“Post-truth” was the Oxford English Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2016 and is my favoured genre; before then it was “fake-news”. This section is for those who are daft enough to enjoy this kind of nonsense and smart enough to see it for what it is.
Warning: strong language, references to sex, philosophy, science and politics. No animals were harmed in the writing of these posts.
Team Christians has quit the Roman games citing mental health issues. Spokesperson Lucius Ectorius said “Preparing to be thrown to the lions takes years of training and is one of the most stressful sports there is.”
Three gladiators have tested positive for the performance enhancing drug opium novum and have been banned for five years. Emperor Titus was unavailable for comment.
It can’t get much greener than this: electric windows, windscreen wipers and door locks; even the starter motor is electric! The only thing that isn’t is the engine, but I use that for charging the battery, so that’s not going anywhere. Oh, did I mention the paintwork? Racing Green. Green and racey. Pretty cool huh?
“The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away” (Job 1:21) – why Covid-19 is good for us.
Post-war baby boomers and their living predecessors are two of the groups most susceptible to the current pandemic and are suffering fatal consequences in great numbers (the boomer remover).
Risk reduction measures have included self-isolation and social distancing, full quarantining in many cases. This has led to couples spending more time at home together which will no doubt lead to a new baby boom in a few months time.
“Every cloud has a silver lining” as they say and indeed the Covid-19 cloud is shining brightly, turning the age demographic on its head and fixing some long term problems in its wake.
Pension fund holes, increased rates of Alzheimer’s, housing shortages, more elderly and fewer young are all placing great strains on the NHS and the economy as a whole. Covid deals with all of these in one fell swoop: it decimates the old and replaces them with the new. Like a bush fire, it clears the way for new growth and renewal and should be celebrated. Happy New Year!
Donald Trump has admitted being addicted to the bleach he recommended as an antidote to the corona virus. After convincing himself it was the best protection against the deadly COVID-19 which has already claimed over a million lives worldwide, it is a double irony that he has not only caught the virus himself but has also become addicted to the one thing he thought could save him.
On February 27 he made the claim that the outbreak would be temporary: “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle—it will disappear.” Then, on numerous occasions he declared “Coronavirus numbers are looking MUCH better, going down almost everywhere,” and cases are “coming way down.” And again that the pandemic is “fading away. It’s going to fade away.” (June 17) and “99%” of COVID-19 cases are “totally harmless.” (July 4).
It is well documented that regular consumption of bleach causes chronic delusional optimism, a kind of unconscious whitewashing of the facts and a compulsive airbrushing of inconvenient truths out of history. White House doctors are now asking whether the president’s addiction predates the pandemic and might have started in late childhood when these symptoms were first noticed. This predilection with what is now called “fake news”, combined with a total lack of empathy, are thought to be the main propellants of his phenomenal success in the business world.
Trump is seventy-four years old this year, overweight and in the group most vulnerable to COVID-19. Millions of people the world over, from hardworking middle class liberals to foreign presidents, are secretly praying this will be his last year and that the virus, heaven sent or otherwise, will end his post-truth ‘reign of error’ once and for all.
I’m sure the Top Gear team would be the first to say the idea that go faster stripes make cars go faster is “an utter myth”, or more likely “a load of bollocks”. But is it? Where’s the evidence? Who’s actually done the research? Well, we at Cornucopia decided to investigate – and the results are quite surprising. We divided the research into three areas and looked at how go faster stripes (GFS) affect the performance of the vehicle, the behaviour of the driver and the perceptions of a typical observer.
First of all we analysed the effects of paint (and stripes in particular) on the aerodynamics and performance of the vehicle. We tried different colours, sizes, patterns and thicknesses of paint, also changing the orientation of stripes to the direction of travel, in robotic wind tunnel tests.
The driving tests involved taking a selection of drivers through a range of manoeuvres designed to capture driving behaviour: acceleration, braking, top speed, reaction times, road safety and courtesy, and compliance with the law. A level of risk was calculated for each test run. The drivers constituted a diverse group of ages, backgrounds, nationalities and driving experience, taking equal numbers of male and female drivers and representative numbers of the LGBTQ community. Drivers were also tested in “tourist mode”, driving on a side of the road different to what they were used to. Two types of car were used for these tests: sporty two-seaters and small family hatchbacks, both left and right hand drive. Tests were conducted both when drivers knew whether they had GFS or not and also when they didn’t.
The tests were watched by a selection of observers as diverse as the drivers themselves. They were asked to rate the driving in each test for safety, courtesy, compliance with the law and to give an overall “mood” rating from placid to aggressive. They were also asked to estimate the top speed achieved.
The results of the tests were extensive, numbering hundreds of thousands of “data points” and producing scores of graphs and general conclusions now published in a report stretching to just over two hundred pages. These are summarised in the three bullet points below:
In the vehicle performance tests we found no discernible differences between cars with and without GFS.
Overall, GFS made drivers’ behaviour more dangerous and less risk averse.
Observers rated cars with GFS to be less courteous, less safe and less law abiding, with higher levels of aggression and they consistently overestimated the cars’ top speeds.
So there we have it: no need for any more speculation – go faster stripes do work and are perceived to work. Next time you are thinking of buying a car with stripes, we can guarantee it will “go faster” and that you will get noticed.
Since publication of the report we have learned that various motoring organisations, notably the Automotive Association and the Real Automobile Club, are discouraging members from buying cars with GFS and some councils are considering banning them from city centres after a petition with three hundred thousand signatures was handed to the transport secretary. We at Cornucopia are delighted that there has been such a positive response to this, the first of our forays into investigative journalism and hope it is a sign of things to come.
The word “peasant” is derived from the 15th-century French word “païsant”, meaning one from the pays, or countryside; ultimately from the Latin “pagus”, or outlying administrative district.
A peasant is a pre-industrial agricultural labourer or farmer with limited land ownership, especially one living in the Middle Ages under feudalism and paying rent, tax, fees, or services to a landlord.
In a colloquial sense, “peasant” often has a perjorative meaning, referring to people considered ignorant and uncultured.
I would like to reclaim the word to refer to a new post COVID-19 breed of people who choose to work at home (in the country) rather than commuting to towns and cities, as in the following examples:
This rebirth of peasantry has resulted in the revitalisation of many rural communities and restored affordabilty of city dwellings to key workers in the public sector.
[Government White Paper on Urban Regeneration]
New peasants in Devon pave the way to greener economy and healthier lifestyle.
To say that these peasants are ignorant and uncultured is an understatement. They know nothing of the countryside: the flora, the fauna, the people and their traditions. They just want to party and carry on like they still live in the city. Even the older ones show no respect for those of us who have lived here all our lives.
[Rural Life Magazine]
“The peasants are revolting” – comment from an angry farmer on discovering six IT consultants trying to recycle human waste near her pig-slurry pit.
Following an overwhelming response from national businesses and sympathetic nations across the globe, Britain now has a huge surplus of PPE (personal protection equipment) and testing kits. This is a complete turnaround from the situation only a week ago. Embarrassed politicians are now having to explain why and find a fair way to redistribute them to parts of the world where they are still desperately needed. Gowns and masks are already being sold illegally on the “blue market”, as the new practice is called, with organised crime netting millions in the process. Health officials are also worried that NHS trusts and care homes are being duped by websites offering fake testing kits at a quarter the normal price. Some of these have been found to be just repackaged pregnancy testing kits. The government issued a statement today stating that “the cost to the economy of using these kits would dwarf the amount saved and cause untold misery to a significant proportion of the population. There is no shortage of the genuine kits and any authorities found using them [the fake kits] will incur severe penalties”.
Now that NHS and other care staff are properly protected and able to get on with their jobs with little or no fear of infection, a huge avalanche of patient data and other documentation is poised to engulf the depleted army of statisticians and pundits remaining after COVID-19 has run its course. China has sent a crack team of statisticians from Wuhan, the original source of the virus, to help with data collection and analysis. President Trump has taken a dim view of this, tweeting that “Letting these people loose on this is the same security threat as having Huawei provide 5G networking. Don’t do it.” Boris Johnson has yet to comment.
According to the chief scientific adviser “Big data on the pandemic are likely to rot in the fields unless means can be found for storing and analysing the sheer volume of data this outbreak has created while it is still fresh”. Experts at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN near Geneva have offered use of their facilities while the physics programme remains on hold. The LHC produces and processes approximately 15 petabytes of data per year; that is the equivalent of one photograph (2 MB) per year per person on the planet, roughly the same rate as the pandemic.
Without the ability to analyse the data and the policies and procedures developed to deal with the pandemic there is no chance of understanding how the virus behaves and how to combat it, what decisions were good or bad and who was to blame. So, in cooperation with Oxbridge University’s department of virology (nothing to do with virility) we are starting a new peer-to-peer computing project, similar to SETI@home (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) called COVID-19@home . This project will utilise the massive computing power distributed across the nation and connected by fast and superfast broadband internet to analyse data from healthcare sources and correlate it with historical data from tracing apps.
Some important facts about statistics
There are two kinds of people in the world: scientists and people like you and me. These two types of people see the world very differently. Here are two examples from the COVID-19 outbreak.
The graph. This is what a graph looks like to a scientist (remember we include statisticians here because they understand numbers, whereas politicians do not).
And this is what it looks like to you and me (remember, we include politicians here because they are no different from you and me, even though they still refer to us as “the people” and themselves as “the government” or “the opposition”). What we see is some nice colours and shapes.
Charts & diagrams. Here is what a bar chart looks like to a scientist:
And this is what a complicated diagram looks like to us with lots of information in it: