Weekly round up: Antibiotics, Ayatollahs, Sewage, Cryptos, telescopes and Tories

stories which we think may be significant in the longer term

Good news on antibiotics We started this blog (and the Facebook page that preceded it entirely to advance the cause of research into new antibiotics. So it’s good to see a little progress. A new drug called Fabimycin may offer real hope.


Ayatollah, don’t Khomeini Closer!#1 We always remember Ayatollah Khomeini as a laid back, fun loving dude. Hence his participation in this cheerful pop video from the 1980s. So what must this easy-going guy have been thinking when he launched that Fatwa against obscure author Salman Rushdie back in ’89? Out of character we think. The video shows the true side of the Ayatollah we knew and loved, so judge for yourself.

https://www.youtube.com › watch?v=8iPgOBoqsaQ

Ayatollah, Don’t Khomeini Closer #2 Talking of Judge for Yourself, what of Salman Rushdie’s so called cultural output-is it any good? Here’s a list of his books so you can decide. They’re all easily available through good sites like Waterstones and Amazon.


Cryptos Curtailed A few years ago Cryptocurrency boosters boasted that their new blockchains would make them impervious to fraud and hackers. Not so. This article from PC magazine is just the tip of an iceberg. Some say it’s not the technology, its the users being weak and slack in their security procedures. IT and security professionals everywhere take note!


By the Rivers of Babylon Academics and Detectives normally have very different skill sets. So what happens when you put two of them to work together? The answer is an amazing tale of how Britain’s waterways have deteriorated into a mass of open sewers. Overseas readers-are you sure it isn’t happening in your countries?


we thank ripuarian proprietor Mr Gary Herbert for this story

Tories tamed As Whigs, we at LSS have sympathy with parties of left and right-what counts for us is who has the best policy at the time. We have, in our humble way, tried to show how Britain’s Conservative Party has lost its way. Now John Oxley, for the Spectator does it much much better than we could ever hope to:


It’s that James Webb again! Nature Briefings is reviewing its best articles and point us to this one about the magnificent new James Webb telescope. Once again the ineffable Mr Gary Herbert gets in on the act with a link to the telescope’s Facebook page, so you can join the community for yourself

The James Webb Space Telescope — a collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency — released four of its first full-colour science images in July. Webb’s 6.5-metre-wide mirror is the largest ever launched into space. The combination of its large mirror, infrared view and tennis-court-sized sunshield allow Webb an unprecedented view of many astronomical phenomena. “It’s only just the beginning,” notes NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller.

.Nature | 5 min read


Well, there’s something to be getting on with. We hope you all have a great weekend. The board of directors are now off to Maccy D’s at East Croydon station to cure our hangovers. We hope the staff will follow us after they have turned the lights off and closed down all the computers.

ayatollah khomeini #salman rushdie #pollution #cryptocurrencies #hacking #conservative party

Friday Night: when it’s just too hot for cocktails

Feeling Hot and tired? too hot to do all that tricky mixing and measuring? Well, we don’t blame you. So here a few quick cooling ideas for a boiling Friday night.

Cold Lager Ever a standby. Kept in the fridge until the can/bottle is frosty cold and beaded as you pour. To prove we’re not too anglocentric, here’s a few brands we’ve enjoyed down the years: San Miguel, Kronenbourg, Foster’s Red Stripe, Budweiser, Red Stripe. The English love ’em.

Quick hit Pimms Forget all that fussy jars and fruit and foraging for borage hardscrabble. You can make a perfectly satisfactory quickie in a glass with a little lemonade, a slice of lemon and a few ice cubes

Gin and Tonic Same as above really, in concept. Gordons even do little ready made tins. Iceland have copied these under the soubriquet Alfie, Just add your own ice and lemon.

Ice cold rose Over ice and maybe with a bit of soda water to cool things down. Nineteen seventies style comments about men who drink rose are now considered to be exceedingly crass and asleep

Shandy Made with fine old ale and cold lemonade, you can keep going for hours without falling asleep in the rose bed. Don’t neglect as a possibility!

Cider The only time we seriously considered becoming teetotal was when we were offered what was purported to be “real farmhouse west country cider” in a hamlet in Cornwall. It was disgusting, the kind taste you would expect from the cleaned out sump of an old combine harvester. Whereas! Companies like Bulmers, Magners, Thatchers and many others do a delightful range of delicious fizzy apple or pear based beverages which gladden many a thirsty palate, and have done ever since 1961. In tribute to an old TV ad for a now vanished brand, we’ll close with this old song and see if any of you remember it

Coates cum oop from Zomerrrzet/ Deown wurrr tha zoider arpples grrreow!

Have a good weekend. If the fields are dying, prices rising and you can’t water your garden, here’s why: Climategate 2009. When meaningful action on climate change might have started. But someone prevented it.


Supercomputing: when 1+1=3

Astronomy is our oldest science. There were Babylonians and others peering into starry Middle Eastern skies thousands of years ago. Greeks, Arabs and Europeans followed. The invention of things like astrolabes, telescopes, radio astronomy and spectroscopy deepened our understanding. And Astronomy has rightfully kept its place at the very forefront of learning.

Computing and information are latecomers. We know people who were born before the pioneering work of Van Neuman and Turing was dry, as ‘t’were on the page. It has since come on in strides-and we haven’t really started on quantum computing yet.

So what happens when you put the two together? You get results which are more than the sum of the parts. As this piece on the Guardian (too many authors-ed) shows. Researchers in Australia combined the work of their new, snappily named Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder with the supercomputers of the Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre to produce stunning new images. [1] At the moment, they’re just trying out on a local supernova, but the potential for far deeper understandings is very firmly there. This is what happens when you combine insights from two different disciplines. Remember isotope physics and archaeology?

At a time when we seem to be buried under waves of bad news, it’s good to think someone out there is still thinking and working in new ways. Good on yer, Aussies!

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/aug/11/australian-supercomputer-produces-fantastic-picture-of-supernova-remnant

#astronomy #supercomputing

Where were you on August 9th 2007? Because it still matters today

August 9th 2007 was a Thursday. If you had been at work, you might have been thinking that tomorrow heralded the beginning of a fun-filled weekend. Sports, pubs and restaurants beckoned. At the cinema, The Bourne Ultimatum and Rush Hour 3 were packing them in. Rihanna was high in the charts with Umbrella, featuring co artist Jay Z. It seemed that this easy prosperity would last forever. But we could not have been more wrong.

For this was the day that BNP Paribas closed its position on three hedge funds due to their exposure to certain American financial securities. A move that was both brutal and unexpected. As Larry Elliott points out [1] it was “the pebble that marked the coming avalanche ” And what an avalanche! September saw the first panic filled runs on banks. 2008 began with huge falls on global stock markets. That autumn witnessed the folding of ancient institutions such as Lehman Brothers, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. By October, the endless wave of selling brought the entire financial system to within a few hours of total collapse.[2]

The world recovered, sort of, on a wave of dubious money which was given the pompously re-assuring name of “quantitative easing.” But the economic and geopolitical consequences are with us yet. The prestige of the United States and its western allies was irretrievably damaged. Their assumed model, based on the superiority of free financial markets, was shown to be fundamentally flawed. Dictators around the world took note; and began to plan the series of actions which led us to where we are today. Asset prices soared, as did the incomes of the rich. Real wages stagnated, and indebtedness became a feature of millions of poor lives. Deep frustration and anger led to such outcomes as Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. And at the end of it? War ,and the certain promise of another depression.

And, as Elliott points out, the fracturing of international cooperation and the deep mutual mistrust between nations will make attempts to patch things over much harder this time round. In 2008 it was British Premier Gordon Brown who did as much as anyone to avert collapse. No UK Prime Minister has that authority now, nor ever will. As Auden said, we are

“Lost in a haunted wood/Children afraid of the night/who have never been happy or good”

August 9th 2007 was the day we entered the dark wood. Can we ever find a way out?

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/aug/07/fading-global-cooperation-will-make-this-crisis-worse-than-the-recession-of-2008

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Financial_crisis_of_2007%E2%80%932008

#2007 crash #financial markets #depression USA #Russia #china #brexit #donald trump #gordon brown

Calling the Shots for Friday Night Cocktails

Cocktail shots were one of those marvellous developments of the nineteen eighties, a bit like Pot Noodles. Fast, quick to take effect, and above all easy to make, thereby massively enhancing the quality of life. So today our researchers have come up with the easy route to cocktail success- two and three ingredient ultra shorts which will get you going anywhere from Magaluf to Middlesborough.

We have pause here to make a nod to today’s site link. Love to know is a marvellous compendium of fun advice on people, pets, homes and gardens, beauty, travel and hobbies. They sound like a civilised bunch!

So click on their site to learn of The Forest Fire Shot (scotch and pine syrup) The Cinnamon toast shot (some unusual de Kuypers in there, people) the Apple Jack (did they once have a number one hit back in the day?) and lots, lots more.


#cocktails #shots

Weekly round up: Of Banks, Streams, levels, pools, seas -and why there’ll always be an England

stories that might make it past the week

Bank Of England Independence Reports that Tory leadership frontrunner Liz Truss may end 25 years of independence for the Bank of England raise more than one eyebrow. If she does it, it suggests that every important financial and monetary decision will first have to be run through the editorial offices of the Daily Mail. Let’s hope they’re as good at economics as they are at winning elections! Here’s the Indy, one of the Mail‘s Bete Noirs:


Source for the goose, source for the gander Except the poor old geese won’t be swimming in the Thames any time soon. Not in it’s upper reaches anyway. Many, many years ago an inveterate climate change denier told us “I’ll believe in global warming when the river dries up (OK, he meant the Avon) However we suggest he reads this , sourced from the Guardian


Levelling Up in California Economic inequality is a colossal drag on economic efficiency, partly because it engenders poor health outcomes. Nature offers a truly thoughtful analysis: Can Science confront inequality’s deadly toll?

In California’s San Joaquin Valley, the people who work in the fields, orchards and meat-packing plants are among the hardest hit by COVID-19. Food and agricultural workers in California had an almost 40% increased risk of dying last year, compared with the risk for the state’s general population. Tragically, this inequality is no surprise: a century of research has shown that social determinants drive disease. The question is, what is science going to do about it? “We know what the impact is of a lack of employment, a lack of fair wages, a lack of transport, of poor education and racism,” says public-health historian Graham Mooney. “So, if public health has no power to influence these issues, then public health becomes nothing.”Nature | 23 min read
This in-depth feature from April 2021 was a finalist for this years’ National Institute for Health Care Management Trade Journalism Award.

Quantum Confusion Ever had ten minutes to spare and though to yourself “I’ll master quantum physics today?” We tried it once, and collapsed into a sea of hundreds of different particles all with different names. Protons, muons, neutrons, leptons, gluons, quarks… you might as well try to learn the names of all the different types of animals and plants in a museum of natural history. Now the Conversation describes a new naming scheme which tries to make sense of this vast pool of data


It’s reality that makes the world go round Because it really, really is round, like a giant football, as María Belén Muñoz García proves for El País. (anglophones-translators at the ready)


And Finally…..Is LSS too anglocentric? We don’t want to start navel gazing, but one or two overseas readers have suggested we focus a little too much on Old Blighty and its myriad problems. Well, we sit in England and speak the language, so our news and comment feeds are going to be heavily biased towards those on offer in that country.. And remember this…..other countries have rivers, quantum particles, social problems…..you name it. England is indeed just another country, which means your problems won’t go away either. But all feedback is welcomed and we will try as hard as ever to represent the problems and views of the wider world as far as our resources will allow it.

#quantum physics #global warming #inequality #liz truss #conspiract theories

Unpredictability: Why Ukraine is giving Russia a hard time

Vladimir Putin expected an easy ride into the Ukraine.  You can tell that by the desperate measures the Russians are taking to plug the gaps in their military. Despite overwhelming advantages in size, they are struggling badly. Even with their current, scaled-down objectives. If it were not for the firm support of China, the Russian economy would have collapsed weeks ago.

Why? We could cite several reasons. The determination of a free people not to be enslaved. Support from other free peoples such as Europe and the United States. Endemic gangsterism and place seeking in the Russian armed forces and wider society. But for Christopher Woody,[1] writing for The Insider, there is another reason. It’s all to do with command and control, and it may have deeper lessons for us all.

Woody points to major differences in the training and doctrine of the NCO cadres between the two adversaries. Basically, the Ukrainians devolve a lot more decisions down to their NCOs, who are empowered to make tactical decisions in the heat of battle. And this addresses the most important feature of any combat: unpredictability. The Russian structure, and doctrine, is top-down, hierarchical and therefore highly inflexible. “No plan survives contact with the enemy” It’s an old saying and has been attributed to many. But commanders and nations forget it at their peril. As do companies, schools, hospitals, newspaper editors and the politicians that serve them.  The operational costs of turning people into robots can be very high indeed.

As we write, it is impossible to predict the outcome of the current war in the Ukraine. But Vladimir Putin is asking his people to pay a very high price for his own lack of thought and of flexibility. How long will they continue to pay it?

We thank Mr Peter Seymour for this story

#russia #ukraine #putin #war #nco #china #freedom #totalitarianism

[1] https://www.businessinsider.com/russian-forces-cant-cope-with-ukrainian-ncos-enlisted-leader-says-2022-8?r=US&IR=T

The naughty little ads that muddied the waters on climate change

Oh, those naughty boys (and girls) at the Big Oil Companies! According to some authors, such as Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes,[1] companies such as Exxon, BP and many, many others have been running advertising campaigns which were, it is alleged, less than entirely fair and balanced on the rather dangerous problem of climate change. Who would have thought it?

Well, we at LSS would rather that you made up your minds for yourselves, gentle readers. Fortunately, the authors have provided a library of old ads, so you can judge for yourselves.(“the forgotten ads which told us climate change was nothing”)

It was certainly an eye opener for us! Up to now we have always viewed big oil companies as paragons of integrity, at the cutting edge of truth and progress, interested only in the betterment of mankind and the creation of a bright shiny new future. And now, in the editorial offices of LSS, a tiny worm of doubt has crept into our minds! And to quote Nick Nolte from Mulholland Falls “here’s what I want you to do”

A read the article, linked at [1] below

B Have a look at this report on the Tobacco industry. Do you notice any similarities or differences? [2]

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/nov/18/the-forgotten-oil-ads-that-told-us-climate-change-was-nothing

[2] https://ash.org.uk/category/information-and-resources/tobacco-industry-information-and-resources/

#climate change #global warming #big oil #smoking #tobacco #cancer

Weekly Round up: AI gets scary, Tigers, Women’s football, and tyrants in waiting

stories of more than passing significance, we think:

AI predicts all protein folds It took humanity about 100 years to understand the shape of a handful of proteins, and that was using the best brains and technology we had. Now AI system Alphafold has basically cracked the lot in minutes. In the short term, it will be a boon for medical researchers. And the long run? It implies there is an intelligence greater than our own starting to form on our planet. And that’s before quantum computing has got started. Anyway here’s Nature Briefings, AI predicts the shape of every protein

Determining the 3D shape of almost any protein known to science will soon be as simple as typing in a Google search. Researchers have used the revolutionary artificial-intelligence (AI) network AlphaFold to predict the structures of some 200 million proteins from one million species, covering nearly every known protein on the planet. The data will be uploaded to a free database. “It’s going to be an awesome resource,” says computational biologist Eduard Porta Pardo.Nature | 5 min read

Tiger, Tiger Yesterday was International Tiger Day and most of the great and good of the conservation world ran a promotion or did a little media to help these iconic animals. We’ve chosen a link to the inestimable WWF site where you can make a contribution by adopting a wild tiger. Remember how much carbon-capturing habitat that will save as well.


Have a heart LSS is nothing if we’re not always promoting new ideas in medicine. Regular readers will recall our latest wheeze was Base editing. Well, here it is in action


Women on the Ball Women’s football has come on in leaps and bounds. Tomorrow the ladies offer us a nation -gripping, nay, world-gripping final. Let’s hope they read about this in places like Afghanistan and Texas, where the position of women is a little less favourable. Jonathan Liew for the Guardian


Shoot the Messenger Executing the bearer of bad news was one of the perks of tyranny in classical times. The same mindset is shown by those who have been trolling weather forecasters for stating simple facts. Next time you meet a climate denier (or an antivaxxer) you may be looking at a budding little dictator. Don’t date them! Merlyn Thomas for the BBC


#tiger #base editing #climate change #womens football #AI #protein fold

Friday Night Cocktails: A coconut theme

You may have youthful memories of hurling stones at the nuts in the shy at some long-ago fairground. But the coconut tree (Cocos nucifera)[1] has a far more illustrious potential than that. For not only is the basis of many great cocktails, as we shall see. But it is also a member of the wider palm family (Arecaceae) [2] which has given us such useful products as dates, carnauba wax, rattan, palm oil, Palm Sunday, sago dyestuffs and any number of decorative trees for our gardens and public spaces. And has been doing so since at least Biblical times.

So what better way to salute this most generous tree, or group of trees, than to raise a glass to it based on its own products. Our researchers have visited that eminent site A Couple Cooks [3] to once again bring you a marvellous choice of recipes and pictures, far better we confess than anything we could produce ourselves at LSS Visit it now via the click below. All we can do is select a couple of classics which will grace any tropical holiday, or warm summer garden.

The Piña Colada A juicy mix of pineapple, rum and coconut cream with lashings of cooling ice. It’s been the subject of more than one popular song, and an instant recognition drink all the way from Santa Barbara to Benidorm.

Creamy Coconut Margarita Coconut cream, tequila, lime juice and triple sec. A must for any cartel of cocktail thirsty chums coming round to your place tonight!

Coconut Martini Short and simple, like a comment piece in The Sun. The authors closely associate it with their Margarita (above) but compare the recipes for yourself. Why not even try to make one?

Well, there’s our tip for the night. We are off now to enjoy one of our own. We do hope this little blog is the start of a good weekend for you all.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coconut

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arecaceae

[3] https://www.acouplecooks.com/coconut-cocktails/

#coconut #palm #cocktails