 4.8 years fewer than a person who does not watch TV.

Get Up. Get Out. Don’t Sit.

I’m just glad I have a standing desk but I need to use it more often in it’s elevated position.

Varidesk Pro Plus

I have no idea why sitting is bad for you. The video above suggests a few reasons but it’s all speculation.

Via this Reddit thread.

Steak, cream and fat are healthy for you!

Years ago I remembered watching a Woody Allen movie where scientists in the future laughed at our views on eating a diet rich in fat and greasy food. Apparently that movie is “Sleeper” but I don’t remember the rest of it!

‘Course since then the advice about fat has changed somewhat and sugar is now the big bad food stuff we should avoid but I think everything in moderation is probably the best for most people.

Yes, this video is a camera recording a Youtube video on a computer monitor and uploaded to Youtube again. Odd.

Good vibrations: looking for geopathic stress

I’ve become a rather sceptical person of late. Any mention of cancer cures, or advice from someone who thinks they can cure the common cold will unfortunately cause me to raise my eyes to heaven.

A Guardian article on geopathic stress reminded me that this form of quackery was one of the first to come to my attention. It was back in 2003. At first I was dubious but I asked, “does anyone know anything about this?”

Unfortunately the comments descended into farce with Joe, the guy who told me about geopathic stress, spamming the post with fake comments all from the same IP range. I don’t like to see businesses go out broke and end, but for quacks I’ll make an exception. His website isn’t to be found any more.

Thanks Cork Skeptics for sharing the Guardian article! I’m part of Cork Skeptics, so if you’re on Facebook like our page and watch out for events. There’s also the blog you can follow, and it’s on WordPress.com too. :)

Solving the mysterious light in Blarney

Back in 2013 local school children created a “flash mob” and danced in the village square in Blarney. Local photographer Pat Falvey was on hand to capture the scene on video.

Near the start of the video he noticed a flash of light coming from a woman on the right of the frame. You might have to watch the start of it a few times as it flashes by in about 1.5 seconds. Intrigued, I took a closer look.

Using this site I watched the video frame by frame. You can see an object appear on the right:

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 18.31.41

In the next frame it’s after moving over a little bit.

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 18.31.59

And again, it has moved.

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 18.32.16

Using my advanced photography skills I cropped the location of the object to isolate it and zoom in:

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 18.32.16-1

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 18.32.16-2

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 18.32.16-3

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 18.32.16-4

I thought I could see something there now but it needed further enhancement …

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 18.32.16-5

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 18.32.16-6

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 18.32.16-7

OH WOW! I couldn’t believe it! I thought it was just a leaf but Blarney had been visited by the Starship Enterprise and nobody had even noticed! I was there that day and it had completely escaped my notice!

It was a seed actually. It was one of those seeds with wings. We used to call them helicopter seeds but they’re the seeds of the Maple tree apparently. You can see the seed flutter to the ground after a few frames.

Stephanie Shirley: Software Pioneer

Stephanie Shirley: Software Pioneer

I’d never heard of Stephanie Shirley until I heard this BBC interview with her. As a five year old she escaped the Nazis in Germany, escaping to Britian in a Kindertransport. She founded a software company in 1962 that only hired women. It allowed employees to work from home, a practise that is much more common now than it was then. At the time women were not always welcome in the workplace, especially after they married or had kids, so this was an exceptional change. Ironically, equality legislation years later forced them to hire men!

In her personal life, her son Giles was autistic. Caring for him caused her to have a nervous breakdown as she tried to run her business too but she has poured huge sums of money into autism research and in her retirement has given away most of her £150m wealth.

To help Giles and others like him, she first established the Kingwood Trust to support young adults with autism, and more recently started the Prior’s Court School in Berkshire. “It is actually the biggest single project,” she says. “It took five years of my life. That’s the one I dreamed about.” It aims to help autistic children into mainstream education or some form of employment by using innovative techniques in art, music and sport.

The Shirley Foundation has spent or allocated around £50m in recent years – putting it among Britain’s top grant-giving foundations – with 70% going to autism-related work, from the first online conference on autism to yet another start-up, the Welsh support network Autism Cymru.

She also spoke at TED which she talked about her life.

If you want to hear about a remarkable woman, listen to this podcast and watch her on the TED stage.

How New Horizons flew to Pluto

Pluto

The last week has been quite an amazing one in human history. We have photographed up close all the planets (and ex-planets) of our solar system. What our ancestors saw as mere points of light in the sky are now full colour images that anyone can see. It’s really amazing.

Pluto the Death Star

Still, there were surprises in the form of a death star. George Lucas must have been there already!

Pluto the dog

And of course there is that heart shaped landmark on the surface of the dwarf planet that looks suspiciously like Pluto the dog, but I think Snoopy would have loved to go there ..

snoopy astronaut

Clyde Tombaugh was the man who discovered Pluto in 1930. He died in 1997 before this mission launched and a portion of his ashes were carried by the New Horizons craft. His are the first ashes to be carried to Pluto, and the first to eventually leave the solar system as New Horizons is on an escape trajectory!

In typical Scott Manley style, he has produced a video using Kerbal Space Program explaining how New Horizons was launched by NASA. He has lots of background information on the rockets used and he’s as interesting as always.

Here’s another, more cinematic, depiction of the launch by Youtube user “winged”. This one is shorter and visually more interesting but lacks the narration of Scott’s video so you should definitely watch both!

If you’re interested in the cameras on board, you should read Photographing Pluto: This Is How New Horizons Works and The Camera Behind The New Pluto Photos.

There’s two cameras that more or less operate in visible light: a color camera which is a medium resolution camera (Ralph), and then there’s a grayscale or black and white telephoto camera (Long Range Reconnaissance Imager, or LORRI).

Our long range pictures of things that are going to give us our highest resolution images will be taken LORRI. And the color pictures will be taken with Ralph. We can actually combine the colors from Ralph to colorize LORRI’s pictures.

And then there is an imaging infrared spectrometer that will also makes pictures of a sort. But they’re mostly compositional information, like what Pluto and its moons are made out of.

Another constraint on the mission was that Ralph had to take photos using only the sun’s dim light that reaches Pluto. During its flyby, New Horizons will photograph the side of Pluto that’s turned away from the sun. This side is lit solely by the sun’s light reflecting off Charon. This is like taking a photo using just the light from a “quarter moon” on Earth, a lead optical engineer for the mission told me in an email.

So Hardaway and her team designed Ralph for the exact light conditions that New Horizons would have to operate in. “This camera isn’t adjustable. It’s designed very specifically for conditions at Pluto,” she says.

The craft has successfully passed through the Pluto system according to signals received earlier today. It’s going to take months for all the scientific data collected to be transmitted back to Earth but hopefully we’ll see more detailed photos of Pluto and it’s moons over the next week. I’ll update this post with more when I get it!

Finally for now, New Horizons took many photos on it’s way to Pluto including this stunning montage of Jupiter and one of it’s moons, Io. Check out the mission homepage for more!

Jupiter and Io montage

Update at 2015-07-15 21:00 UTC+1: NASA have release two new images. One of Charon, one of Pluto. The close up of Pluto shows mountains 3,500m high. Both images show a lack of craters meaning the landscape is relatively young in solar system terms. Certainly less than 100m years old which is young compared to the Earth at 4.5b years old!

New close-up images of a region near Pluto’s equator reveal a giant surprise: a range of youthful mountains rising as high as 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) above the surface of the icy body. The mountains likely formed no more than 100 million years ago -- mere youngsters relative to the 4.56-billion-year age of the solar system -- and may still be in the process of building, says Jeff Moore of New Horizons’ Geology, Geophysics and Imaging Team (GGI). That suggests the close-up region, which covers less than one percent of Pluto’s surface, may still be geologically active today.
New close-up images of a region near Pluto’s equator reveal a giant surprise: a range of youthful mountains rising as high as 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) above the surface of the icy body.
The mountains likely formed no more than 100 million years ago — mere youngsters relative to the 4.56-billion-year age of the solar system — and may still be in the process of building, says Jeff Moore of New Horizons’ Geology, Geophysics and Imaging Team (GGI). That suggests the close-up region, which covers less than one percent of Pluto’s surface, may still be geologically active today.
Remarkable new details of Pluto’s largest moon Charon are revealed in this image from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), taken late on July 13, 2015 from a distance of 289,000 miles  (466,000 kilometers).
Remarkable new details of Pluto’s largest moon Charon are revealed in this image from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), taken late on July 13, 2015 from a distance of 289,000 miles (466,000 kilometers).

The Irish Research and Development Centre

That was bizarre. The phone rang twice. I picked it up but they had hung up. It rang again. A woman with what I presume to be an Indian accent spoke:

‘Good morning Sir. May I ask you three questions that will only take up a moment of your time?’
‘Eh. Sure.’
‘When purchasing goods is the price or quality more important?’
‘OK, before I answer that, who do you represent?’
‘Oh, The Irish Research and Development Centre here in Dungarvan.’
‘Sorry, what was that? The Irish Resea..’ (I started typing the name into a browser, my keyboard is noisy)

CLICK. They hung up.

Weird. Was that some sort of scam?

Justice League: Gods and Monsters Chronicles

Wonder Woman

Batman

Superman

This is an alternate universe where the Justice League use lethal force to maintain order on Earth. Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are not who you are familiar with. An animated movie is expected at the end of the month and will shine an altogether darker light on these super heroes.

In an alternate universe, the Justice League is a brutal force that maintains order on Earth. Superman is named Hernan Guerra and is the son of General Zod, who was rocketed to Earth as a child and raised by a family of Mexican immigrants. Batman is Kirk Langstrom, a scientist who has inadvertently transformed himself into a vampire in an attempt to cure his cancer, feeding on criminals to satisfy his hunger. Wonder Woman is Bekka, who is the wife of the New God Orion.[2][3] The Justice League’s unaccountability is ultimately challenged by the world’s governments following the suspicious deaths of renowned scientists. (Wikipedia)

There’s a series of comic books too. Here’s a sneak peek at the first Superman one. Looks great!

Justice League Superman

Sounds of the Irish Smoking Ban

The Irish Smoking Ban

It’s hard to believe that smoking was banned in the workplace in Ireland in 2004. It was a huge change but very welcome (by most) and the best thing a Fianna Fail government ever did.

Listen to this Witness podcast on the subject here to be brought back eleven years.

Since the ban it became clear that a bunch of dancing sweaty people consuming alcohol are a smelly lot but the increased ventilation that some nightclubs have installed has helped. :)