my eye

Point of Contact

Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available (G. Benford)

[sticky post]Western values
my eye
If I am asked to define  "western" or "European values", I will single out the following three:

  • Democracy

  • Good governance (fair, efficient and legitimate)

  • Elimination of corruption

Education Opportunity
Thinking cap
Another interesting visualisation - LINK

Would be interesting to align the identified areas with availability of internet.

Land Use in the USA
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A very interesting visualisation in Bloomberg - LINK

TV Show of The Month
my eye
The Americans

Я потерял интерес в начале четвёртого сезона, но недавно решил продолжит и был приятно удивлён пятым сезоном.
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Thinking cap
Marvellous Machines

Duolingo — Восемь месяцев спустя
my eye

Прошло ровно 8 месяцев с первого урока. Результат точно есть и он обнадеживает.

Best Public Space Award
We've just come from four days in Munich. Four days of very intensive walking and looking around.  I now, without any doubt, can say that Munich has the best designed and maintained public space and city transit system.  It beats with a huge margin any other place I have ever been to. 

Making the Perfect Body
Thinking cap
There is going to be a new documentary on BBC tomorrow. It will be about a project by an anatomies Alice Roberts. I will probably watch it at some point, but the essence can be found here – LINK

“These are the elements that I wanted to fix:

The retina of the eye - the way that our eyes have evolved is enshrined in their embryonic development - and the retina is ‘backwards’. The light receptors are at the back; the nerve fibre ‘wires’ take off at the front, and then have to converge on a spot where they pierce through and exit the eye - the optic disc - which creates a blind spot. Our brains fill in this blind spot so that we’re not aware of it. But how about we wire up the eye sensibly and avoid the blind spot in the first place. Octopi do just that - so let’s steal their anatomy for the eye. To improve eyesight further, we could also make the eyeballs themselves just a little bit larger.

Ears - We lose high frequency hearing as we age. The tiny hair cells in our inner ears don’t regenerate. To tackle this, we could either opt for regenerating hair cells - or we could look at amplifying the sound coming into the ears in the first place. And I think large, feline ears would look amazing.

Airway - there’s an obvious design flaw here, as the airway and the passage for food share a short but important section of pipeline in the head and neck. The nasal cavity opens into the pharynx, which, lower down, communicates with the back of the oral cavity. Then the ways divide, with air passing forwards into the larynx and thence to the lungs, and food passing backwards, down into the oesophagus. At least - that’s what meant to happen, but the usual set-up allows food to go down the wrong way - towards the windpipe, while air can get swallowed. How ridiculous. Let’s separate the airway completely from the passageway for food, and avoid choking.

Recurrent laryngeal nerve - this is a supreme example of untidiness, and it comes down to the way that the body evolved and how it is built as an embryo - with no foresight. Nerves grow out to the muscles of the developing larynx early on in development, when the heart and its vessels are still up in the neck region. When the heart later descends into the chest, dragging its arteries with it, the nerves that supply the larynx are trapped under a pair of arteries and get dragged down. The pattern we end up with is a nerve that arises high up in the neck, level with the larynx, runs right down into the chest, before looping under an artery then running back (recurring) to the voicebox. It should be simple to tidy this one up.

Lungs - the flow of air through our lungs is bidirectional - air goes in and comes out the same way. Birds have a different set-up which involves air being drawn into accessory air sacs in the abdomen and chest, which then contract to keep air flowing through the passageways of the lungs in one direction. This makes gas exchange - absorbing oxygen into the blood and getting rid of carbon dioxide - more efficient. So I’d like to steal this secret for the new ‘me’.

Heart - we each possess a pair of coronary arteries supplying our heart muscle with oxygenated blood - but any links between these arteries are so small as to be practically non-existent. If one coronary artery becomes blocked, then an area of heart muscles becomes fatally deprived of oxygen, and dies - this is precisely what happens in a myocardial infarction or heart attack. Other animals, including dogs and guinea pigs, have plenty of links between the arteries, so that areas of heart muscle are supplied by both vessels. If there’s a blockage in one, the other artery can take over. This seems like a great idea - and something other mammals already possess, so I’m adopting it too.

Spine - Our long, flexible lumbar spines are great in many ways - they help us to run efficiently, for instance - but they have their drawbacks. The lumbar vertebrae are under great strain, and as we age, the ligaments that hold the pulpy centres of the intervertebral discs in place dry out. The pulp can be pushed out - and the herniated disc can press on nerves and cause back pain and sciatica. As a sufferer of a slipped disc, I’d like to opt for a ‘chimpanzee fix’ here - reducing the lumbar spine from five to four vertebrae, and building up the iliac wings of the pelvis to stabilise the spine even more. I’m sacrificing my waist here, but I think the biomechanical advantages are worth it.

Childbirth - when I asked what people would change about their bodies on Twitter, this was an extremely popular response! Our large-headed babies can make childbirth tricky for some. But what if we’d evolved from marsupials - from animals who give birth to their young very early, and then keep them in a pouch until they’re ready to be independent of the mother? I think this is a great idea, but I’m slightly nervous about what it will look like.

Legs - Our ape legs make us great generalists - we can walk, run and climb. But when you try to do too many things at once, you can end up with problems. The human knee is complex and prone to failure in a variety of ways; there’s a lot of muscle mass low down in the legs which makes moving them fairly inefficient. If we focused on one thing, we could streamline the design. I’ve taken my inspiration from ostriches - which are bipedal, like us, but extremely good at running. Muscles move closer to the centre of the body, leaving the feet light and easy to move. Large tendons provide shock absorption.

Skin - Pale skin is prone to sunburn - which increases the risk of developing skin cancer. I could have opted for dark skin, but pale skin may allow more efficient vitamin D production in conditions of low sunlight. If I had skin which could change instantly between pale and dark, at will, I could ensure that I’m making enough vitamin D in the British winter, while switching skin colour in summertime, or if I travel to tropical countries. Some cephalopods can achieve this trick with skin pigment, so I’m borrowing their trick.

There are many more tweaks I could have made. What would you change about your body, if you could re-write evolution?”

Gapminder Test 2018
my eye
Test yourself:

English - LINK
Russian - LINK

big eye
Попалось в современной российской прессе:
- специалитет
- специалистура

Фантастика прошлого — реальность настоящего
Rocket people
Отмечаю День Космонавтики прослушиванием «Звезда КЭЦ» А. Беляева. Это одна из моих самых любимых книг детства.

Чем старше я становлюсь, тем больше укрепляюсь во мнение, что Беляев был и остаётся наверное самым лучшим русскоязычным автором настоящей научной фантастики. Возможно я и не прав на счёт настоящего. Наверное есть современные авторы сравнимые с ними. Но 20 лет назад такие отсутствовали на мой взгляд.

Remembering the past
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Big Data 2
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The Cambridge Analitica story is gavering speed. Not as much as I wish, but it is at least something - LINK

Cambridge Analitica
Cambridge Analitica Files

my eye
British Ambassador to Russia briefing on the Salisbury attack: 22 March 2017

Some extracts from the above link I find important for my understanding of the situation:

"There was an attempted murder in Salisbury a couple of weeks ago of 2 individuals, Sergei and Yulia Skripal, using a nerve agent of a type that we know was developed in the Soviet Union, kept by the Russian Federation, and not declared under the Chemical Weapons Convention as the Russian Federation was obliged to do."

"First, there is no doubt that the weapon used in the attack was the military-grade nerve agent from the Novichok series. This has been confirmed by specialists, our specialists. An Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons mission is in the UK now to independently confirm this analysis." (JNUK: Although I could not find such confirmation, I assume it does exist)

"Russia has therefore offered no explanation of how this agent came to be used in the UK, and has offered no explanation either as to why Russia has an undeclared chemical weapons programme in contravention of international law.
I should just remind you that under the Chemical Weapons Convention all signatories to the Convention are required to declare all capabilities that go back to 1946. Russia is the successor state of the Soviet Union and therefore is obliged to declare that capability. It has not done so."

"Since the attack Russia has attempted to undermine the UK’s position, accusing us of not following the OPCW conventions and refusing to provide any evidence. These accusations are designed to confuse and to weaken our resolve and that of the international community.

All of the UK’s actions have been fully consistent with our obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. There is for example no provision in the Chemical Weapons Convention that requires the UK to share samples with Russia of the agent that was used in Salisbury. Russia’s history in other spheres, in particular for us the Litvinenko case, makes it entirely clear that we have no reason to work with or to trust the Russian state to provide credible or independent analysis on issues where its interests might be affected.

As I said earlier we are facilitating independent analysis of the material used in Salisbury. An OPCW team arrived at our request in the United Kingdom on the 19 of March. They are meeting officials from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down and the police to discuss how to collect samples. These samples will then be sent to 2 highly reputable international laboratories selected by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for testing, and we expect to see the results in the next couple of weeks.

At the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday Russia said it would not respect the conclusions of that independent OPCW analysis. Russia has also claimed that the UK has not followed its legal obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, especially Article 9. This is simply not true. The Chemical Weapons Convention makes clear that the UK has the right to lead our own response, engaging the OPCW and others as appropriate. The 10-day window for consultations Russia refers to is a right, our right, not an obligation. Article 9 contains nothing prohibiting states from seeking a rapid response to their immediate and urgent concerns from another state party, which is exactly what we did on the 12 of March when we asked Russia to account for what had happened."

my eye
Finally. It is good to see the Cambridge Analytica got questioned in the UK. Like I said before, it is about time. A bit late for avoiding some harm, but better late than never.

For the record
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Luckily not everyone in the UK agrees with the government and wants us to close eyes and go head down into a new conflict with Russia without really strong reasons for it -

A very big problem ....
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"Failed Dreams

A grim scenario is the subject of Dreamers: How Young Indians Are Changing Their World, a harrowing new book by the Indian journalist Snigdha Poonam.

Today, the bulk of India’s youth bulge falls into at least one of three categories she calls the three “Es”: uneducated, unemployed, or unemployable. The problem with India’s education system is not schooling but learning. At the primary level, India is approaching universal enrollment. Yet over half of all students enrolled in the sixth grade cannot read a story suitable for second graders. One-tenth cannot even recognize the numbers one through nine.

These failures exist at every rung of the ladder. A recent assessment of Indians between the ages of 14 and 18 conducted by the nongovernmental organization Pratham produced a slew of depressing statistics: 40 percent cannot tell the time looking at an analog clock, 36 percent do not know the capital of India, and 62 percent cannot compute a ten percent discount on a given price. Higher education has become a lucrative business in India, leading to a surge in university enrollments. Between 2000 and 2015, according to the political scientist Devesh Kapur, India established almost six new colleges every single day. Barring a few isolated examples, however, these institutes are a classic case of quantity over quality.

The second crisis relates to the lack of jobs. The Indian economy needs to create roughly one million jobs each month just to keep up with the natural growth in the labor force. The government’s own estimates suggest that India is creating between 350,000 and 400,000 a month. Those who are not lucky enough to find employment in the formal sector join the growing hordes trying to make ends meet in the informal sector. A big part of the problem is that unlike its East Asian neighbors, India adopted a “precocious” economic model that leapfrogged manufacturing altogether and went straight into services.

Not every Indian can become a software engineer; establishing a robust manufacturing base is the only tried-and-true strategy for mass employment generation. Unfortunately for India, it is not only failing to industrialize, it is prematurely deindustrializing."

TV Show Of The Month
my eye
El Ministerio del Tiempo -

History I didn’t know
my eye
Something new every day.

RadioLab The Gun Show

В пьянстве замечен не был, но утром пьет холодную воду
"Сам же Крушельницкий заявил, что он завершил применение мельдония в конце 2015 года, когда вещество было запрещено.

«В конце 2015 года запретили мельдоний, нам перестали его давать. До этого я, честно говоря, даже не знал, что принимаю мельдоний. Мы чувствуем ответственность перед болельщиками. Мы полностью уверены, что эти медали чистые. Обидно, когда их просто так отнимают. Все понимают абсурдность ситуации, все пишут о том, что такого быть не может. У нас есть версия, озвучивать ее будем только в рамках расследования», — сказал Крушельницкий в эфире Первого канала." - LINK.
Жизнь спортсменов полна сюрпризов...


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