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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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A 15,000 page mathematical proof

I clearly have too much time on my hands because I end up reading some strange things. The particular thing I’m talking about here is the Classification Theorem of the Finite Simple Groups, which I’m sure you’re familiar with. I mean, who isn’t?

Okay, I jest. I haven’t the faintest idea what it’s all about, but I quite like the story of persistence behind it.

It took about 30 years to write down the proof and it runs to 10,000 - 15,000 pages. It was mainly done in the 50s, 60s and 70s, but one particular hole in the proof was only plugged in 2004, which added another 1,300 pages.

It’s hard not to ask why anyone bothered. How many people are going to read a mathematical proof that runs to 15,000 pages? I can’t imagine many people will, but I have to applaud the sheer bloody-minded persistence that got it done. I remember when human resource departments used to like classifying people (maybe they still do) and one of those classifications was a completer-finisher. The people who wrote down this mathematical proof epitomise that category of people and then some.

I like this sort of task. I don’t believe everything we do has to have a point. Some things are worth doing just because we can. Not, I hasten to add, that I want the first thing to do with the Classification Theorem of the Finite Simple Groups.

The good news is that, in the early 80s, mathematicians started trying to revise and simplify the proof. They believe they can get their revised proof down to about 4,000 pages. As of 2016 they had managed to write the first 6 volumes of this revised proof, and one particular professor thought they might have the remaining 6 volumes written in 30 years or so.

The particular professor I mention is Professor Dr Hugo de Garis and it’s his article I’ll link to in a minute. I should add that “Professor Dr” is too much pre-nominal signage in my opinion — one or the other is enough.

The professor believes this proof marks the single greatest intellectual achievement of mankind. Furthermore, he believes the proof describes the rules God used to create the universe.

So, if you’re really really bored, here’s the link to Professor Dr Hugo de Garis’s work.

If you ignore the mathematical nerdery it’s not a bad read. Possibly.

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Idlis and the Conservation of Flavour Principle

I was amused to read the BBC's article describing a Twitter spat about idlis.

For the uninitiated, idlis are battered, steamed lentil and rice cakes that are popular in Southern India. They're often eaten for breakfast and I think that was the meal during which I first encountered them in Kerala, back in the mid 2000s.

Subtracting flavour from the universe.

They did not go down well and only the special forces of food eaters amongst our group managed a whole one.

They have a strange texture that does weird things to your mouth, and I can only describe the flavour if I invent a new law of physics: The Conservation of Flavour Principle.

Imagine all flavours are rated from 0 to 100 on the flavour scale. The worst flavours — sprouts, for example — sit at the bottom, and the best flavours, like a juicy fillet steak, sit at the top. Any food adds flavour to the universe, even if you don't like the flavour. It's flavour whether it's good or bad. The net gain for the universe is more flavour, so it gets a + sign; it's positive flavour.

Idlis, though, somehow manage to subtract flavour from the universe. As you chew on one your mind is thrown into confusion. Your brain can't process an idli. It's not that they taste bad, as such, it's that their very blandness takes something away from your sensory perception.

I struggled through one of them by willpower alone, but two would probably cause a brain haemorrhage.

My theory is that the universe conserves flavour. All other foods add positive flavour to the universe and idlis alone conserve the balance by taking flavour away.

They're very odd and I'm not a fan of the things.

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Don’t trust your nadgers to the Internet of Things

I had no idea internet connected chastity devices existed until I read the article I link to. It seems they can be compromised and hackers can lock your plonker away forever.

Breaking open the chastity cage by hand would require bolt cutters or an angle grinder.

The thought of bolt cutters or an angle grinder within millimetres of my testicles had me crossing my legs.

Apparently the devices aren’t that reliable anyway. One user, who preferred to remain anonymous, said:

The app stopped working completely after three days and I am stuck.

Another said:

My partner is locked up! This is ridiculous as still no idea if being fixed as no new replies from emailing. So dangerous! And scary! Given what the app controls it needs to be reliable.

Well, quite.

The lesson is simple: if you’re going to lock your gentleman’s sausage away, don’t do it via the Internet of Things.

This isn’t the first time sex toys have been hacked. Live-streaming footage from a dildo camera has been hijacked, and hackers have taken control of a bluetooth-enabled butt-plug. I swear I’m not making this up.

All is not well in the teledildonics world.

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The operating systems they run in space

I found the article I link to quite interesting. It's about the operating systems they use in space.

We’ve got extremely demanding requirements for this mission.

Typically, rebooting the platform such as this takes roughly 40 seconds. Here, we’ve had 50 seconds total to find the issue, have it isolated, have the system operational again, and take recovery action.

It goes on to mention how their operating systems have to be deterministic. That means an app can't take 10 seconds to open one day and 15 seconds on another day. Anything the OS runs must take the same amount of time each time it's executed, down to the millisecond.

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Cambridge's crazy roundabout

I have just been reading an article about Cambridge's crazy roundabout that operates in the Dutch style. This means there are new give-way rules for cars, bicycles and pedestrians.

I appreciate the council is just looking at ways to make roads safer, but I'm not sure a confusing roundabout system — one that operates contrary to every other roundabout in the UK — is the answer. Ultimately, safety is better served by the separation of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.

We no longer exist in an era where Dick, Georgina and their dog Timmy can cycle the roads and solve crimes without ever meeting a car. Councils sometimes just don't seem to have realised that times have moved on and road use is significantly higher these days.

What we need are cycle paths and walkways that are physically separate from roads. I know it's hard to back-fit a system like that into our existing infrastructure, but even brand new road networks are still shoving all modes of locomotion together.

If you want an idea of how ludicrous that is, imagine if cars had to share the same infrastructure as trains. It would be a nightmare, and a dangerous one. Yet we keep throwing motorists, cyclists and pedestrians together and then we whinge when one of them has an accident.

We need to be introducing separation, which will have the beneficial side-effect of speeding up all modes of transport, reducing journey times and increasing safety. Harebrained roundabouts aren't the answer.

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BA and the Paradox of Disbelief

BA's insistence that its site cannot issue vouchers unless someone requests them, despite much evidence to the contrary, shows they have fallen into the Software Developers' Paradox of Disbelief.

I've been there many times myself: written some software, tested it to within an inch of its life, thought it was perfect and passed it on to the testing people. Within five minutes they've thrown it back at me having found 14 million errors.

The first response is always: that's impossible. Often followed by: there's no way it can do that. Sober thought soon shows that neither of those statements can possibly be true, and deeper investigation always leads to an "oh yeah" moment.

All software developers suffer from The Paradox at some point in their careers. It's genetic; we share about 80% of our DNA with sheep and that's where we get it from. Sheep live in perpetual disbelief. You can see it in their faces.

BA seems to be sticking to their guns a bit longer than most software developers do, but they'll surely recognise they've fallen for The Paradox at some point. Unless of course they already know that and are just fronting it out because they're greedy, unethical and don't fancy paying too many refunds.

Software should be thoroughly tested, but never by the people who wrote it.

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Small nuclear reactor gains approval

A small nuclear reactor made by a company called NuScale has been granted safety approval in the US. It's capable of producing 50 megawatts of electricity and should begin shipping by the mid 2020s.

Alas my hopes were soon dashed. I had visions of being able to order one from Amazon and then unplug myself from the national grid. But when they say it's a small nuclear reactor they're speaking relatively. It's 76ft tall and 15ft wide, which I'd struggle to accommodate in my flat. I was hoping for something the size of a desk lamp.

There's also no mention of price, which usually means it'll be expensive. I'm guessing it'll certainly be more than £100 outside of potential Black Friday deals.

There's nothing specific in my flat's lease to prevent me storing enriched uranium on the premises and the reactor has many in-built, automated systems for safety. The chances of me obliterating the South West of the UK would be slim.

This very much sounds like the enterprise version of the product, but I hope a home version of it is also planned.

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Facebook depressed about upcoming privacy restrictions

Facebook is getting uppity about one of the changes Apple will be implementing in iOS 14.

The change in question concerns something called the IDFA, which is the IDentifier For Advertisers. This is a random identifier that Apple assigns to its devices. This identifier can then be given to advertisers so that they can track the effectiveness of their adverts. It protects a user's privacy because, although the advertiser can see a particular, anonymous user has responded to an advert in a certain way, they don't get any personal details about that user from the IDFA. It allows them build up patterns of behaviour.

The change Apple will be implementing is that, in iOS 14, its devices will ask the user for permission to use the IDFA. Facebook (and other advertising platforms) fear that a lot of users won't give that permission and therefore advertisers won't be able to track the performance of their adverts effectively.

Facebook said:

Like all ad networks on iOS 14, advertiser ability to accurately target and measure their campaigns on Audience Network will be impacted, and as a result publishers should expect their ability to effectively monetise on Audience Network to decrease.

Ultimately, despite our best efforts, Apple’s updates may render Audience Network so ineffective on iOS 14 that it may not make sense to offer it on iOS 14.

I'm afraid I have no sympathy for advertisers. Facebook's comments demonstrate they were quite happy to take this identifier knowing full well that users might not like them doing so.

I appreciate that advertising is crucial to the economy of lots of websites, but any tracking of a user should only be performed with that user's informed permission. If a site is worth it, I'll let them track me. If they want to deny me access if I won't allow tracking then that's fine by me, but I want to make an informed decision either way.

It strikes me as odd that the sort of tracking we take for granted these days was ever allowed in the first place.

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