Monthly Archives: September 2008

Banking: FAIL

Apparently a second lender, Bradford & Bingley, are to be nationalisedBanking FAIL

What fun.  What can we learn from this second fiasco?  Lending with few checks to verify identity or income is a high risk form of lending.  High risk lending has more chance of failure than lending only what you are likely to get back.  The returns may be lower and the shareholders and executives might get smaller bonuses but the company has less of a chance to FAIL when things go wrong.

It’s OK though.  The banking insurance scheme will bail out B & B and our taxes will shore up the bank for the next five years until (if?) the other banks can repay the loans to take over B & B.  We don’t live in a vacuum and this money has to come from somewhere.  Do you think that it is more likely that the money will come from customers and tax payers or from wealthy executives?

That raises a question for me.  What would happen if, rather than bail out these lenders, the government allowed capitalism to take it’s course and the businesses to fail?  How much would we suffer as a result compared to shoring up the failing industry?  I’m asking because I don’t know.

I wonder how many people are feeling this today?



Filed under Motivational Posters, Shitbiscuits

Better than nothing

more the engrish!


Filed under Reasons to be cheerful

Cervical Cancer Jabs

Following on from yesterday’s rant about the Metro and it’s reporting of superstitions I have an honest enquiry about the HPV cervical cancer vaccinations.

The purpose of the jabs is to provide some level of immunity to the papilloma virus which manifests as genital warts and an increased chance of cervical cancer.  The virus is responsible for about 70% of cervical cancers.  It isn’t a replacement for proper screening but should save a few lives anyway.

Putting aside the irresponsible actions of St Monica’s Catholic School who “unanimously came to the conclusion that vaccination against it is a personal matter for parents to decide in consultation with their family doctor and their children.” even though a private course of injections costs around £500.  Putting aside that they claim that it is not a moral issue (it isn’t, it’s a medical issue) the faith based teaching ideals must have had a strong influence on the decision. 

How is it even a moral issue?  I ask this is all seriousness.  It is true that if nobody had sex the virus would be eliminated within a century or if people restricted themselves only to one sexual partner forever.  This would have to be everybody of course, not just the girls at St Monica’s. 

Let’s assume for a moment that it is considered moral to wait till you marry to have sex and that we should encourage that very Victorian idea.  If a male partner has sex with someone else and becomes a carrier of the papilloma virus that transmits to the woman (who only ever had sex with her husband) then she is at risk.  I’m not even talking about unfaithful men here, what about divorce or death?  I would think it very rare for one man and one woman to be exclusive for their entire lives.

I don’t consider it the moral course to place this sort of restriction on people.  Even if I did it would be impractical to enforce.  Not everybody thinks the same after all.  As people will continue to have sex with one another whether I like it or not then we should take steps to ensure that people are not spreading disease through sex.  An immunisation programme seems the obvious limiter here.  Remember that you need only have sex once to get the virus, it isn’t something that only occurs through promiscuity.  That’s just more Victorian thinking.

Returning to my question.  Given that the purpose is to limit the spread of the virus and provide protection from infection by HPV can anyone please explain why boys are not being immunised as well?  True, boys cannot get cervical cancer, the lack of a cervix ensures that, but boys can still carry the virus and spread it.  Wouldn’t immunisation for boys as well as girls make the effectiveness of the vaccine much greater?


Filed under You decide

Metro on how to get an atheist angry before he even gets to work

I find this incredibly short sighted. It’s a good thing that the papilloma virus can’t be transmitted by married sexual intercourse….Oh wait, biology doesn’t work like that.

Malaria will apparently wither in the face of determined religious opposition. Maybe mosquito nets or a vaccine would be a better idea. Just a suggestion.

It looks as if the historical “rough” treatment of dogs under Shari’ah law is finally under review.

I really hope that she’s been misquoted because it’s a bit of a silly statement otherwise.

‘There’s something heroic about battling off the forces of scepticism’
‘There’s something heroic about credulity’
‘I was starting to think sceptically but then I pushed the idea away and kept thinking magical thoughts’

Good grief.


Filed under Atheist, Debate


Archimedes (Greek mathematician, 287 to 212 B.C.) said, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.”

Levers are the simplest of machines, simpler even than the wheel.  Unlike the wheel levers occur naturally in animal and plant life.  Lifting your arm uses several levers as does nodding your head.  The lever is simply different.

There are three types of lever.

Type 1 lever

This type of lever has a load at one end and a force at the other with a fulcrum in the middle.

Type 2 lever

This type of lever has a load in the middle and a force at the one end with a fulcrum at the other.

Type 3 lever

This type of lever has a load at one end and a force in the middle with a fulcrum at the other end.

What type of lever do these items use?  Do any of them use more than one lever to operate?

see-saw, tweezers, wheelbarrow, stapler, fishing rod, bottle opener, hammer’s claws, pliers, nut cracker, tongs, scissors, nail clippers.

Can you add anything to this list?

Now think about your own body. 

What sort of lever is required to move your head in a nodding motion?  Imagine your spine as the fulcrum, the muscles in your neck as the force and your skull as the load.

Hold your arm out in front of you and flex your bicep so that your upper arm is stationary and only your forearm moves.  What are the fulcrum, force and load and what sort of lever can you see?  Is the same sort of lever involved when you move your arm back to being straight in front of you?  Is there a different force being exerted\muscle being used?

Do all movements in the human body rely on some sort of lever or can you think of any moving parts of the body that don’t involve levers?

Activity 1

You will need:

  • An adult
  • A child
  • A brick or block of wood
  • A plank of wood 1 inch thick and at least 4 feet long

What to do:

  1. Make a lever by placing the plank over the wood block.
  2. To take advantage of the properties of the lever, make sure the fulcrum (wood block) is closer to the end of the lever on which the adult will stand.
  3. Have the adult stand on the short end and the child stand on the long end. What happens?
  4. If the child cannot lift the adult, adjust the fulcrum so that it is closer to the side on which the adult is standing.
  5. Record the weight of the adult and the child and measure the distance from the people to the fulcrum.  Can you work out the ratio for child weight and distance to adult weight and distance?

Activity 2

You will need:

  • An ruler
  • A tape measure
  • Some light food like cereal
  • A pencil
  • Some small cups

What to do:

  1. Put the ruler across the pencil.
  2. Put a piece of cereal on the end of the stick touching the table.
  3. Flip the cereal by hitting the stick end that is in the air.
  4. Mark where the pencil (fulcrum) is.
  5. Record the distance that the cereal travelled.
  6. Now place a small cup at this distance.
  7. Fire again and see if your cereal lands in the cup.
  8. Try moving the fulcrum. What happens now?
  9. Record your findings in a table.  Distance from fulcrum and distance fired.
  10. Could the other types of lever be used like this?
  11. Can you find of any inventions that operate like this?
  12. Don’t forget to tidy up your mess.

Can you think of any other experiments?


Filed under van de graaf

Polly Ticks

I have a question.

Can anyone think of a reason why my views should be represented in various political forums by 15 people?

According to the Write to Them website my district councillors are Terry Hart (Labour) and Susan Stocker (Liberal Democrat), my county councillors are Ann Buckley (Liberal Democrat) and Anne Edwards (Labour), my MP is David Willetts (Conservative) and my ten MEPs are Peter Skinner (Labour), Ashley Mote (Independent), Sharon Bowles (Liberal Democrat), Nigel Farage (UK Independence), Daniel Hannan (Conservative), Caroline Lucas (Green) and, Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, (Liberal Democrat).

My political views are so much in the minority, it seems, that I feel compelled to point out that I haven’t voted for any of these people.  Not even one of them.  I’m also ashamed to admit that I have only heard of two of them.  Willetts, because I have an unreasonable hatred for the shiny faced little git and Terry Hart because I remember getting a leaflet through the door from him.

I’m disappointed to discover that Terry Hart isn’t the same Terry Hart who was an astronaut.  If he was the same guy then I probably would have voted for him.

Do I really need this many people representing me?  Isn’t one person representing me in national government, one in local government and one in Europe enough?  Do I even need that many?

Political views on the size of government are welcome.


Filed under You decide


My lovely kids have been asking about vortexes recently.  Which way does the water spin when it goes down a plug hole? Does this change in different parts of the world?  That sort of thing.

I want to demonstrate the physics involved in an interesting way by experimentation.  Something safe and easy that the kids can do themselves that will keep their interest.  Here is what I’ve got so far from a suggestion from Prof. David Houghton that I found on t’Internet.  I would love to see some more if anyone has any suggestions.  I’d also be interested in hearing of any attempts at this experiment.

Vortex experiment


  • Two empty clear plastic bottles.  Clean and remove all labels.
  • A rubber washer.  It should be bigger than the bottle mouth on the outside but the hole should be small.
  • Duct tape.


  • Fill one bottle 2/3rds with water.
  • Place the washer on top of the bottle so the it sits over the top.
  • Put the second bottle onto the washer and tape them together firmly.  The bottles should be mouth to mouth with the washer in the middle.
  • Turn the two bottles over so the full one is on top.
  • Swirl the bottle round to start the water spinning.
  • Set the bottles down in a flat place and watch the vortex form.  One bottle should be standing upright.

Additional Notes

  • You can make the vortex more visible by colouring the water or by adding some foam beads or something that floats in the water but doesn’t block the funnel.
  • How fast can you get the water to spin?  Does this make the vortex bigger?  How do you think you could record your observations.
  • Experiment with washers of different sizes.  What happens for a wide hole or a very small one?  Record your results in a table and think of a way to present them.
  • Does the angle that the bottle is at change the vortex?  See what happens when you tilt the bottle after a vortex has formed.  Try different angles and record your results.
  • Is there any difference in the experiment if you spin it clockwise or anti-clockwise?  Record your results.

What have you observed in your experiments?  Talk about what you can see as you perform each test.  Try to predict what will happen if you change one thing (the angle of the bottles, the speed of rotation, the washer size) and then test your prediction against the evidence with a new experiment.

What does this show you about meteorology?  On a large scale what have you learnt?  If a vortex forms in a bottle of water and a vortex can form in other fluids (salt water, river water, air, cloud) where do you think you will see vortexes in the natural world?  Armed with this knowledge how could human beings use this information is something like city planning, road building or travel?

Additional Experiments

Take a large mug, a spoon and some ice. Pour some very hot water into the cup and stir it slowly in one direction so the water is rotating slowly.  You could add something to the water to see it better. 

Next place a small ice cube at the centre of the water as it rotates. With a little luck you should see the ice cube start to spin faster and faster until it is turning much faster then the water around it. 

Why do you think this is?*

The answer is below but try to work it out first and then see if you get it right.

*This occurs because the melting ice causes water to sink underneath it.   The cold water draws in some of the warm water from the top edges.  The motion of water coming in from the edges is what spins the ice cube faster.  This is the same principal which causes some tornados and whirlpools in rivers to spin up.  You may have to experiment with the position of the ice cube to make this work well. everyday items?


Filed under van de graaf

Large Hadron Collider Rap made me laugh

I keep hearing scaremongers wittling on about how horrible things will be when the experiment to create a small scale “Big Bang”.  I’ve read that we’ll be sucked into the void and DOOM DOOM DOOM.  All because those nasty irresponsible scientists can’t leave well enough alone.

What a load of foolishness.

If you want to find out what CERN does you could do worse that look here.

1 Comment

Filed under You decide

An Open Letter on Commuter Etiquette

Dear Mr WideHead

Picking your nose on the train is something that should be done either not at all or subtly.  Not at all being the preferred option.

My fellow commuter, this morning you received my most harsh stare of disgust for your blatant delving of your nasal cavities in search of an elusive booger.  When you found it you very obviously examined it, even going so far as to turn it in the dim morning light to properly appreciate the awesomeness of your sinus’ accumulated waste.  Perhaps you were checking for dura matter, I don’t know.

What I do know is that I let out a audible “Eww!” of revolt when you popped the green and fetid lump into your mouth and started chewing.  You seemed to enjoy it as you were rolling your tongue about in your mouth and murmuring happily.  You even licked your lips.

I think I should probably thank you.  I have been over eating recently and fear that I may have piled on a few pounds.  Thanks to your demonstration of snot munching I am certain that I won’t be able to eat either the noodles I had planned for lunch or the cheese and onion pies I’d put in the fridge for tomorrow.

Your faithfully


Honest Mr hoverFrog


Filed under Modern Etiquette, Shitbiscuits


“Learned” and “Learnt” mean the same thing. The “t” ending is from the older English spelling while the “ed” ending is from the newer American spelling. Either are valid. They are both past tense of the regular form.

Another example is “dreamed” and “dreamt”. Verbs have a tendency to shift spelling to become more regular.

Which do you prefer?  I shall be using the “t” ending exclusively from now on.   Just because I can.


Filed under You decide