Sex and KFC

November 27, 2007

We can no longer trust our major media to report the news properly any more because of corporate interference trying to sell us hot pants and fast food which, you would think, are fairly mutually exclusive items*- if we’re lucky. The other area where it affects us heavily is medicine. It was pointed out long ago by concerned research scientists that if you put combating disease in the hands of profit-oriented companies alone without having government labs involved what you will get is only treatments- not cures. A cure, after all, is only for Christmas- a treatment is for life.

The first truly awful science of my generation was the way AIDS was handled in the 80’s. Cargo-cult science from a doctor of dubious repute connected a retrovirus to a syndrome and transmission to sex and we were told, with the usual enthusiasm of the tabloid media, of the bodies piled high on the streets come the year 2000. Sex sells. Sex kills. Those alive, paying attention and not out shopping for hot pants holding a bucket of KFC would have caught, at the time, the BBC Panorama documentary which questioned the science and pointed out that the odds on contracting the HIV retrovirus, should it exist, from sex was thousands to one**. The threat increased to one in hundreds only if both partners had an open wound on their genitalia. I personally lack the commitment to have sex hundreds of time with my penis bleeding profusely and even if I did I lack the charm, I feel, to talk another person into rigorous sex whilst suffering from severe blood loss.

Lunatic fringe thinker, I, joined only by Nicholas Regush of ABC News, Harpers, a few Nobel Prize winners for chemistry and around ten thousand scientists outside the USA whose income is not dependant on companies making billions from HIV treatments in thinking there is some less than robust thinking here are now re-joined by the BBC.

The method that has been proposed (but never proved) by which the retrovirus kills our T-cells has as much credibility as a trial lawyer representing OJ Simpson or Robert Downey Jnr. according to, for all my dissing Americans, a study led by Emory University in Atlanta. In reporting the story the Beeb, though, fearful of the American treatment of the English language, decided to get a quote from a trustworthy British scientist at Imperial College, Cambridge. Professor Jaroslav (very British) Stark said: “Scientists have never had a full understanding of the processes by which T helper cells are depleted in HIV, and therefore they’ve been unable to fully explain why HIV destroys the body’s supply of these cells at such a slow rate. Our new interdisciplinary research has thrown serious doubt on one popular theory of how HIV affects these cells, and means that further studies are required to understand the mechanism behind HIV’s distinctive slow process of cellular destruction.”

What’s worrying is this: they decided HIV causes AIDS by killing T-cells without ever understanding or proving the process by which it happens. Then how do you know that HIV is doing it, exactly? There is a word for this kind of thing: it is called a guess. Guessing, as you may conclude, is not great science. Guessing is what loses you huge amounts of money at the track. Guessing is what you do when you try and win the lottery. Guessing is not something you want from, say, a person packing your parachute, deciding on the length of your bungee cord or sending you to a foreign country to find weapons of mass destruction. So filling yourself with toxic chemicals to kill a retrovirus which may be sitting around, chilling, and generally showing the activity and work ethic of a procrastinating grandma on a weeks break in Torremelinos based on a guess may be considered to be less than smart.

The problem is the way we demand answers from medicine. Other sciences get to dabble around and have fun trying to make the universe accidentally fold up or putting new elements together to see how big a bang we can get. We, as individuals, don’t really care so we place no pressure on them. But we want to be cured of every tiny ill. Since none of us really believe in heaven any more we are afraid of death, otherwise we would let ourselves be “taken” at the first opportunity. Lying there, measle-infected, “See God,” we could utter, “it’s not suicide- just your will. See you in a minute- put my sexy birds on ice and pour me a Martini.” So we believe in something new: we have faith in medicine. Which is dumb. Medicine is reason and evidence. And profit. When we substitute reason and evidence for faith we end up with faith and prophet. Possibly one called Mohamed, or Jesus, or Dave The Amazing Faith healer. Or GlaxoSmithKline.

It is really our fault. Our brain seeks conclusions to problems and it seeks them quickly. We are designed to suffer anxiety about the unknown because early humans who were not quick to decide the best option when faced with, say, a large and pretty kitty with sharp teeth and savage claws, never got to decide anything ever again… least of all who to accidentally get pregnant at the prom.

So we get betrayed, every day, by our Selves. Our Selves are not something to be trusted. They will fuck with us at every given opportunity making us think our hair looks bad, our hot-pants don’t suit us and make us buy another bucket of comfort-KFC. We tend to believe what will make us happy and accepted rather than what is inconvenient and, quite possibly, true.

One of those things is: you’re going to die. Get over it. Stop worrying about it. Get laid. And use a condom not because you think you’re going to die from some random infection but because you’re considerate, because you are careful, and because if you have kids they will want you to send them to school and college and will want to borrow your car- which will eat into your drinking money and destroy your social life. Who wants that? Honestly.

*- bridged by the diet supplement market.

**- “Male-to-female transmission was approximately eight times more efficient than female-to-male transmission …The constant per-contact infectivity for male-to-female transmission was estimated to be 0.0009 [Meaning that female-to-male would be 0.00001125 or about 1/10,000]…We observed no seroconversions after entry into the study…No transmission occurred among the 25% of couples who did not use their condoms consistently, nor among the 47 couples who intermittently practiced unsafe sex during the entire duration of follow-up. This evidence argues for low infectivity in the absence of either needle sharing and/or other cofactors” Padian NS et al. Heterosexual Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in Northern California: Results from a Ten-Year Study. Am J Epidemiol. 1997 Aug;146(4):350-7

String Theory, Gravity Theory or M Theory depending on which flavour or nuance you subscribe to describes the interconnectedness of all things. Even the most basic of physics students knows the experiment whereby you hit an atom and two electrons with different spin come out. Then if you change the spin on one the spin on it’s sister changes immediately whether they are on opposite sides of the room or planet. Such is the most basic idea of “holistic physics”.

Which means all humans, all creatures are connected on some level, even Britney spears and the Dalai Lama. I mention this only because many are mystified by Britney’s most recent foray into fashion. Some, even me, have been buried by scepticism and paved over by cynicism and said that any celebrity who shaves their head in the window of an expensive hair salon in hollywood is only out for attention- not having a nervous breakdown or becoming lesbian. Not that you could blame the girl for considering it- marrying Kevin Federline has to be all the motivation you need. Not even the most right-wing Catholic, vengeful God would send her to hell for it after that trauma.

In her sharp turn away from latex catsuits and tweeny schoolgirl outfits Britney has tried to don the lesbian/ new-age feminist/ neo-nazi look so fashionable in boot camps, right-wing terrorist cells and Bhuddist Temples. It is this final one where I think our dear Britney has found her home. She has decided that the next Dalai Lama should be a girl and she is the incarnation. After all, we have always been awed by her depth and caring counsel. Her nurturing of the youth (in their bedrooms, alone) and caring for the retarded (Kevin Federline).

So all hail string theory and Britney- the new incarnation of the Dalai Lama. Get that incense and start chanting!


I was just thinking of a logical extrapolation of my ‘static time’ idea: (1) that time is a set dimension, unchanging; (2) that we occupy a set part of; (3) that we can only experience a small part of at any point in the same way that you only see the bits of the other 3 dimensions that are right in front of you, too. (ref#1)

This must come from a unconcious connection with a theory I read in New Scientist from Nick Bostrom called the “Simulation Argument” (ref#2) from around 2002, shortly after the release of “The Matrix” and “Thirteenth Floor”.

His format is useful here so I will nick it. This theory would assume that we are not, as his suggests we probably are, actually living in a computer simulation run by sentient computers or, alternatively, other humans, plants, hyper-intelligent bacteria, attractive female aliens with beehive hairdos saying “show me more of this earth thing called kissing”*, trans-dimensional beings with an uncanny resemblance to white mice, the Monster Raving Loony Party or any combination thereof.

At least One of the following propositions is true:
(1) the human species will go extinct before mastering the dimension of time and our movement through it; (2) any human civilisation mastering time would decide not to use that ability or technology to interfere with events; (3) post-human beings from the future are now, and always have been, around us affecting events and we now live, and always have lived, in the best possible world that we as a species possibly could at any point in time.

So, if you don’t like it, lump it. Or if you wish to remonstrate with “the management” about how things are going: leave a complaint buried in a ‘time capsule’**.

* Red Dwarf. British Comedy. If you haven’t seen it: do.
** a dull excercise forced on children in the 80s by deluded but well-meaning teachers who thought archeologists of the future might be awed by uncovering a sealed, plastic container containing a Star wars action figure, a picture of the class’ pet hamster, “Harold”, and a half-page synopsis of international affairs written by a 9-year-old.


Summary of “Simulation Argument”: his paper argues that at least one of the following propositions is true: (1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage; (2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof); (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.

The Nature of Time

January 11, 2007

or “How to bore people at a dinner party half to death…”

I remember that in the 80s it was very popular to refer to time as “the 4th dimension”. We were encouraged to think of time as no different from the other three of space.

Sometime in the 90s when I was out drinking, traveling the world and generally making a nuisance of myself the thinking was either irrevocably proved wrong or just became gradually unfashionable much like pink shirts and improbably large sunglasses.

With the shirts and sunglasses back in fashion my mind (naturally) wandered around to the theory of time and I am hard pressed to work out what problems there are with having time as a linear dimension just like the other three. The contentious issue of the day was that that we could move back and forth in the other three dimensions but that in time we could not, therefore it must be different in some way.

With current thinking moving away from the idea of free will. Scientific advances in mapping a living brain indicate that humans are just very complicated machines for reacting to and moulding their environment (it’s all over the Internet, newspapers and scientific magazines if you want to read the arguments) and that free will is an illusion probably caused in the interaction between the conscious and subconscious minds. Which means that we do not move through our first three dimensions freely. Without free will there is no reason for our paths not to be pre-determined.

For arguments sake set up a universe with four dimensions with the fourth dimension as complete as the other three. Set up creatures that can take in and process a certain amount of information at a time: give them sight. They can only process, at any point, the information right in front of them in each of the four dimensions but it is their limitation, the rest of the dimension still exists. These are creatures designed to see only a tiny amount of each of the four dimensions and they move through a static time dimension rather than having time move around them.

The most common argument people have put to me is “but the other three dimensions change over time, that doesn’t happen within the time dimension.” [text changed 2007/01/12- logic error]

Hopefully I can put my argument without a diagram as my graphics package has packed up right now. If I put you in a car travelling down a long straight road and make you look out the passenger window (we won’t make you drive since we will not allow you to look forward- we put blinkers on you, in fact, so you have no peripheral vision). Now think of the road as time and watch the environment change in front of you. You have memory of the past things you see and no idea what is coming. It is you moving through time rather than time passing around you.

You cannot jump forward in time much in the same way that you cannot just go from London to Cape Town, you have to pass the through the space in-between.

The only part of the logic that ever fell was that you can decide to travel back to London from Cape Town (although why would you want to). If you could do that it meant that you should be able, by force of will, to travel back in time. If there is no “will” and you travel a predetermined path through space then it is perfectly acceptable to have a human traveling a predetermined path through time as well.

“But what if your predetermined path took you backwards and forwards in time, much like someone living in London with a holiday home in Cape Town?” Well, there are two options. Either the person has no memory of it or they go insane trying to work out what is happening to them and why no-one will believe them.

And “Deja Vu” with Denzel Washington was utter crap. It is so bad it makes Minority Report look excellent. Surely the man doesn’t need the money that badly?

I apologise for the shameful plugs of my home town.

It also means that you ‘always’ exist. I take up a certain amount of the time dimension the same way my less than svelte body currently occupies the other three.

I find this guy’s stuff hysterical, even the physics stuff. Someone should really be giving him a lot of money. But they probably aren’t.

String theory

reverse euphemisms
So, proof positive that I have the soul of a nerd to go along the the head of a frat kind in my fridge and the two dead hookers I loaded in my trunk.

Ah.. what a world.