Weekly round up: Loch Ness Monster, Anti-semitism, artificial eyes, coral reefs

stories which we think will have a lasting impact

Here’s what science can do The dream of restoring sight tom the blind is one the most inspiring we know. If you get enough scientists, doctors and other educated people into teams, this is what they can achieve. From the Mail staff


Pristine Coral Reef discovered near Tahiti It’s not all doom and gloom as this little clipping from Nature shows

Scientists at UNESCO, the United Nations cultural organization, have discovered a pristine coral reef, undisturbed for at least 25 years, off the coast of Tahiti. The reef is 3 kilometres long and 30 metres below the ocean’s surface — deeper than most known coral reefs. There could be many more reefs at similar depths, which scientists think might help these ecosystems to better survive climate change. “It was like a work of art,” said underwater photographer Alexis Rosenfeld. “Giant, beautiful rose corals stretching as far as the eye can see.”BBC | 3 min read


Anti-semitism The conspiracy theorist’s conspiracy theory Jonathan D Sarna looks at the oldest conspiracy theory of all for The Conversation Others have followed, providing equal opportunities for cranks and sociopaths large and small. Time for the educated to start seriously looking at the psychological and economic roots of deluded beliefs, we think.

Another blow for Nessie A new investigation deepens the credibility crisis for the Loch Ness Monster and his legions of adoring followers. (Thought-does this remind you of someone else, further south?) We were among those who doubted him from the start. Loch Ness is only about fifteen thousand years old, whereas the last plesiosaur went belly up at least 65 million years ago. But, Nessie fans, hold your heads up! Because it looks like your poster boy couldn’t.

with contributions from Mr Peter Seymour

#loch ness monster #boris johnson #bionic eyes #medical research #conspiracy theories #anti-semitism #ecology #wildlife #tahiti

Friday Night Cocktails: It’s criminal to waste old Baileys

Among the Convivial Community, no Christmas is complete without a bottle of Baileys Irish Cream Liqueur on hand. Its dark rich tones and creamy, yet slightly rasping combination of savours fits well into a world of twinkling lights and roaring log fires. But what do do in austere January as the harsh winds of new resolutions and repaid debts make a three-quarters empty Christmas bottle of Baileys suddenly forlorn and out of place, like a Rolls Royce Phantom on a Lidl forecourt?

Fortunately, Baileys themselves have come galloping to the rescue. The company’s website is a veritable cornucopia of recipes for Baileys. There are cocktails, warm beverages, biscuits, desserts, coffee combinations and many other ideas which are a tribute to powers of human imagination and ingenuity. So many so that all we can do is urge you to click on the site link below [1]. Meanwhile we will pick out a couple of the more notable cocktails, of which we severely liked the look.

Flat white martini Nice and simple-just Baileys, Vodka, espresso and a few coffee beans. We still remember this at what was then our local boozer in Hammersmith on Valentines Night 2003. Strongly recommended.


Baileys Tiramisu Talking of Valentines Night, what lady would not like this rather clever combination of favourite dessert/favourite tipple? A cunning plan for selling the next bottle, we suspect!


Chocolate Orange s’mores martini cocktail Certainly needs a little more labour to go in before you can start the drinking. But surely the way to appease your puritan new year conscience.

The LSS Baileys recycle special. Not on the website, but our own invention designed to push back the limits of resource recycling and thrifty use of every possible drop. Take 1 measure of Irish Whiskey and pour it down the neck of your Baileys bottle. Replace cap on bottle and shake. Pour the remnants into cocktail glasses over ice. How’s that for economy?


We’re sure you will find other sites and other excellent recipes. Our efforts are entirely designed to get you stared. If it’s criminal to waste food, it must be to waste drink. Old Baileys is just the place to start your virtuous new year of recycle, make and mend. Cheers!

[1] https://www.baileys.com/en-gb/recipes

#baileys #cocktails #new year resolution

Antibiotic Resistance starts to kill big

It’s started to bite . For years LSS and many others have warned of the dangers of ignoring the problem of antibiotic resistant micro-organisms. With limited effect. Because now the consequences of that blithe ignorance are clear. Antibiotic resistance (1.3 million deaths in 2019) now kills more people every year than HIV (860 000) or malaria(640 000)

We’ll let Andrew Gregory of the Guardian tell the full grim statistics of the current situation [1]. His links to the Lancet study will allow thoughtful readers to dig deeper if they wish. Our role today is to consider how this avoidable catastrophe arose.

A growing disdain for state action The early developments of successive generations of antibiotics occurred in a climate of co-operation between Governments, Academia and Pharmaceuticals firms. R and D risks were essentially underwritten by a social contract.

The supply chain freezes The new “private sector profits at all costs” model which triumphed after 1979 handed all responsibility for new developments to drugs companies. Who have to make a profit. And there are no profits in antibiotic development. No new antibiotics.

Cut taxes and give us our Sony Walkmans The consumer culture of the 1980s demanded two things A) instant gratification of every wish B) the reduction of all impediments which might inconvenience this, such as a rational level of taxation. The consumers got their Sony Walkmans. They lost a healthy infrastructure of institutions that might have developed new antibiotics. We hope they still enjoy their Sony Walkmans.

One upmanship The suburban battles over who has the biggest car/kitchen/number of bedrooms/bathrooms spills over into the ferocious mutual jealousies for pride and status among the nations. Never mind if your country is poor, disease ridden cold and hungry. It showed that lot next door who’s The Daddy! The result is furious arms races involving colossal levels of expenditure which could have been better placed in scientific research. Like new antibiotics perhaps?

Blind Aggression Medical professionals have been known to live in fear of angry, aggressive patients who demand antibiotic treatments instantly, regardless of the nature of their malady The result is over prescription and the evolution of further resistant organisms.

Blind Greed The desire of most of humanity for huge take-aways of cheap greasy meats has lead to a reckless over use of antibiotics in factory farms. Such dense crowds of over nurtured animals are a perfect evolutionary cauldron for the next anti biotic resistant superbug. It’s just a matter of time and mathematics.

It isn’t Governments. It isn’t media tycoons. It isn’t Pharmaceutical companies. The blame lies with each and every one of us. For we are like heirs who have squandered one of the greatest inheritances ever. Time to take action.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/jan/20/antimicrobial-resistance-antibiotic-resistant-bacterial-infections-deaths-lancet-study

#antibiotic resistance #superbugs #public health #health #research #medicine

Battery Breakthrough Batters Climate Deniers -again

Back in the early days of climate science denial, one of the deniers’ specious claims was that renewables like wind and solar energy were impracticable. Batteries could never store enough energy made in the good times (when the sun shone, for example) to last through the night, they claimed. As a result it would be impossible to store medicines in hot countries and everyone there would die of any number of terrible diseases. How would you like that on your conscience, Climate Scientist?

Batteries have come on marvellously in the last fifteen years. Look how your mobile phone has changed before you climb into your electric car, if you don’t believe us. But now research from Australia suggests they are about to get a whole lot better. Researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia have harnessed the power of quantum superabsorption which will allow the construction of batteries of unprecedented efficiency in the not-too-distant future. Quantum what? Yes, well, our subatomic physics is a little rusty too. So we’ve got two links for you, which give you a choice of the depth you need, and enough hyperlinks to go further if you so wish. [1] Is Anthony Cutherbertson of The Independent and [2] is Crispin Savage of Phys. org.

The specious appeal to “practical reason” is often employed by deniers. The aim is cast doubt into gullible minds, or ones that think too quickly and with emotion rather than reason. Next time you read one of their posts-remember how wrong they were on batteries. They always will be.


[2] https://phys.org/news/2022-01-superabsorption-key-next-generation-quantum-batteries.html

Thanks to Peter Seymour for this post

#global warming #renewable energies #climate change #energy storage # battery technology #quantum physics #australia

Viruses and Neuropathologies : there’s something out there alright


When we speculated on the link between MS and Epstein-Barr virus, we didn’t realise just how far behind the curve we were, Until we heard from Gaynor Lynch, one of our oldest friends, whose comment (see LSS 15 1 2022) is a tour de force of learning and links. We honestly urge you to read it. There is an abundance of studies which are starting to link the presence of viruses to all sorts of chronic disorders.

We are simply going to cherry pick a few of Gaynor’s leads, and hope that you will follow up for yourselves. So, in no particular order:

Are viruses implicated? Yes, in at least seven cases, including Multiple sclerosis, celiac disease and lupus. Don’t overlook genetic and environmental factors as well. We thought this paper from Very Well Health, by Adrienne Dellwo makes a good jumping-off point, but there’s a vast underbrush of literature on this subject.


Guillain-Barre syndrome is in there too At least one study links a sort of creeping paralysis called Guillain-Barre syndrome, or something rather like it, to West Nile Virus. OK, this may be a rare case for now. So was the first infection with Sars-Cov-2. Maybe if NATO and Mr Putin buried the hatchet, maybe some of that defence money might be better spent here?


Are women overlooked? As Gaynor tells us:

There is a gender bias in that women are disproportionately more affected than men. Sadly, historically women have often not had their health issues taken seriously and their conditions have described as general malaise or hypochondria

To which we can only add a weary “no surprise there, then!” The neglect of women and their health has cost us trillions in lost economic opportunities. Surely men can see that it is in their own interest to right this injustice? Surely not all of them the read The Sun?


There’s a lot, lot more in Gaynor’s riposte. Nearly every sentence will lead you off somewhere fruitful. But we hope that the above presents some sort of start.

#epstein-barr #virus #auto-immune disease #multiple sclerosis #glandular fever

Weekly Round up: Hope for MS, Fossils, A Clockwork Orange and a new slogan for the Conservatives

Ones we think will run:

Intriguing insights on Multiple Sclerosis We think any research is a good thing, especially when something arrives from an unexpected direction. The terrible disease of multiple sclerosis (MS) may be linked to contracting the Epstein-Barr virus and glandular fever, according to John Ely of the Mail. Lots of unanswered questions as of yet, but fascinating nonetheless.


Plug: Even lefties should be looking at the Science page of the Mail online. There’s an eclectic mix of stories, and always great pictures. Grit your teeth and think of Bertrand Russell!

Never say Never We at LSS have long pontificated that you can never say anything conclusive about tetrapods/dinosaurs/earlyhumans/the neolthic/romans/etc etc because there is always going to be tonnes of game-changing stuff in the ground waiting to be dug up. Now someone intelligent and sober has come along to prove we were right! Nature on an imbalance in the fossil record-it’s a warning to all researchers in any discipline really.

Our understanding of the history of life on Earth is biased towards wealthier countries, warns a study of the fossil record. The analysis reveals that 97% of palaeontological data come from scientists in high- and upper-middle-income countries, such as the United States, Germany and China. “I knew it was going to be high, but I didn’t think it was going to be this high. It was astonishing,” says palaeontologist Nussaïbah Raja. The analysis also found that colonial ties shed decades ago are still affecting palaeontology. For example, one-quarter of palaeontological research in Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria — former French colonies — was done by scientists based in France.Nature | 6 min read
Reference: Nature Ecology & Evolution paper

A Clockwork Orange at (about) Fifty Kubrick’s Film, made in 1971, got its London release in 1972 and went Nationwide in ’73. Strange? Mannered? Relevant? Dated? Stylish? Disturbing? You will never run out of fresh opinions on a Stanley Kubrick film. Scott Tobias has far from the last word in the Guardian


Deforestation destroys The short-sighted and reckless destruction of rainforests is having terrible consequences. What worries us here is the long-term, thoughtful nature of the study behind this one Christopher Taylor and Douglas Parker for The Conversation


Our Final thoughts In our country, criticism of the Tories often centres on their demographic-too old, too male, too posh, run the canards. So how about a slogan to attract younger voters: VOTE CONSERVATIVE, THE PARTY THAT KNOWS HOW TO PARTY

Any takers?

#deforestation #ecology #a clockwork orange #stanley kubrick #multiple sclerosis #boris johnson #conservatives #fossils #scientific method

What really happens at an English Summer party?

Summer Party? I thought we were in dry January?

Our foreign readers are curious about an alleged series of summer garden parties in No 10 Downing Street,and wanted to know what a real English garden party is like.

Who could tell them?

Not Boris Johnson, apparently. He thinks this is how people work normally.

Okay, what kind of booze do English people drink on these occasions?

Just about anything. They empty out all the flower pots and fill them with ice. Then cram in hundreds of cans of Red Stripe, Kronenbourg, and San Miguel. Or bottles of cheap rose, chardonnay and Prosecco. The latter being very important to Mr Johnson, even though he went to Eton.

How so?

He said that unless the Johnny Foreigners did exactly what we told them, we wouldn’t buy any more Prosecco after Brexit.

But people in England still drink it?

By the gallon! And everything else. At one of these alleged parties they went through the stuff so fast they had to send one poor bloke round to Tesco in The Strand with a wheelie suitcase for emergency re-supplies. It is alleged.

Surely people are allowed a tipple after work? Why all the fuss?

Because at the the time of the alleged booze-ups, Mr Johnson had enjoined the rest of us to follow the strictest, most draconian lockdown. You couldn’t even have proper funerals. Which may have irked Her Majesty the Queen, whose husband’s funeral took place on the same date as one of the more raucous Downing Street bashes. National Mourning and all that, old boy.

I see. What kind of music gets played at one of these dos?

Oh, varies. Papa’s got a new pig bag by Pigbag. Bubbling Hot by Pato Banton and Ranking Roger. Born Slippy NUXX by Underworld. Do the Hucklebuck by Coast 2 Coast. Dragostea by O Zone………..anything bright and cheerful, that you can dance to, goes down well. Just like on the quads when they were all at Oxford. It is alleged.

So no mood of national grief and austerity in No 10?

Au contraire! They did their own DJ-ing, or so it is said. Presumably to save taxpayers’ money. Which would not have impressed Mr Johnson anyway as he either a) wasn’t present b) didn’t realise they were parties c) has launched an enquiry to find out if he was there and if they alleged parties were indeed parties, or just people working intensely at their desks

Things to avoid saying at summer parties “How’s the new wall paper coming along then?” “I think Dominic needs another drink” “here’s a health unto Her Majesty”

#boris johnson #conservative party #downing street #lockdown #covid-19

There can be no cover ups at Learning Science and Society-a massive apology to you all

To our myriad readers and followers: earlier today we published an earnest and heartfelt blog celebrating one hundred years of insulin, and the benefits it has bought to sufferers from diabetes. Although we stand by our sentiments as expressed, we admit we got one tiny detail wrong. The date. As some of you may have noticed it is now 2022, not 2021. Also the window cleaner was coming today and we forgot that too. We went off for our constitutional walk leaving our wife to deal with the man and pay the bill. Both events are true, and both have happened on this same fateful day. Rather painful day, actually.

Unlike some, we shall make no excuses and there will be no cover ups. We were wrong. It was President Richard Milhous Nixon who declared “there can be no whitewash at the White House.” So it shall be here. If we find ourselves in Downing Street at a party, for example, we shall tell you. (of course we shall make very sure it is not a business meeting ) Once again please accept our apologies.

We hope you will continue to read our blog, and the wonderful stories we hope to offer you in the coming months. These include:

Battle Of Hastings 1067 and the triumph of King Harold

Why the Black Death of 1359 was just a bad case of flu

Why eating too much paella was bad for the Spanish Armada in 1589

The amazing year 1721 and why we celebrate it four hundred years on

What film was Mr Lincoln really watching when he got shot in 1866?

How we know JS Bach wrote the music for Calamity Jane

The unexpected defeat of Manchester United by Southampton in the 1976 Cup Final was the work of Trotskyist saboteurs

The unexpected defeat of Liverpool by Manchester United in the 1977 Cup Final was the work of Trotskyist saboteurs

How we know Stendhal wrote the lyrics for Calamity Jane

The defeat of Manchester United by Arsenal in the 1979 Cup Final was not unexpected-but could still have been the work of Trotskyist saboteurs

How covid-19 is caused by eating too many sherbert lemons

So-stay with us. It will all be here in 2021.

Thanks to Mrs J Lee of London for pointing out the basis for this articles

#sorry #apologies # whoops

One Hundred years of insulin-will you donate?

Before 1921, a diagnosis of Type-1 diabetes was a sentence of death. That’s worth repeating. Death. How many diabetics do you know who now lead normal, happy productive lives, thanks to the work of the scientists who developed it and the companies who still produce it so diligently today?

To celebrate this achievement we’re linking to that marvellous charity Diabetes UK (bet there’s someone like this in your country) Their timeline not only tells the story of the breakthrough, but also offers some insights into the scientific method. which not only gave us usable insulin but also the computer which you are reading this on.[1]

Build your team Insulin was the product of collaboration between Banting, Best and Macleod, initially You can do science on your own, but the lone mind is all too likely to fall into delusion and error. Darwin, Newton and Einstein were quick to note their dues to others.

Prepare for a slog After months of planning, laboratory experiments started in May 2021. They lasted a long time. Those who read the internet and call it “research” take note

First results are just that The first real positives did not come until November, and even then the team were quick to recognise these were relatively small. Humility is a great virtue, and the best minds know that they have more of it than most people.

Canada is an interesting place Back in the last century we were plagued by those who opined “Canada-best place in the world to live, but nothing has ever happened there!” After insulin, we beg to differ.

Extend your team After the initial success the original team brought in James Collip to help with purification, production and quality

Mass production This didn’t occur until 1922, after thorough testing and quality control.

Peer recognition The success of the team was so very obvious, and the relief of human sorrow so patently undeniable that they were awarded their Nobels in 1923, way ahead of the ten to fifteen year gap most scientists can expect.

The world today is plagued by the postings of cranks and conspiracists. They have a variety of obsessions, but two things in common. The first an utter inability to distinguish between fact and opinion. The second, an ignorance of the rules of logic and critical thinking, which are available at one click of a mouse [2] The way to get back at these people is not to waste time on them, but to contribute to the work of scientists, doctors and honest seekers after truth, such as Banting and Best. In honour of what they did, and the suffering they have saved, please look seriously at the Diabetes UK website, or the one you have in your own country.

[1] https://www.diabetes.org.uk/research/research-impact/insulin

[2] https://www.teachthought.com/critical-thinking/bertrand-russells-10-rules-of-critical-thinking/#:~:text=Bertrand%20Russell%27s%2010%20Essential%20Rules%20Of%20Critical%20Thinking,do%20the%20opinions%20will%20suppress%20you.%20More%20items

#diabetes #insulin #banting and best #conspiracies #fake news #science denial #health #medicines #canada

More Lightning, Less Lightning: striking proof of the mess we’re in

“If you want to know the answer to anything, ask a teenager.” Such were the wise words of a sometime contributor to this blog. By which she meant that older persons are more aware of the complexities, and tend to go for questions rather than over-simplified answers.

Which is why we find ourselves confronting two apparently irreconcilable stories today. More lightning in the High Arctic. less everywhere else. At least in 2020 anyway. Let’s start with less. According to Will Sullivan of ABC News,[1] there seemed to be a lot less lightning around in 2020. Interestingly, he puts this down to Covid-19. As economic activity dropped off, so there were less aerosols produced, which in turn led to less electrical storms, as Will explains in a remarkably clear passage. Yet over at the Guardian, Leonie Chao-Fong is concerned by a dramatic rise in lightning strikes above latitude 800 N. Her experts attribute this to the rise in humidity as the artic sea melts. The graph which accompanies the article is truly jaw-dropping.[2]

What are the readers of LSS to make of this? Firstly, the clear and tight link between our activities down here and what goes on up in the atmosphere. An object lesson indeed for the crash-bang-wallop-let’s have GDP at all costs school. Even the most committed denialist can’t deny this. Secondly, what will be the runaway effect of more wildfires in the arctic? Less trees, less carbon captured. More methane, more global warming. It’s that stark. And so what happens next as economic activity picks up after Covid-19?

with thanks to Peter Seymour



#climate change #global warming #lightning #arctic #melting