Archive | June 2012

Social services considering an exorcism – in the name of child protection?

I found this via the blog of Maryam Namazie: the social services in Islington seriously considered sending a child back to the Democratic Republic of the Congo for an exorcism. Yes, that’s right, for an exorcism.

Exorcisms are a load of shite. I don’t care if people believe them or not; what I do care about is people being harmed because they’re “possessed” by a supernatural entity for which the only evidence is a person who is behaving strangely, when said strange behaviour is far more likely to be be the result of an epileptic seizure, or being schizophrenic or autistic. Here’s a section from the article I linked:

The deliverance that the boy was to undergo would have involved starving him of food and fluids for three days.

At the end of the fasting period, he would be surrounded by the deliverance team who would pray over him and command the evil spirit to be cast out of the child. When deliverance takes place, the child vomits up the “sorcery bread” that has been infecting him.

Dr Hoskins also met the pastor from the Pentecostal church attended by the grandparents, who warned that if the evil spirits were not dealt with, they would cause “strife, illness, divorce, hardship, poverty and death”.

The pastor claimed that the boy would have sorcery tools to perform magic with, such as mirrors, brushes, sticks and string, and warned that these would have to be confiscated.

Dr Hoskins asked whether the boy would be beaten, and was assured that this was not part of the normal deliverance process. However, when he was presented with a boy who had recently undergone the ordeal, he found the child “scared and traumatised”.

Starving a child for three days sounds like child abuse to me. And it gets worse: in that article, the expert they sent mentioned that some children are beaten, shaken repeatedly, have chilli pepper rubbed into them or even being cut with razor blades. That is definitely abuse, and it should be called out as such, regardless of the religion: whether Pentecostal, as in this case, or Catholic or any other form of Christianity, or Judaism or Islam…I don’t care what it is. The right to freedom of belief or disbelief ends when it starts to hurt somebody else.

Full results breakdown

Well, I got my results an hour ago, and I definitely hold a 2.1 honours degree (if only by the skin of my teeth)!

The results are as follows, from lowest to highest, with the marks out of 100:

Optoelectronics: 25
Solid State Physics: 28
Nanotechnology: 55
Digital Signals and Image Processing: 58
Problem Solving: 59
Applied Optics: 63
Project and Laboratories: 67
Electromagnetism and Special Relativity: 78
Quantum Mechanics: 73
Atmospheric Physics: 85

What really surprised me was that Problem Solving didn’t go quite as well as I had thought, and the very high ones are much higher than I expected. What’s particularly interesting is that QM and EM are both more abstract topics, and yet I did better in them than I did in the more practical courses for Signals and Nanotechnology. As for Optoelectronics and Solid State…I fucked up in the exams for those two, and suffered a memory block in Optoelectronics.

Still, the average works out as 61.63 for this year. That makes up 80% of the degree, and the other 20% comes from the results for 3rd Year (55.5%), so the degree is 60.4% – see what I mean when I said “by the skin of my teeth”? But regardless, it’s time to celebrate!

Move over Chopra – there’s a bot for you!

For those who HAVEN’T heard of Deepak Chopra, he’s an Indian mystic/New Age healing woo-woo advocate.

Frankly, any time I come across his stuff, I end up facepalming because it’s so much gibberish – in fact, Orac at Respectful Insolence has a whole category of pseudoscience and pseudomedicine named “Choprawoo”. A lot of it is based around the dreadfully mistaken idea that quantum physics is magical and allows healing, cleansing, etc., etc….

The thing is, some of his remarks on Twit-ter sound like the work of a bot. Well, somebody just went and just that! It takes random, profound-sounding words that Chopra has posted on Twitter and puts them into random sentences.

Although it hasn’t mentioned “quantum” yet, I think it’s brilliant. “Evolution opens cosmic balance”; “The web of life comprehends unparalleled creativity”; or how about “Perception meditates on irrational happiness”?

Pure comedy.

My first game part

Basically, I just wrote out a programme in C++ to calculate the amount of health lost by an attack, with or without armour, and to display the remaining level if the player character isn’t killed in the attack.

Okay, it’s not much and it requires the command line to work, but it’s a start! Here’s the pseudocode for if anyone is interested.

main loop:

define the variables health, armour and damage;

ask the user to enter the health before the attack, then display it;
repeat for armour and damage;

health after = health before - (damage - armour);

if health <= 0, display a "game over" message
else display the remaining health points

While I think this is more suited to an RPG-style game such as Oblivion or a turn-based strategy game like Alpha Centauri or Battle for Wesnoth, I suspect something along these lines is happening inside most games, with the particular details varying from one game to another.

Another use for black holes

As particle detectors, according to scientists from the Vienna University of Technology.

The basic idea is that it uses hypothetical particles known as axions; by hypothetical, I mean “not proven to exist yet”. They have a very low mass, currently predicted to be about 10^-6 to 1 eV/c^2, which in kg translates as 1.78*10^-42 to 1.78*10^-36 kg – still not low enough to be considered “negligible” in physics! By Einstein’s famous equation E = mc^2, this means it would take a relatively low (pun not intended) amount of energy to produce one, between 10^-6 and 1 eV – between 1.6*10^-25 and 1.6*10^-19 joules.

One of the fundamentals of quantum mechanics is that particles also have wave-like properties; the relationship between a particle’s energy and its wavelength is E = hc/λ, where h is Planck’s constant, c is the speed of light in a vacumn, and λ is the wavelength. from this, you can see that the wavelength is inversely proportional to the energy required, and since this is quite low for an axion, they would have very long wavelengths – if my calculations for those energy ranges are correct, they could range between 1 metre and 800 km.

Because axions are hypothesised to be electrically neutral, they would interact with a black hole through a gravitational attraction; and since they are bosons, they can be in the same state at the same time. The idea is that this creates a cloud of bosons, which can in turn create a nova that generates gravitational waves.

So, using hypothetical particles to detect and potentially prove the existence of hypothetical waves. If it works out, I suspect a Nobel Prize will be going their way!

What to do with 1 and 2 cent coins

I hate having lots of 1 & 2 cent coins around the place: they take up room in my pocket, and you can’t use them for bus tickets in Ireland. And it costs 1.5 cents to produce a single 1 cent coin, so what’s the point?

So, here’s a few ideas for what else you could do with them:

Make a paperweight from them
Take a piece of card, and glue about twenty or so coins to it, stacked on top of each other like a haphazard pile, before cutting out the card around the pile.

Enhance a beermat with them
Steal Borrow a beermat from any pub, and stick the coins on top of it.

Stack them
Glue a bunch of coins together, and stick them where they’ll catch the sunlight.

Use them as ammo
One of the Resident Evil movies (a quick search reveals it was Afterlife) tried this; however, in real life they’d be practically useless, having less mass than regular shot, and to fire an American quarter, you would need a 4-guage shotgun – which are apparently quite rare.
That said, throwing a few coins at a cat might scare it off >:-)

Build a chair out of them
I have no idea how many you’d need to make a chair that could support your weight or how much glue you’d need. But I think it could be done, if you had enough of the damn things. And of course, if that works, you could in principle extend it to making a house out of them!

Comparison of C against C++ – as a beginner

I started teaching myself how to program in C++ today, and here’s the code for the basic “Hello, world” program that everyone starts with, compared to C.


#include // this must be the basic header/footer file

int main()
std::cout << "Hello, world!\n"; // this means "print the words just after << "
return 0; // return an integer of 0

And now for C


int main()
printf("Hello, world!\n"); //Print the words in the brackets

C looks a lot clearer than C++, but I’m only starting! The book I’m using is called “Teach Yourself C++ in 24 Hours”, so in about 23 hours I’ll have a basic level of knowledge of how use it. Wish me luck…