Is it just me?

Or does the Sun's new celebration of all things multicultural in the wake of the Celebrity BB scandal come across as just a teensy, teensy bit hypocritical?

Coming next: the Daily Mail on why immigration is a good thing and Margaret Thatcher was actually a raving neo-con lunatic.


Nights on Cydonia

Or perhaps triple strength West Country cider-nia to be more accurate...

The Halexandria Foundation maintains an interesting website full of what is often referred to as Forteana. This (Cydonia) is probably my favourite, found following a fairly random clickstream and suggesting that the area around Avebury exactly corresponds to similar geographical features found in the Cydonia region of Mars. Y'know, the bit with the 'face'.

Good, harmless fun, that concludes:

The reality appears to be that if we merely look around our planet for artifacts and other anomalies -- those which simply can not be explained by a limited view understanding of what the ancient human civilizations were capable of -- then we are faced inexorably with the fact that other non-human intelligences were involved in their creation.

Well, indeed. Unfortunate though that the Halexandria Foundation intro page kicks off with the following:

“May you live in interesting times.” Depending upon the source, this ancient Chinese phrase is considered either a curse -- attended by difficulties, stress and the lack of ease, comfort, and routine -- or a blessing -- filled with stimulation, adventure, and excitement.

Wonder if there's anything in the fact that 'may you live in interesting times'has recently been revealed to be a thoroughly modern phrase coined in a Golden Age SF short story? Hmmm...perhaps they could be linked...


PS3 launch date

Date: March 23

Cost: £425

Model: 60GB, wi-fi enabled

Desirability: Extreme

Chance of actually getting one round then: slim


Hand Solo

No, not a euphemism, but a rather neat retelling of the climactic destruction of the Death Star in Star Wars using nowt but hands. Okay, so the blackout costumes could be a bit better (or they could have spent some time in post), but them's minor quibbles. This = neat.


Big Brother accused of racism

It's probably wrong to take so much vicarious pleasure out of this, but it is fun to watch the wheels start to come off the Endemol BB juggernaut.

Ofcom has had 2000+ complaints from viewers alledging racist treatment by housemates towards Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty. C4 says it's just 'girlie rivalry' but you can smell the escalating stench of worry from here. Either way, they're probably going to have to ride herd on the production a bit closer and make sure that they don't have another incident where presenter (McCall) refers to housemate (Jackiey) as an 'awesome' housemate right after the latter had just contempuously called Shetty 'that Indian' live on air.

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Ofcom probes Big Brother 'racism'

Update: complaints now stand at 4500 and questions in parliament!

UK film production spending up

According to the UK Film Council, more than £840m was spent on producing 134 feature films - 50 of them entirely home-grown - in the UK in 2006.

The figure is up 48% on the 2005 total of £568.8m, making it the second best recorded year for film in the UK (though it should also be pointed out that 2005 was pretty disasterous due to all the tax break uncertainties).

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Potter movies boost UK spending


Telegraph | News | Terrorists 'use Google maps to hit UK troops'

Damnit, those sneaky terrorist types have been using Western technology that's been designed to find your nearest branch of Pizza Hut to lob bombs at Our Boys (copyright, The Sun).

Telegraph | News | Terrorists 'use Google maps to hit UK troops'

The answer is obviously to replace all those pin-sharp up to date maps of Basra with blurry, old low-res ones. A bit like the ones we have to put up with in my neck of the woods in Oxfordshire in fact. And you don't see any insurgent mortar rounds incoming round here, that's for certain.


In the midnight hour...

Boing Boing: Doomsday Clock closer to midnight as nuclear war risk grows

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists is moving the minute hand of its famous Doomsday Clock closer to midnight again, the first move since Feb 2002.

The major new step reflects growing concerns about a "Second Nuclear Age" marked by grave threats, including: nuclear ambitions in Iran and North Korea, unsecured nuclear materials in Russia and elsewhere, the continuing "launch-ready" status of 2,000 of the 25,000 nuclear weapons held by the U.S. and Russia, escalating terrorism, and new pressure from climate change for expanded civilian nuclear power that could increase proliferation risks.

It's not always accurate in that it doesn't always manage to keep up with geopolitic (the above diagram of its changes shows it happily running backwards during the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but all the same it's probably only been closer to midnight a couple of times since its inception. Worrying.



BetaNews | CES 2007

Looks like, despite the hype, LG's new hybrid Blu-ray/HD-DVD player could be in a bit of bother.

[It] will not receive certification from the DVD Forum. Without such certification, LG cannot publicly claim the player supports HD DVD as it is doing now.

The problem stems from the lack of support for HDi, the advanced interactivity technology used by HD DVD. LG has only included support for BD-J, Blu-ray's interactive menu system, in the BH100. Without HDi, only the video content from HD DVD discs will play back; menu systems and other interactive features will simply not be usable.


Wired News: Skeptic Revamps $1M Psychic Prize

An update on James Randi's long-standing challenge to give $1 million to anyone who can prove the existence of the paranormal in the lab. Seems that his foundation has had enough of seriously investigating people who claim to be able to channel the spirit of Montezuma's pet goat etc and is after the big fish: physics and mediums with already established media profiles.

Looks like he's raising the stakes too, planning on 'calling out' some of the most high-profile on the psychic scene.

Now, that's all fair enough, but there seems to be an inconsistency to me in pursuing this lot and leaving organised religion alone. Surely, taking this to the logical conclusion, the churches and pulpits of America have got as many charlatans preying on their congregation as there are psychics doing the same. Where's the million dollars for proving that God/gods exist, eh?

Wired News: Skeptic Revamps $1M Psychic Prize


Meanwhile, elsewhere at CES...

While the world goes justifiably gaga over the iPhone (quite happy to be an early adopter/mug punter this time round, Mr Jobs), TechDigest [via El Reg] has its round up of the top 10 weirdest gadgets at the show. Life missing an Elvis Bot? This is where to find one.

CES' top ten weirdest gadgets

Oh, and talking of the iPhone, Apple shares rose 8% on the day of that announcement, while those of Crackberry maker, Research in Motion, dipped by the same amount. And Apple Computer Inc is no longer Apple Computer Inc, it's now just Apple Inc. Looks like the way forward is gadgets...

The ins and outs of a Second sex Life

One from El Reg on cybersex in Second Life here.

Interesting - despite being written by a really annoying columnist - for the way it portrays evolving memes and conventions of social behaviour in a virtual world. Writer is distinctly unimpressed by a) people having sex in public ('totally gross'), but luckily her boyfriend has a big property they can go to and b) people simply cutting and pasting 'canned sex talk'.

Wonder how long it will be before someone is arguing whether cybersex is sex or not in a court of law (see Clintons passim).


Galactica praise

The Radio Times pronounces Battlestar Galactica quite deservedly as The Best...sci-fi drama. Feature talks about the queasiness to contemporary America of the good guys now being the insurgents, and includes the following quote of the week:

Co-executive producer David Eick says, "I can be as highfalutin as anybody about the socio-political relevance of contemporary science fiction. But sometimes I just want to see stuff blow up."


Earth without the people

One that dates back to October, but a fascinating one all the same: what would happen to the planet if all the troublesome humans were spirited away out of it. Gaia, it seems, is made of fairly robust stuff. The ending of the article verges on poetry:

Ocean sediment cores will show a brief period during which massive amounts of heavy metals such as mercury were deposited, a relic of our fleeting industrial society. The same sediment band will also show a concentration of radioactive isotopes left by reactor meltdowns after our disappearance. The atmosphere will bear traces of a few gases that don't occur in nature, especially perfluorocarbons such as CF4, which have a half-life of tens of thousands of years. Finally a brief, century-long pulse of radio waves will forever radiate out across the galaxy and beyond, proof - for anything that cares and is able to listen - that we once had something to say and a way to say it.

But these will be flimsy souvenirs, almost pathetic reminders of a civilisation that once thought itself the pinnacle of achievement. Within a few million years, erosion and possibly another ice age or two will have obliterated most of even these faint traces. If another intelligent species ever evolves on the Earth - and that is by no means certain, given how long life flourished before we came along - it may well have no inkling that we were ever here save for a few peculiar fossils and ossified relics. The humbling - and perversely comforting - reality is that the Earth will forget us remarkably quickly.

Imagine Earth without people - earth - 12 October 2006 - New Scientist Environment


13 things that do not make sense

One from the New Scientist a while ago but still popular: 13 things that make no sense whatsoever from the placebo effects to the Wow signal.

13 things that do not make sense - space - 19 March 2005 - New Scientist

Non to 2007

BBC NEWS | World | Europe | French marchers say 'non' to 2007

This could catch on:

Hundreds of protesters in France have rung in the New Year by holding a light-hearted march against it.

Parodying the French readiness to say "non", the demonstrators in the western city of Nantes waved banners reading: "No to 2007" and "Now is better!"

The marchers called on governments and the UN to stop time's "mad race" and declare a moratorium on the future.

The protest was held in the rain and organisers joked that even the weather was against the New Year.

The tension mounted as the minutes ticked away towards midnight - but the arrival of 2007 did nothing to dampen their enthusiasm.

The protesters began to chant: "No to 2008!"

They vowed to stage a similar protest on 31 December 2007 on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris.