Antidepressants are bad for fish

When we take an antidepressant only part of it is absorbed by our bodies. We excrete the rest and some of the drug ends up, via water treatment plants, in the ocean. As a result of this it ends up being consumed by fish, none of which have a valid prescription for the drug.

Scientists ran a two-year experiment to look at the effects of one particular antidepressant — fluoxetine, often branded as Prozac — on guppy fish.

The results were stark: the fish on antidepressants seemed to lose their capability for individuality as a result of their exposure, with variations in behaviour between separate animals diminishing as the dose got stronger.

This is a problem because:

More active and risk-prone individuals are likely to secure more resources and enjoy greater reproductive success, in turn bolstering species' fitness, genetic diversity, and overall resilience, the researchers say.

If every animal starts acting the same way, though — living their similar, dosed-up lives adrift in a sea of antidepressants and who knows what else — well, the writing could be on the wall.

The fish are probably fairly chilled about things, thanks to being dosed-up on Prozac, but what staggers me is the subtle ways in which humanity affects nature. I never would have guessed this actually happened, let alone thought about running some experiments on unsuspecting guppy fish to see how it affects them.

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How to stop cats hunting wildlife

Scientists appear to have found a way to stop cats hunting, which essentially boils down to feeding them real meat and playing with them.

My cat gets real meat, but I think the main reason she doesn't hunt anything is because she can't be bothered. Previous cats I've had have policed the place for spiders and flies, but not this one.

She won't play either, at least not in any dedicated way. I've tried her with all manner of cat toys but she looks at me with the sort of astonishment I'd only expect if a water buffalo had suddenly wandered into the living room, sat on the settee and started strumming a banjo. She likes cardboard boxes of course, but they're just about the only thing that tickles her fancy.

I have had hunter-killer felines before. I was always curious as to why much of the prey they presented for my approval was decapitated. Do they eat the heads and just bring me the body? Perhaps I'm anthropomorphising but the head is the bit I'd rather not dine on.

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ABI tries to explain why it helps fund crime

In a few of my previous articles I've railed against the idea of paying off ransomware criminals. As far as I can see, it rewards them for their criminal exploits and funds further ransomware attacks. I still struggle to believe it's legal.

But not only is it legal, you can also get insurance against ransomware attacks and the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has recently been defending such policies.

The ABI said that firms could face financial ruin without such insurance. That may be true, but it stinks of hypocrisy when so many insurance companies refused to pay firms who had insurance against Covid. Those firms faced financial ruin too.

It does not look as if governments are going to legislate against paying off ransomware attackers. I do however think it will eventually become less common because the insurance policies will eventually end.

Insurance companies offer such policies now because it is profitable for them do so, but the insurance companies are helping perpetuate the crimes and there will therefore be more of them occurring. This will result in more claims until we get the point where it's no longer profitable for insurance companies to offer such policies.

I expect they'll suddenly discover they have a different moral stance on the issue when that happens.

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As if one universe wasn't enough

Here’s the thing, for a while now there have been theories suggesting there’s more than one universe. A multiverse, they call it, as if one universe wasn’t already enough trouble to figure out.

As ever, it’s quantum at heart and has something to do with what they call a false vacuum, which has nothing to do with products from Hoover or Dyson.

Let’s say I put a cup of tea on my desk. It’s stable there for the most part, but it’s the equivalent of a false vacuum because a clumsy oaf like me could knock it onto the floor. The floor in this case would be the true vacuum; a lower energy state.

Space can exist in a false vacuum for ages but if one tiny part of it drops to a true vacuum, it will balloon outwards at a rapid rate, using up all the energy the bits of space with the false vacuum had.

It’s one theory about how our universe started. The multiverse exists in a false vacuum and then occasionally a bit of it drops to a true vacuum and a bubble inflates and gives us a new universe. This might have been happening eternally and might continue to do so forever. Universes just continually bubbling up.

Some scientists think this is codswallop and, even if it isn’t, it’s untestable so there’s little point speculating about it.

But what if it was testable? What if these bubble universes occasionally collide? Would a collision with another bubble universe leave some sort of imprint on ours?

A couple of scientists from Durham have been trying to model things and find out what sort of imprint we might be able to find.

“It’s a long shot,” said a cosmologist from Toronto without a hint of sarcasm.

Anyway, if you think multiverses are sexy you might find the article I link to interesting.

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Researchers study how to survive the zombie apocalypse

Researchers have been studying how to survive the zombie apocalypse. No, really, they have. Shopping malls and pubs aren't a good idea, which means both Dawn of the Dead and Shaun of the Dead are misleading documentaries.

A team of statisticians from Cornell University in the US said:

If there is a zombie outbreak, it is usually assumed to affect all areas at the same time, and some months after the outbreak you're left with small pockets of survivors.

But in our attempt to model zombies somewhat realistically, it doesn't seem like this is how it would actually go down.

Given the dynamics of the disease, once the zombies invade more sparsely populated areas, the whole outbreak slows down — there are fewer humans to bite, so you start creating zombies at a slower rate.

The authors suggest heading for the hills; the Northern Rockies, perhaps.

Clearly they've aimed their research at saving Americans and I demand the UK government gathers equivalent research for us. They can't leave us at the mercy of zombies.

The authors of the paper go on to say:

Given the time, we could attempt to add more complicated social dynamics to the simulation, such as allowing people to make a run for it, include plane flights, or have an awareness of the zombie outbreak, etc.

I can't wait.

Whilst I'm suggesting survival techniques, I found this video interesting (and rather more useful that surviving zombies). It's how to survive falling through ice. Props to the presenter for actually demonstrating the techniques twice.

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M1 MacBook Air 13 inch (16GB) review, compared to a 2013 MacBook Pro

After an irritatingly long wait, I've finally received my M1-powered MacBook Air (13 inch, with 16GB memory). I review it here and also compare it to a top of the range 15-inch MacBook Pro from 2013. It's entry-level 2020 vs high-spec 2013.

Read this post in full.

Is there a message from God in the CMB?

A couple of physicists studied the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) to see if God had left a message for us.

The idea is that God might have used the slight temperature variations of the CMB to encode a binary message for all creation to see.

They didn't find a message and one of the physicists, Michael Hippke, concluded:

I find no meaningful message in the actual bit-stream.

We may conclude that there is no obvious message on the CMB sky. Yet it remains unclear whether there is (was) a Creator, whether we live in a simulation, or whether the message is printed correctly in the previous section, but we fail to understand it.

The scientists are buffoons.

I took one glance at the binary data they used (pictured below) and found the message straight away.

I spotted the message almost immediately.

It's as plain a day: 101010, which is binary for 42, which has long been thought to be the answer to Life, The Universe and Everything.

I await my Nobel Prize.

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General humbuggery

I was reading an article on the BBC about Christmas tree sales, and this made me frown and swear and stamp my feet in annoyance.

I am pleased that someone's business is doing well after a difficult year of trading, but decorating a Christmas tree this early is ludicrous.

It's another way the lunatics in society ensure all the sane people are thoroughly bored of Christmas long before it arrives.

TV contributes to this general hideousness. Some channels have been showing Christmas films for many weeks now, and dedicated Christmas channels started up in early November.

Shops add their nonsense to the whole debacle too, assaulting our eardrums with Noddy Holder and Mariah Effing Carey from December 1st onwards.

It is well known that I will be the dictator of the country one day, and I'm going to take the unprecedented step of issuing an edict that will backdate. People breaching this edict will be placed in my black book — in red ink, no less — and brought to justice as soon as I'm in power.

Christmas will run from 23rd December until 2nd January inclusive. Anyone doing anything Christmasy outside that period will be shot. Anyone even mentioning Christmas in November will be tortured and then shot.

I still plan to be a benign and benevolent dictator of course, as long as you ignore the shooting and torturing, which is just a technicality.

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Star Trek: Discovery review — old meets new in a pleasing balance

I've been watching a few of the sci-fi series' available on Netflix over the last few weeks and I've just finished the first two series' of Star Trek: Discovery and am currently on the third. I realise I'm three years behind the curve reviewing this now, but I haven't done a film or TV review for a while and thought this series was worth one.

Read this post in full.

Lockdown faff for Christmas 2020 and beyond

The faffing over what to do with the coronavirus lockdown situation at Christmas and beyond is ludicrous.

There's going to be a new set of rules for five days at Christmas and then another new set of rules to control regional lockdowns after Christmas, which, as ever, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales will change slightly for their own regions.

Politicians are currently bumping heads over the post-Christmas regional lockdown plans, though, with many preferring a national lockdown instead. They have a point. The idea of regional lockdowns in a country this size is pretty silly.

Why don't they just forget about all this? We have vaccines on the horizon and it would be safer and simpler to remain in national lockdown — as we are now — until they start to roll out.

Perish the thought that people might not be able to celebrate Christmas for one measly year. Never fear, there'll be another commercial break in the not too distant future. We might have immunity by then and you can party like it's 1999.

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Ocado's van colours

When Ocado tell me my delivery will arrive in the "cabbage" van I look out for a green van rather than the purple van they send.[1]

I know there's red cabbage, which is purple in colour, but green is the first colour that comes to mind when I think of a cabbage. Alas Ocado's green van is their "apple" van, which is also confusing because apples can be red too.

Their "lemon" van is yellow and their "orange" van is orange, and these both make sense. Their "raspberry" van is red, which makes sense too although I'd prefer it were called "strawberry".

I think they should make their "cabbage" van green. If they must have a purple van, it should be called the "kohlrabi" van or, if that's too obscure, the "eggplant" van. But why not have one that's black and call it the "blackberry" van?

Better still, the green van could be the "cucumber" van. I believe cucumbers can come in different colours, although that's rare. This is easily solved by the government creating a law banning all cucumbers that are not green.

I appreciate this is a first-world problem, but it would only cost them a few million pounds to make this change for my benefit.

Whilst I'm on the subject of Ocado van colours, I've never had a delivery in an orange van. I find this deeply suspicious and fear it's all part of a plot to disrupt the world order, possibly by reptilians disguised as humans. I note Ocado drivers sometimes move an inner door so I can't see what they're doing when they're supposed to be sorting out my delivery; I now believe they're taking this opportunity to dislocate their jaw and snack on a gerbil.[2]

[1]: The purpose of this nonsense is really to test Markdown footnotes.

[2]: For those of you who remember V, the TV series (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joVeMPodhIg).

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Bond to premier on Apple TV or Netflix?

There’s rumour that the new Bond movie, No Time To Die, might debut on Apple TV+ or Netflix instead of at the cinema. The rumour is by a scriptwriter with connections in the industry who claims to have heard “insane figures” being bandied about.

Spectre grossed $880 million worldwide, so you can see the sort of figure Apple or Netflix would have to come up with to acquire the rights, although I’m not sure what proportion (or multiple?) of that they would have to pay. They can afford it, though, and I can see how it would be a nice feather in their cap for their TV services. And with no end in sight for coronavirus, and with no telling when cinemas might open fully again, I can see why the movie’s producers and distributors might consider it.

But I still think it’s unlikely. Of all the series’ of movies I can think of, Bond is the one that seems most ‘cinematic’. I don’t think cinema has many blockbusters bigger than Bond these days.

Not that it would bother me. I’m far too deaf, miserly and miserable to go to the cinema these days. I’m a Netflix subscriber and I’m pretty sure I’m still in a free trial period for Apple TV+ too, although it would undoubtedly premiere the day after my trial period ends.

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