Data is timeless

I was listening to good ol’ Radio 2 on the way to work yesterday and it mentioned a study that:-

‘… concluded that Children of older fathers have lower IQs.’

The study was done by Australian scientists using data from the U.S.

So I thought, “Yawn! Another red wine is bad for you, red wine isn’t bad for you paper fodder production.”

But what caught my ears (if there is such an expression) was when Liza Tarbuck said that the data they used for the report was collected between 1959 and 1965.


Firstly I’m not sure a study done in one country is necessarily relevant in another. Secondly they used stuff that’s at least 44 years old!

I know that the results from these studies seem to be released every day and are taken with a pinch of salt (which is also apparently bad for you, a study says so) by most people.

What I never considered was how old can the data they use be? I just assumed it would be up to date as implied in the news headlines, “A recent report …” or “The latest study …”

Well it seems that it can be very old indeed. What relevancy data written on parchment paper is now is very questionable to me. Everything has changed since way back when. Unless it is meant as a Historical study but I don’t think it’s being presented as such.

But then I suppose these studies are not meant to be taken too seriously are they? After all they’re just designed to keep a bunch of scientists employed and guarantee a new grant when their existing one expires. Perhaps as long as they publish something then that’s enough to keep the cheques coming.

“Not breathing can seriously shorten your life span”, a new study shows.

“Masturbation causes Cancer.”

“Masturbation doesn’t cause cancer.” (Teenage youth heaves a sigh of relief.)

“A new report shows that staying in bed is safer than climbing K2.”

It does make you wonder how many studies out there are using data that Noah started. (“Building a wooden ark in times of severe flood can greatly increase your chance of survival”, a scribe says.)

I know we all have to earn a crust but it would be nice if people spent their time on pursuits that actually meant something in the real world. Surely there are useful things to study out there?

But I’m obviously missing the point.

Must be a lack of data.

Costa lot

Gennaro Pelliccia’s tongue is worth £10m ($13.95m). That’s a lot of money for a tongue. It’s a lot of money for a body. Heck it’s a lot of money for a whole neighbourhood.

He’s the chief taster at Costa coffee and so his wriggling muscle has been insured by Lloyds of London for a huge salivating amount.
I wonder if the small print in the insurance policy has restrictions on usage similar to car insurance where you can’t off road etc.
Clauses like no tongue piercing, no overly aggressive French kissing, no sticking out of tongue at friends or colleagues, no licking of frozen metal. Why you would want to do the last one is beyond me but some people seem to be fascinated with doing it.

I imagine this tongue has a great responsibility for ensuring the coffee is a good as it possibly could be. There’s a lot tasting on this tongue. The most expensive tongue there has ever bean.

I just hope the tongue hasn’t had a curry the night before.

No kissing please, I don't want to lose my no-claims bonus!

No kissing please, I don't want to lose my no-claims bonus!

Right Said Fred

Right Said Fred

Right said Fred it’s time to put me skates on
Pack my bags and catch n’ early flight,
But as I tried to shift it, couldn’t even lift it,
I was gettin’ nowhere at all,
So I had a cuppa mo.

Well right said Fred of course I know the reason
It was pure and simple, the bags was full o’ cash,
‘Cos I don’t trust a transfer, I’m an ex-banker,
But I’m goin’ nowhere at all,
So I had a cuppa mo.

Right said Fred I know you’ve all been saying
It’s a bad thing I ought to give it back,
But it’s my bonus and the flippin’ onus,
They’re gettin’ nuthin’ at all.

And I’m not a ruddy poet,
So I had a cuppa moet,
And unplugged the ‘phone.

(Sung to the tune of the fantastic song ‘Right said Fred ‘ released by Bernard Cribbins in 1962.
Original lyrics by Myles Rudge, Music by Ted Dicks. With apologies.)

University Challenging

I really enjoyed watching ‘University Challenge’ this year. This comes as something of a shock to me because in the past I’ve loathed the programme with a vengeance.

I only needed to hear the theme music and like Pavlov’s dogs I would react; knuckles going white, snarl coming from lips, vein throbbing in forehead. You get the picture.

So when I happened to fall upon the programme by chance, halfway through the present series, I didn’t expect too much but lo’ and behold I found myself hooked. I’d spend a happy half hour vainly making attempts at providing answers but mostly I spent my time just trying to understand the questions.

The final was great, far more worthy than any sporting event, so imagine the disappointment when I discovered today that the winning team had been disqualified.

And the reason?

‘… students taking part must be registered at their university or college for the duration of the recording of the series.’

Apparently Corpus Christie College, Oxford had a team member who when the final was filmed was not a student anymore but working for PWC (Price Waterhouse Coopers.)


I’m not the sharpest tool in the box but I can read a set of rules. A team consisting of some of the finest young minds in the country hadn’t noticed that one of their fellows was now working (surely they must have missed him at the student union bar) and that fact might cause a bit of a problem.

It’s strangely, reassuringly comforting that these people whose bedtime reading probably consists of Advanced Nuclear Physics or Ancient Latin Verbs and Conjugations had failed to cast a little eye on the rules as they steamrollered their way through the heats and semi-finals.

So in the great tradition of U.C. your starter for 10.

“Has anyone read the rules?”



Sources: The Guardian;      BBC

Blind Spots: Why Smart People Do Dumb Things

                Blind Spots: Why Smart People Do Dumb Things

The Mathematics of Truth

It’s now become clear that the government knew about, but repeatedly denied knowing about, the transport of prisoners from one country to another for interrogation in countries where torture is not illegal. A practice known as ‘extraordinary rendition‘. If it wasn’t such an appalling definition it would be quite funny. It sounds like some sort of overdone amateur dramatics.

The action itself, apart being from morally wrong could also be unlawful under the 1949 Geneva convention on protecting civilians in times of war which prohibits deportations of individuals to any other country.

The case in point was when Iraqi prisoners were held by UK forces, handed over to US forces who transferred them to Afghanistan in 2004 where they remain to this day.

John Hutton described the catalogue of events as receiving and relaying ‘inaccurate’ information.

Lying basically.

It reminds me of my school maths lessons where if you multiply two negatives you get a positive.

Perhaps they are adopting the same approach to the way they present their information.
If you combine more than one lie you get a truth.

I bet we wish that we could all do that.

They always say the first casualty of war is the truth. It seems like the first action of Government these days is not to tell the truth at all.

Or to wait 5 years and then tell it.

Sources: BBC, The Guardian.

Nasa’s early bonfire party

Failure is Not an Option - but it is a distinct possibility

Failure is Not an Option - but it is a distinct possibility

Bonfire night has come 8 months early courtesy of NASA.

Apparently they lit the blue touch paper, stood well back and let off a huge firework. Not the kind that you can usually pick up at the corner newsagent I might add, probably one you have to get mail order.

This mother of all whizz bangs which cost $270m (£190m) had a fantastic flight. It impressed everyone who proudly waved their sparklers at it and then off it went and crashed into the sea near Antarctica.

Personally I think this is a tad excessive. I think it’s great making a firework show for people to enjoy and of course if you’re the US then it has to be the biggest but I feel they have gone a bit too far this time. Do you have to have a firework that goes halfway round the globe?

If this is their idea of Guy Fawkes night I’m just wondering what they have in mind when the potatoes go in the fire.

But it appears it was not a large firework at all but Nasa’s first dedicated mission to measure carbon dioxide from space.

Oh dear.

NASA called the disaster a ‘contingency’ and the operators at mission control were instructed to enact a ‘mishap plan’. Yep you can’t fail to give them boys full marks for understatement.

I suppose measuring Carbon Dioxide will have to wait but I’m sure they’ll be plenty left when they have another go.

I guess for now they’ll just have to console themselves with some bonfire toffee instead.

Slip Slidin’ Away …

Now that Lloyds Banking Group shares are literally cheaper than chips (53.80 pence as I write) you might find ‘The Daily Mail‘ giving them away free on a Saturday like they do with DVDs.

No doubt someone will be making money out of all this share price slaughter, namely the hedge funds who’ve ‘shorted’ the stock. But for most of us it seems to be pointing the way to the fact that share ownership is a poisoned chalice.

Surely anyone owning shares these days must have a bit of a screw loose? Buying premium bonds, lottery tickets, horse-racing bets or land on the moon probably provides a better investment opportunity at the moment.

Perhaps one day admitting to owning shares might have the same stigma as admitting to owning porn. People have it, they just don’t advertise the fact. Definitely a subject changing moment at parties:-

“Actually I like to dabble in SM, the stock market.”
“Really? Nice weather we’re having at the moment …”

Share prices on Bloomberg may become something you won’t want to get caught watching by the wife.
Or you’ll be approached by a shady looking gentleman in a pub who sidles up to you and asks, “Psst, wanna’ buy some shares? It’s good stuff. Ex-Blue chip.”

Pay per view choices in hotels may never be the same again.

The Naked Trader: How Anyone Can Make Money Trading Shares

The future image of share buying?