Category Archives: Weird science

Real life Quidditch

Yes, apparently there really is a real life Quidditch World Cup these days. It is run by the International Quidditch Association (which is American, if you hadn’t guessed) and, among the hundreds of teams in the league, there is one from Iran.

I’m all for sport being a unifying activity, but I’m still a bit surprised that Iranians are interested enough to get involved. Nonetheless, there they are.

Sadly, there is no actual flying; instead the players run around with a broom between their legs. There’s a promotional video for the 2011 World Cup here.

AIDS cured in an exceptional case

In the world of strange up-sides, a leukaemia patient has been cured of AIDS. The treatment for the leukaemia patient had undergone radiotherapy, killing a lot of the cells that HIV attacks, and he was given a stem cell transplant from a donor with a genetic mutation that prevented new versions of those attackable cells from regrowing – instead, new healthy cells with the mutation were formed.

There were many complications with the treatment; the consequences of radiotherapy are not trivial, but he is recovering slowly from those with good support and it is likely he will return to a relatively normal life.

This is not the cure for everyone, but it is a major step – curing one person shows that it can be done.

No Rapture yet…

It was predicted that today would be the day that the Rapture occurred. This came from an American preacher from named Harold Camping. He’s a chap who claims to follow the Bible very closely, suggesting that it consistently and explicitly supports his views on things such as liberalism, homosexuality, etc.

For a person who has studied the Bible so closely, you think he might have read the Gospel of Mark. In chapter 13, verse 5, Jesus starts talking:

Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you.

In verse 31 to 34 Jesus says:

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.

So, Harold Camping thought that he could name the day of Rapture when Jesus himself explicitly said he didn’t know it and that certainly no man could. Whether or not you believe in the Bible, this is clearly a case of a person using only the parts of his holy book that agree with his views.

This Rapture fuss has brought him a lot of attention and likely made him a lot of money, but it is also clear evidence that he has ignored the teachings of his own spiritual leader. If he, and others, were content to accept this blatant falsehood as being the truth, it is sad to think of the chances of more controversial subjects being resolved in our lifetimes.

Searching for aliens on earth

By ‘aliens’ the writer of this article is talking about a species that has evolved independently of known life.

The basic idea is this:
Nonlife can turn into life.
If life can appear on earth once then there’s no reason that it can’t have happened twice, or still be happpening all around us.
If we can prove it’s happened twice, that tells us that it’s a relatively common event (on an astronomical scale).
If the beginning of life is a common occurence then that significantly increases the chances that it has happened in many other places.
… But first we have to find life that hasn’t descended from the same ancestor as all of the rest of us!

This little article is about the search for life that is descended from a fresh ancestor – life with which we have no common living ancestry. ALIENS! Click here to read it!

How long did it take to fill the Mediterranean Sea?

Between a couple of months and two years, apparently. That’s a lot of water, very fast.

So, interesting stuff to think about, but the best bit has got to be in the comments when the Christian who posts saying that geologists could save a lot of time by starting from the Bible and working out from there. Religious extremists: as long as you lock the weapons away, then they’re a constant source of amusement.

Largest explosion ever witnessed

What’s bigger than the sun exploding? Well, an object with the mass of eleven suns exploding. Astronomers have witnessed an antimatter supernova. There are many complex things going on inside the whole mess, but the result is this – compared to the scale of this release of energy, our lives are absolutely nothing at all. Now, you could use that as a reason to feel down about our insignificance, or you could turn it to think how lucky we are to even exist in the first place, how incredibly unique we are, and how amazing the universe is that we live in. Seriously. It’s a wonderful and awesome world out there.

The moment that changed a man’s life

It’s not often that a person can point to one thing that gave them confidence to follow a dream, and even less common when it’s a professor who wrote to the British children’s TV program Blue Peter.

I did what all sensible children do when in need of practical help with an idea. I wrote to Blue Peter

If there’s a moral here, it’s that you never know what will be the future impact of a word of kindness or dismissal, especially with kids. Aww. I feel all fluffy inside.

Read about Professor Anthony Hollander’s letter to Blue Peter here.

Has the LHC destroyed the world yet?

In case you’ve blanked news out for the day, the Large Hadron Collider, the LHC, was turned on today. It’s taken 30 years and some silly number of billions of pounds to make a really big ring so boffins can make streams of protons hit each other at light speed then see what happens. I did write in with a suggestion that they shine two torches at each other, but they never wrote back. I would even have supplied the batteries.

Anyway, apparently the amount of energy used is likely to create a Higgs Boson particle, which somehow gives all other particles mass (although exactly how or why I really don’t know). Then again, it might not. What this boils down to is that a load of guys underground in Europe are going to perhaps make a very small black hole. They insist that this is completely safe, which it probably is, but that doesn’t stop everyone else wondering if they are about to destroy the world, which brings me to the point of this..

In case you need to check if the LHC has destroyed the world, there is now a convenient website that is monitoring the situation and allows you to check:

It’s a good joke, but the real comedy will escape 99.9% of viewers. Check out the source code for the page:

[script type="text/javascript"]
if (!(typeof worldHasEnded == "undefined")) {
} else {

[script type="text/javascript"]
var gaJsHost = (("https:" == document.location.protocol) ? "https://ssl." :
document.write(unescape("%3Cscript src='" + gaJsHost +
"' type='text/javascript'%3E%3C/script%3E"));

Comedy gold for web techy people.

[I removed the email address from the code to try and prevent him getting spammed by bots that may scan this page, but it’s there in the page’s code if you want to find it yourself.]

Happy Pi Day!

It’s Pi day! A day to celebrate the most annoying number in creation!

Here’s a lovely article about Pi by the BBC.

Altogether now… 3.1415926535 8979323846 2643383279 5028841971 6939937510 5820974944 5923078164 0628620899 8628034825 3421170679 8214808651 3282306647 0938446095 5058223172 5359408128 4811174502 8410270193 8521105559 6446229489 5493038196 4428810975 6659334461 2847564823 3786783165 2712019091 4564856692 3460348610 4543266482 1339360726 0249141273 7245870066 0631558817 4881520920 9628292540 9171536436 7892590360 0113305305 4882046652 1384146951 9415116094 3305727036 5759591953 0921861173 8193261179 3105118548 0744623799 6274956735 1885752724 8912279381 8301194912 9833673362 4406566430 8602139494 6395224737 1907021798 6094370277 0539217176 2931767523 8467481846 7669405132 0005681271 4526356082 7785771342 7577896091 7363717872 1468440901 2249534301 4654958537 1050792279 6892589235 4201995611 2129021960 8640344181 5981362977 4771309960 5187072113 4999999837 2978049951 0597317328 1609631859 5024459455 3469083026 4252230825 3344685035 2619311881 7101000313 7838752886 5875332083 8142061717 7669147303 5982534904 2875546873 1159562863 8823537875 9375195778 1857780532 1712268066 1300192787 6611195909 2164201989 3809525720 1065485863 2788659361 5338182796 8230301952 0353018529 6899577362 2599413891 2497217752 8347913151 5574857242 4541506959 5082953311 6861727855 8890750983 8175463746 4939319255 0604009277 0167113900 9848824012 8583616035 6370766010 4710181942 9555961989 4676783744 9448255379 7747268471 0404753464 6208046684 2590694912 9331367702 8989152104 7521620569 6602405803 8150193511 2533824300 3558764024 7496473263 9141992726 0426992279 6782354781 6360093417 2164121992 4586315030 2861829745 5570674983 8505494588 5869269956 9092721079 7509302955 3211653449 8720275596 0236480665 4991198818 3479775356 6369807426 5425278625 5181841757 4672890977 7727938000 8164706001 6145249192 1732172147 7235014144 1973568548 1613611573 5255213347 5741849468 4385233239 0739414333 4547762416 8625189835 6948556209 9219222184 2725502542 5688767179 0494601653 4668049886 2723279178 YADDA BANANA BOING ALL WORSHIP
XENU< LORD OF ALL 12380791

We’re eight years late for ‘rocketbelts’ and still waiting.

The Usbourne Book of The Future, published in 1979, promised us rocket belts by the year 2000. I demand to know where they are!

More interestingly, most of the predictions made for the period 1980-1990 all seem to be happening now, 20-30 years too late.

I loved the quaint prediction of how email might work (predicted for 1991-2000, despite having already existed for a couple of years back in 1979):

Hand-written letters are electronically copied, sent via a satellite link to their destination, where the incoming message is printed out.

Aww, bless! That sort-of did happen, but that was fax-machines and they weren’t really used for letters, only for business documents.

Read more wonderful predictions about the future here!

Monkeys kill deputy mayor


The deputy mayor of the Indian capital Delhi has died a day after being attacked by a horde of wild monkeys. […] The city has long struggled to counter its plague of monkeys, which invade government complexes and temples.

This was back in October, so either the killer monkeys have been calmed, or they have destroyed all humanity in their path, allowing none to pass forward the message of the coming tide of monkey death!

In a particularly strange move, the government has decided to fight fire with fire:

One approach has been to train bands of larger, more ferocious langur monkeys to go after the smaller groups of Rhesus macaques.

Remember, all monkeys are both equal, but some are more equal than others.

Oldest living creature discovered… Briefly

While dredging the oceans off the coast of Iceland, scientists found the oldest living animal ever discovered. The ocean quahog clam was found to be 405 years old after scientists counted the rings on its shell, which makes the clam a youngster back when Shakespeare was writing his plays. A bit like trees, clams’ shells create rings with the seasonal changes, recording the environmental conditions.

There is a slight problem. To count the rings, they had to kill it. Go team science. Apparently they named the clam Ming, after the Ming Dynasty, and not because it was intent on destroying the earth with alien weapons. I think it’s more common to name creatures when they’re alive, otherwise abattoirs would be very strange places indeed.

More here.

Speaking of Shakespeare, have you been reading my webcomic? I’ve been writing a mash-up of Romeo & Juliet and Star Trek. It’s probably best to start reading here.