Correlation is not necessarily causation.

A lot of science stories reported in he media confuse correlation with causation. Here is a typical example about sexism:

The article says that men who exhibit sexist attitudes are more likely to earn more.

Alternative explanation, in couples were the man is earning more, it would be more likely for the women to stay home?


No Time for the Wicked?

A stitch in time saves Warner, no rest for the wicked and the devil makes work for idle hands. Not quite sure I got the mixed metaphor I was looking for. What Time is it Mr Fox?

Rupert Murdoch’s Fox (specialists in all types of drama and fiction) has withdrawn it’s bid for Time Warner.

World in numbers, March 2014

529 sentenced to death in Egypt
A judge in Egypt sentenced 529 protesters/rioters/muslim brotherhood supports to death for the murder of a policeman. Apparantly he did this in the second session of the case, without hearing prosecution or defence cases. Is this the way of refering to higher court in Egypt?

It seems like the judge hadn’t heard of the phrase “an eye for an eye.”

239 people lost during flight
Flight MH370 with 227 passengers and 12 crew is still missing, Malaysian PM announced that the flight ended in the South Indian Ocean based on analysis of satellite data. Malaysian airline and government have both recieved a lot of criticism over the handling of the incident; protests have been made outside the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing and Chinese government officials called on the Malaysian government to release satellite data to them for analysis. The search area has been narrowed to investigate on the ‘southern corridor”. The plane was previously thought to be on a great circle, heading in one of two directions, presumably based on the latency in satellite communication.

80.42% of Crimean voters choose to join Russian Federation
In the autonamous republic of Crimea (declared independence 11th March), From 1533208 registered voters, 1274096 votes were cast, 1264999 of which were valid. 31997 votes were cast to restore the 1992 constitution and be an autonamous region of the Ukraine. 1233002 votes were cast to join the Russian Federation. 9,097 votes were blank or invalid. A seperate vote was held in the City of Sevasterpol (which was a seperate region of the Ukraine), With 85.56% of registered voters giving their vote to Join the Russian Federation (262.041). From 306,258 registered voters, 2810 votes were invalid, 9250 voted to restore 1992 constitution, 32,157 did not participate.

1p off beer
George Osbourne announced his mini-budget, taking 1p of beer tax (if a pint of beer were 3 pounds, beer duty would be only 54.3p and VAT would be a bargain 50p).

They brought the house down!

Audience injured in London theatre as a balcony collapses at Apollo theatre.

Life might have started on Mars, or Earth

Chemists have found that certain minerals would make the initiation of life easier. Geologists say those minerals are not available on Earth, but they are plentifly available on Mars. Therefore they propose that these chemical precurors for life first appeared on Mars and then were transferred to earth.

Geochemist Professor Steven Benner proposes that the “seeds” of life most likely are to have arrived on Earth in meteorites blasted off Mars by impacts or volcanic eruptions.

All living things are made from organic matter, but simply adding energy to organic molecules will not create life. Instead, left to themselves, organic molecules become something more like tar or asphalt.

Certain elements seem able to control the propensity of organic materials to turn to tar, particularly boron and molybdenum, so we believe that minerals containing both were fundamental to life first starting.

Analysis of a Martian meteorite recently showed that there was boron on Mars; we now believe that the oxidised form of molybdenum was there too.

— Prof. Brenner as reported by the Gaurdian

Many kg of Mars land on earth each week. When asteroids hit Mars material is ejected into space and some of that hits us.

It is thought that around the time life is thought to have initiated on earth (6.5 billion years ago) that the planet was mostly covered in water, and therefore these minerals wouldn’t be stable in earth conditions.

But if many kg of Mars land on earth each week, that means that the minerals from Mars are also available on earth. What also needs to be considered is how large a volume of matter is needed in the correct conditions to start life. If we try to image a watery planet with no life we will have a tendancy to image a simple model and ignore the heterogeneity that would have been present at various scales.

Tokyo and Fukushima win Olympic prize

Tokyo won out as the “safe option” against Madrid and Istanbul in the competition to host the Olympic games. Also good news Prime Minister Abe gave a promise to clean up the Fukushima plant by 2020.

In Japanese he provided following soundbite:
“We understand that there have been people voicing concerns over the contaminated water issue in Fukushima. What I can say is the government is taking the lead here to completely solve the issue. And to do that we are implementing drastic measures with firm resolve. I will be explaining (to the International Olympic Committee) that in seven years time, in 2020, it will not be a problem at all.”

Super moon viewed from Cambridge UK

This month there was a news story about the super moon (closest approach / full moon / brightest). Although true, the moon is actually only appearing 1% larger than last month when no one mentioned the full moon even. Apparently this has some astrological significance too, but I don’t believe that because I am born under Taurus the bull.

Super moon as viewed from Cambridge.

Super moon as viewed from Cambridge.

Informative page can be found here.

An astronomer on the radio also mentioned that when the moon looks large because it is near the horizon (due to our perception that overhead is near and horizon is far away) we can dispel the illusion by bending over and looking at the moon through our legs.