Why do we believe lies?

The problem is not that so many lies are told, but that even more people believe them. So wrote someone far more intelligent than ourselves, but we can’t remember who it was. But we believe them, as should you. For the internet (and public sphere generally for that matter) is awash with lies, half truths and fake news.

As good children of the Enlightenment we assumed that this couldn’t be Reason and the findings of science, it was confidently asseverated, would slowly wash away at all misconception error, facilitating a world of abundance and wisdom for all.

You may have noticed this hasn’t happened.

So once again, what is it that drives so many people to believe the stories of chancers, grifters, con artists, boiler room boosters and the rest of the mendacious melange who have done so much damage over the last fifteen years or so? What we have done today is to offer you an assortment of writers and researchers who consider this trope from a variety of angles and perspectives in the hope that you have time to consider this most pressing of issues.

Janice Wood of Psych Central looks at why people continue to believe lies even after they have been proved wrong


Bill Gates and Yuval Noah Harari (great duo!) have a podcast and a bit of test. Our advice is-when you come across people who are this bright, listen to what they say


It’s not only other people who believe lies- you have probably done it too. An nice exercise in humility for us all from Michael Austin of Psychology Today:


Well there’s some jumping off points, but these tips of the iceberg which we have shown you are filled with good links and jumping-off points. We hope that you’ll take them, because this is the biggest issue of our times.

#lies #fakenews #deception #fraud #massdelusion #conspiracy theories

A hot punch for Bonfire Night

Tonight in England is Bonfire Night, Firework Night, call it what you will. It’s when we remember the Gunpowder plot of 1605 when blundering toff Guy Fawkes and chums tried to bring down Parliament and the constitution by blowing the entire building up with high explosives. Maybe if he’d just asked help from Boris Johnson, he could have saved a whole lot of money on gunpowder.

Tonight we will be out in the dark as fireworks flash and crash overhead, while the rich smell of burning wood pervades the air. Wrapped up against the early winter cold (this is the night winter really comes, not Halloween) and eager for some warming refreshment to kill the chill, in keeping with the occasion.

So what better drink to warm the inner man and woman than a nice hot punch? We’ve taken our recipe from a site called Delicious. Which is well worth a visit for all matters food, but on to the task:

Their mix is marvellously simple, but full of good flavours. Basically it’s golden rum, fino sherry, cognac sugar syrup and lemon juice. We’ll let you click to their site to find measures and method, but basically you mix them up in a warmed jug, add hot water, then pour into cups and stir with a stick of cinnamon. It’s the sorts of ingredients that would have been lying in the holds of wooden ships in the Thames on the night of the plot, and would have been well-known to seventeenth century drinkers.

And while you’re at it, why not try another November 5th treat-hot potatoes, baked in their jackets, then cut and filled with lashings of butter and sprinkled with salt and pepper? A quick and nutritious way to feed any number of guests at your firework party, or upon return from the one at the municipal park.

But wherever you are tonight, north or south, enjoy and stay safe. For professional reasons there can be no round up tomorrow, but we’ll see you next week with more scintillating stories and epoch-making exclusives.

The Editors

#guy fawkes #boris johnson #fireworks #bonfire #parliament #potatoes #hot punch #winter

Nanomedicine offers new hope in antibiotic resistance

Once the antibiotics run out, modern medicine disappears with them. We need to develop new antibiotics, but we need other approaches as well. thinking outside the current box, if you will. One approach has been the revival of our old friends bacteriophages (LSS passim). But a rather exciting new line comes from the new world of nanomedicine.

Yanping Long and his colleagues have developed artificial macrophages, which will assist the capture and kill process of the body’s natural defences. By mimicking the irregular “hedgehog” like properties of natural macrophages, the researchers have structured their artificial ones to attain similar efficiencies in capturing the pathogens and delivering the “killer” molecules. Results with MRSA infections on rabbit skin look promising.  Alongside new conventional antibiotics other approaches, such as bacteriophages, we may yet be able to wriggle out of this particular threat.

Our link is a rather heavy real scientific paper from Nature Communications,[1]But do not be dismayed, gentle reader! The trick with scientific papers is to read the abstract. Plus this one has some really good diagrams, which by definition are easier to follow.


#antibiotic resistance #macrophages #nanomedicine

Open Democracy: a light in dark times

Trouble with the internet, and so many media outlets, is that they all SCREAM AT YOU like commodities brokers, setting the tone for so many of their followers, and adding to the general coarsening and shrill intolerance which now dominates so much of life in the public sphere. What we like at LSS is a calm, cool and thoughtful approach. A rational debate of facts, which nevertheless leads to some surprising conclusions. Well, surprising to us sometimes.

We can offer you no better exemplar than Open Democracy, which tries to find the real interests, be they financial or political, behind so much of what is churning through the 24 hour news cycle. We link to their website below.[1] We strongly advise you to go in and sample. Why not try a particular trope, such as Climate Change for example. [2]You could then compare it to all the coverage around COP26 and the problems that hang off of it. You can always disagree later.

Whatever you think, gentle reader, you have to agree that they at least represent a voice in contrast to the campaigns run by some of the richest and most powerful people in the world, and their hangers on. Of course those people have a right to spend on campaigns in their interests and those of their shareholders. But someone has an equal right to criticise. We think one of those critics should be Open Democracy.

[1] https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/

[2] https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/dark-money-investigations/the-brexit-dark-money-lobby-has-a-new-target-climate-change-action/

#opendemocracy #global warming #fossil fuel lobby #climate change #astroturf movements

Heroes of learning:Blaise Pascal

Sorry-we thought you only get child prodigies in music, but Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) is definitely the exception. To look at his accomplishments is to be dazzled, especially as all was finished by the time of his early death-he didn’t even break forty.

Where shall we start? You want mathematics? He had made important contributions to geometry by the time he was 16, and went on to collaborate with the famous Fermat on probability theory. How about technology? He invented the first calculating machine to save his poor old Dad, who was a taxman, from doing so many calculations. Science. then? Pascal it was who proved that vacuums exist, and whose work led to all kinds of advances in pressure and gas studies. Or how about philosophy? He was the one who showed that science was best done free of received opinions, old books and dead experts.

Growing tired of all this, he turned to theology (a big favourite of Newton‘s). He threw in his lot with a Catholic sect called the Jansenists, whose principal raison d’etre seems to have been opposition to the Jesuits. Jesuits were another Catholic sect whose main aim appears to have been opposing Jansenism. Yet the famous Pascal’s wager which he developed during the bitter controversy is still regarded by persons of Faith as the litmus test of their entirely respectable choice.

For us at LSS, Pascal is prof of many things. That learning of all kinds knows no boundaries of nation and faith. That setting the intelligent free produces long term benefits for the rest of us. And the modern expression of his wide open mind is Wikipedia to which you should donate now. We do.


#pascal #atmosphericphysics #theology #mathematics #probability #fermat

Weekly Round up: Muddles, Complexity and a British National Treasure

issues beyond the daily news cycle

Resolving the muddle in the middle– Human evolution has always been a mess, with warring tribes of anthropologists fighting over every bone. Latest attempt at clarity comes from Mirjana Roksandic and colleagues who identify a line leading to modern humans and lump the rest into the Neanderthals. Two links for you: the first has a diagram which tries to show how all the different early humans link over the last million years. It’s alright going forwards-but any first year student of Complexity Theory would ask:”where are your feedback loops, Dr Roksandic?”



Complexity Theory Talking of which, here’s a whole field of human learning which makes you think again about what you know and how you think about it. It comprises the work of Computer Scientists, Linguists, Information experts, physicist, mathematicians and many others. Many of whom are so bright that, frankly, we struggle to understand. But their work will be vital in umderstanding big data, markets, fluid dynamics and many aspects of biology. Maybe you, gentle reader will do better than us. But to start we are going to recommend a book. Clearly written, but by an absolute doyenne, we think it makes a complex world comprehensible, at least for starters

John H Holland Complexity;a very short introduction Oxford 2013

Private Eye on Prime Ministers Foreign readers may not have heard of a very British Institution called Private Eye. Maybe certain newspapers can tell you a bit about how the country is run. But if you want to know about what the people who run the country actually do, and who gets what contracts, you need to read Private Eye, We think that its editor, Ian Hislop is one of the most fearless, clear-sighted and honest people working in Britain today. But they do lots of jokes too, and nowhere better than their lampoons of our Prime Ministers of the last sixty years. Martin Farr explains in The Conversation


No drinks this week Sorry that for personal reasons we were unable to run a Cocktail Hour this week. But why not raise a glass tonight to the COP26 conference in Glasgow and hope against hope that they might come up with something to save us all? Otherwise how will you explain to all those early humans in item #1 “sorry all your brave efforts to come through the ice age were in vain. We blew it !”

#private eye #evolution #complexity theory

Daan Roosegaarde turns pollution into diamonds

“Going green will cost too much” wail the deniers, in their increasingly desperate attempts to prevent us cleaning up the world. Not if you could turn the mess into something valuable-like diamonds maybe? And Daan Roosengarde is not only sucking the air clean, he is -amazingly- turning the dirt he collects into beautiful diamonds.

One day Daan was in Beijing and when he looked out of his hotel window he realised that he couldn’t see to the other side of the windowsill, or something like that. So he came up with a tower which sucked all the particles out of the air (don’t worry, it’s solar powered) thus cleaning things up considerably. But what to do with all the filth he had thereby collected? We’ll let Hailey Reissman tell the story for TED [1] But as an extra bonus she has included a TED talk by Daan in which he explains his accomplishments.

Daan is hoping to roll out his magic towers across the world. We wish him well. And get this-if you believe in the nuclear family, then the price of engagement rings just got a whole lot cheaper.

If you want more intelligent explanations about every aspect of the world we live in, you should try TED talks


#pollution #globalwarming #climatechange #TED #recycle

Surfers against Sewage-go on, donate!

Ever wanted to spend your hard earned leisure hours battling a tide of warm, untreated sewage? That’s what thousands of surfers, swimmers, divers and boatspersons have to do every week in UK waters. To say nothing of what mum and dad have to wade through as they take little Chesney and Skywalk for a paddle on one of our filthy beaches.

It’s all creating a stink here in the UK as Helen Horton explains in the Guardian. [1] To summarise: last year we had 403, 171 sewage spills in the UK, adding up to a massive 3.1 million hours of raw sewage being dumped into our waters. If it weren’t for the efforts of tireless campaigners, no one would have held the Government and water companies to account for this disgusting pollution.

Many worthy people have fought back this week, but here, today, we’re going to highlight just one of them: Surfers Against Sewage. [2]There’s a tendency, unjust no doubt, to think of surfers from Cornwall to La Jolla as rather laid back people enjoying a few harmless hours on the beach while the rest of the world gets on with it. Not this lot! They have a huge pleasing website anchoring their relentless campaigns on all things marine and aquatic-water quality. plastics, pollution, health risks and climate change- you name it. It’s a sure sign of a healthy society when progress comes from spontaneous, voluntary organisations. All Surfers Against Sewage want to do is make the oceans healthy once more so that that they and their fellow citizens can enjoy a little bit of life free of gastro enteritis and hepatitis. No small ambition.

Clean seas mean clean leisure, healthy fisheries and less carbon dioxide. But these people can’t do it on their own. So, if you visit their site-please,please, could you at least think about clicking to the donate section and maybe handing over a little of your hard-earned money? Because it’s all our futures.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/oct/26/uk-government-u-turns-on-sewage-after-tory-mps-threaten-rebellion

[2] https://www.sas.org.uk/

#Endsewagepollution #water quality #swimming #surfing #fishing #leisure #health

Tick-born disease: another fine mess from the people who brought you Global Warming

Have you ever suffered from Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic fever? Thought not, or the chances are you wouldn’t be reading this. It’s a viral disease carried by a tick of the genus Hyalomma, and it’s nasty. It starts with a a headache, fever and muscle pains. Gradually vomiting and diarrhoea take over, followed by intense bleeding under the skin. Death, which usually occurs in between 20-40% of cases, finally occurs by catastrophic liver failure.

All very well, you might say; but I live north of the 50 degree parallel, where the tick cannot exist, so I am safe, right? Wrong. According to Esther Sanchez of El Pais, [1]the tick has now been found in countries as far north as the United Kingdom and Norway. Summers are longer and warmer, winters shorter thanks to global warming and the deadly disease, called CCHF for short, is taking its chance.

And so tick borne diseases take their place in the infamous roll of illnesses that are extending their reach as the climate changes for the worse. Malaria, dengue fever, chikungunya and West Nile virus are the brand leaders right now; but there will be others. Which leads us to a subversive thought. It is hard to bring class actions for very broad, diffuse problems like global warming. But if we could link individual deaths to aspects of climate change, such as these diseases, might it at last be possible to bring some lawsuits against certain climate change deniers and those who may be funding them?

be advised; our link today is in Spanish

[1] https://elpais.com/clima-y-medio-ambiente/2021-10-23/la-garrapata-del-virus-crimea-congo-se-desplaza-hacia-el-norte-de-espana-y-europa-por-el-cambio-climatico.html

#tick disease #global warming #climate change #virus #cchf

Weekly Round Up: Renewing Beaches, Elephants, Colds and getting high

stories which will last for more than one week

Fight on the Beaches The inexorable rise of sea levels caused by global warming is starting to sweep away profitable areas of the tourism industry. British company CCell is looking at a range of solutions including artificial coral reefs, no less. Great export potential.


we thank Mr Lindsay Charlton of Kent for this story

Evolution in Action-quickly How quickly are inherited traits selected for? It’s always been the great unknown in evolutionary theory. Now a study of African Elephants suggest that population genetics can change vary rapidly in response to selection pressure. Nature explains how Hunting led to Tuskless elephants

In Mozambique, the selective poaching of elephants with tusks has led to a higher number of females being born without them. During the country’s civil war, from the late 1970s to early 1990s, hunting annihilated the African savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana) population in Gorongosa National Park. Before the war, about 18.5% of females born there were naturally tuskless — a trait that made them undesirable to poachers. Among the 91 female elephants that have been born since the war, that fraction has risen to 33%.Nature | 4 min read

Cold Comfort Everyone will give you advice about how to cure a cold-but do folk remedies work? Duane Mellor and James Brown (No, not the singer) check out a few for The Conversation


CRISPR explained Several readers have complained that although we have been singing the praises of CRISPR for years, we have haven’t done a very good job of explaining what it actually is. So we point you all to this excellent explanation from the Live Science website-and hope to make you all visit them more often.


The High Life How high can you go and still get a decent night’s sleep and a good breakfast in the morning? Here’s a list of the world’s highest places to stay. You’ll be gasping when you read the altitude of No.1-and that’s before you get there. Take it away, thrill list


Anyone for Bournemouth? See you next week.

#crispr #exotic holidays #evolution #elephants #globalwarming #green technologies