* Posts by Gilleain Torrance

30 publicly visible posts • joined 18 Oct 2007

Boffins invent miracle pill that counteracts effects of booze

Gilleain Torrance

This paper is weird

Ok, so it's 'accepted' and peer-reviewed, but not yet published. Fine. But also it doesn't seem to report any new results by the author. It's like a mini-review of some other paper (Wu et al 2011), along with other papers in the literature that comes to the conclusion. Is this normal in medical molecular biology?

Yanks officially recognise the word 'boffin'

Gilleain Torrance

Scottish words

Indeed. I once found a list of such words/phrases (for a friend to use in a play), and it seemed like fully half of them were synonyms for 'idiot'. As in, for calling other people idiot. Teuchter is a very nice one - sort of means 'farmer' or 'yokel', right?

'Numpty' is pretty good, too. 'Bauchle' I've never heard. Although I'm reminded of my father's mother, who I swear would make up such words : "Oh look at that thing birling away on the roof!" (spinning rapidly?).

Oh, and especially good is "pochle" - meaning stuff you can legitimately steal, such as from the stationary cupboard at work.

Gilleain Torrance

'Chunter' is a good word, but I'm more interested in 'mega-whinge'

Is there an accepted conversion rate for whinges? I know that us Brits are more prone to whinging, while Americans generally just complain. The difference is between muttering "This toast is burnt!" to your wife and shouting "HEY MANAGER! - MY TOAST!".

But I hadn't realised that a whinge could be quantified. Perhaps it could be a useful economic measure, like an inverse of happiness.

Wanted: 1 solution architect to fist bankers' asses

Gilleain Torrance

might not be a misprint

It could just be the usual macho talk used in the City - you know, like "C'mon Jones, we gotta fist some asses today or we're sunk!".

Seriously, I overheard a guy on his phone in a coffee shop once who actually said "...well, I don't want to get gang-raped on this one, you know?...". Because just 'raped' is too tame a metaphor for some people.

419ers threaten terrorism charges

Gilleain Torrance

Like MASSIVE yachts?


Danube sludge peril: Brown trouser time or not?

Gilleain Torrance

Funding application

"After all, my financing application went in four months ago and decision day is only six weeks hence"

If I were a member of the review board, I would be asking you the following questions:

a) Do you own any digging equipment? and

b) Have you been to Hungary recently...


Legendary steampunk computer 'should be built' - programmer

Gilleain Torrance

Ada Lovelace as a programmer and mathematician

The article heavily implies (along with the linked article from 1999) that Ada's position as "first programmer" is based on myth. However, this is not clear from her notes on the translation of Menabrea's talk (scroll down for her notes):


assuming that the transcript hasn't been favourably edited, she certainly seems competent enough. It's a little difficult to read text from ye olden days due to that fact that the style was kind of verbose and dull. However, consider this small snippet:

"In studying the action of the Analytical Engine, we find that the peculiar and independent nature of the considerations which in all mathematical analysis belong to operations, as distinguished from the objects operated upon and from the results of the operations performed upon those objects, is very strikingly defined and separated."

Sounds like OO programming to me :)

BBC dumps Gulf oil spill on Middlesbrough

Gilleain Torrance

What about the largest bomb ever used?

I did this 'by hand' using google maps, and estimate that if set off on Westminster, the fireball alone would reach zone 2...


Authentic Navy rum: Yours for £600 a bottle

Gilleain Torrance


...why is the rum gone?


Airline ejects passenger for being hungry

Gilleain Torrance

Internet marketer

Hmmm. I don't mean to sound suspicious, but this guy is in internet marketing....

Apple bars radiation nanny from App Store

Gilleain Torrance

Love the youtube comments as well

Such as the top rated one :

"Apple should continue to show its leadership by adopting this must have technology which will soon become de-facto on additional platforms (already on Blackberry) - people need the right to chooose and apple as an innovator and provider of cutting edge user experiences should drive this kind of beneficial App and take a proactive stance..."

Hmmm. Strange how this genuine member of the public is so familiar with marketing speak. A coincidence, I'm sure...

Looking for code work? Write fake anti-virus scripts

Gilleain Torrance

Not so unusual

These sites are full of crazy 'jobs' like this. Many people ask for 'clones' of existing sites - the best of these was someone asking for someone to download "all the webpages" and store them in a database. That's right, a 'clone' of google. Probably for $100.

Obvious malware is less frequent, apart from quite a few requests for software that cracks game DRM, or for aimbot kind of things (is that the term?). The best one I have seen so far is :

"the job is theoretically simple. i want to submit an article to the software which instantly make a thousand different rewrites of that article...[SNIP]...you'll find me to be a reasonable man but please don't ask me why i want to build such a software."

Very mafia! :)

Swiss police thwart 'eco-anarcho terror' attack on IBM

Gilleain Torrance

Green activists who are against micro/nano-technology?

Have they realised that all organisms are made of microscopic components (cells) that are in turn composed from nanoscale parts?

Clearly there's plenty of room at the bottom - for idiocy.

Computer glitch prompts 50 raids on elderly couple's home

Gilleain Torrance

I'll buy their house!

So this house can now NEVER be raided by the cops? That sounds...useful. Perhaps they could be persuaded to sell up?

YouTube Lad from Lagos gets a bite

Gilleain Torrance

TV Show?

Er. Why do I get the impression that these three people went to the same acting school? I mean that quite literally. They pause like actors, they deliver the lines between the pauses like actors, and they look - in general - like actors.

So, this is some kind of viral advert thing for something, no?

Boffins invent automatic net-hookup roboffinry machines

Gilleain Torrance
Thumb Up

Here we go again!

I hope the Cornell guys have not fallen into the trap of begging the question. There is an essay/book chapter by Douglas Hofstadter about an AI that the authors claimed had made analogies between electrons going round a nucleus and planets going round the sun.

Although it sounded impressive at first, it turned out that the program was given something like : "similar(electron, planet), similar(nucleus, sun), circling(x, y)" and then produced : "similar(circling(electron, nucleus), circling(planet, sun)".

Hofstadter points out that to the AI, this could easily be "similar(circling(cat, dog), circling(plant, table))" or any other combination. Without any meaning behind the words, you get out only what you put in.

On the other hand, the experimenting-robot is quite scary. Think about it : they now have the capability to make bio-weapons. Better not turn down the robots funding requests!

Immortal Dr Who jellyfish poised to rule Earth

Gilleain Torrance


Ha! The first time I searched for this, it was a googlewhack. The second time, the top hit was...wikipedia! Hooray :)

Countdown to Conficker activation begins

Gilleain Torrance

evil instructions?

"I believe that it’s simply 'sleeping' and may be woken up at a future date to execute some set of evil instructions."

What are 'evil' instructions? Are they built-in to processors nowadays? "Oh no; if only we hadn't created that evil instruction set, this worm would never have done all this damage!!.."

'Why not try nude female midgets?' says Microsoft Adcenter

Gilleain Torrance
Dead Vulture

google : 1, microsoft : 0

A search for "vn b m gn mbnmncbm xbc bcv 0 vfkmjirhtfnkj nb b x bmnx bv" on google.com now brings up this article.

A search on live.com brings up "no results".

Clear winner : google.

iPhone apps hit the racks at the iTunes store

Gilleain Torrance

Never seen the point of PDAs anyway

There was an announcement on the pdb mailing list about a molecule viewer:


which looks good, and I suppose I can see some uses (the post-vert suggested showing people at conferences. hmmm) but how often do people really need to browse the web on the move?

Or use a dictionary...or whatever else the 1001 other apps do.

New mobe operator slash Wi-Fi hotspotter launches in UK

Gilleain Torrance

Rabbit rabbit

My dad gave me a Rabbit rabbit mascot promotional cuddly toy back in the day - it's now a welcome addition to my niece's toys, so the company has left it's mark on the world in some small way :) ...

Billy Bragg: Why should songwriters starve so others get rich?

Gilleain Torrance

Stealing is a closer analogy than photography

Of course the "copyright is theft" analogy isn't correct, but neither is it consequence-free.

If you take a copy of something for free, instead of paying for that copy - and you could have afforded it - then you deprive the owner of a sale. It's not really that hard a concept to grasp.

The difficulty is determining how many sales there would have been if free downloading wasn't possible. One side counts every free copy as a lost sale, while the other side counts none of them as lost sales. Neither is right.

Story withdrawn

Gilleain Torrance

evolutionary psychology lets you conclude nearly anything

Unfortunately, this kind of research often ends up in waffle - eg : women prefer men who look after their children, because that's adaptive. We actually have no idea.

Maybe women prefer to sleep with men who look 'manly' (and thus likely to sleep around) but settle down with men that are nurturing. Maybe men say they like 'easy' women, but when it comes to the crunch, they don't.

As the Reg points out - what this proves is the correlation between faces and what people will admit on a questionnaire, nothing more.

Wikipedia-reading boffins jimmy keyless door to entire universe

Gilleain Torrance

$3000 dollars worth of equipment?

...or if you buy them from China, about $150, or some other ridiculously small price.

Also in your cart : GPS/mobile jammer. For innocent purposes only.

'Suspicious comment' provokes LAX terminal evacuation

Gilleain Torrance

Dioxyhydride? Sounds suspicious.

If you'd said "Dihydrogenmonoxide" I might have let you off with a caution, but O<sub>2</sub>H sounds...expolosive.

To gitmo with him!

Pod slurping licks a*se antlers to claim Oz word of the year

Gilleain Torrance
IT Angle

I like "henchgoon" even though it's just two words rammed together.

I feel sorry for AI researchers trying to train their programs from web content, though. It must be hard to distinguish valid text from spam, and illiterate speech from archaic.

Tom Cruise Scientology vid leaks onto net

Gilleain Torrance
Thumb Up

Hilarious video

It's not so much the awful, stupid things he's saying but the /way/ he says them. I guess he's not trying to fake sincerity, but the constipated expression on his face as he makes chopping motions with his hand to indicate seriousness...

What an astonishing fool the man is.

Frenchman calculates 13th root of 200-digit number

Gilleain Torrance

You what?

Seems either a trivial problem (emulate a computer program on a computer) or a hard, but pointless one (emulate a brain emulating a computer, on a computer).

Either way, as useful as finding roots in your head; that's why we invented computers, to do those kinds of dull calculations, you tool!

Promote your local synthetic biologist

Gilleain Torrance
Thumb Up

The new nanotech

Time was, this kind of hype would have surrounded nanotech 'solutions'. Not the real, workable nanotech (airbags I think, and, er...) but the self-replicating gray-goo type. Having realised that this kind of nanotech has already been done by biology, it gets renamed as "synthetic biology".

But it's omnipotency is still there, I guess. The idea that bacteria can be made to soak up CO2 is especially bizarre. Don't trees do that already? Why would modified/artificial bacteria do it better?

Good article.

Museum drops Watson talk in race row

Gilleain Torrance

The Mismeasure of Man

Watson may be an eminent scientist, but that doesn't make him right. Of course he is _trivially_ right when he says that different "geographically separated" groups _might_ have different average intelligences. He then suggests that this has actually been proved, which it hasn't.

As for IQ tests and race, this has been covered in a book by Gould (The Mismeasure of Man) in which he describes the problems with these tests (they tend to test the ability to take an IQ test, for example).

In any case, I understood that there was more variation within African groups, than with the rest of the world. In other words, non-africans are less genetically variable than different African tribes. Of course, he doesn't suggest that the Zulus might be more intelligent than "Whites", as he clearly has a racist bias.