Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Darling little devil

A scientific report from Sydney University on the carnivorous marsupial known as the Tasmanian devil [Sarcophilus harrisii], found only in that Australian island state, reveals that the milk of this endangered animal contains an impressive antimicrobial arsenal. We humans possess a single variety of such a substance, whereas the charming little Tasmanian animal has six varieties. This means that its immune system is considerably more powerful than ours, and might even be used to guide future human-oriented research in this domain.

If the Tasmanian devil has developed such a powerful immune system, it’s because they’ve had to learn to survive in a particularly dirty environment in which its food comprises varieties of dead animals, mammals, fish and insects. Since baby devils are born prematurely, researchers simply couldn’t imagine how they managed to survive on such nasty food… and that’s why they decided to study their milk.

These days, the development of powerful bacteria capable of defending us against Staphylococcus is a major goal in medical research. The Review of Antimicrobial Resistance states that, in 2050, deaths from bacterial infections might occur at the rate of one every three seconds… which would be more than cancer deaths.

Dreamworld in Australia turns into a tragedy

A mortal accident took place in Dreamworld, the major aquatic theme park on the Gold Coast in Queensland. (Many years ago,  my grandfather from Burleigh Heads took my children and me to see a dolphin pool in an early version of the site.)  A few hours ago, four people—two 25-year-old couples—died at Thunder River Rapids in circumstances that remain unexplained.

Here’s a recent video of the pleasant raft ride, apparently far more dangerous than what innocent people imagined:

"Attention, riders : Please keep your hands
and arms inside the boat at all times."

Monday, October 24, 2016

Jungle at Calais is losing its people

The French government's plan to remove the so-called Jungle at Calais seems to be working well. Here are images from the early stages of the evacuation:

On Tuesday morning, observers had the impression that the evacuation had been carried out in excellent conditions. While it's still too early to know whether the evacuation process has been totally successful, I feel that French government authorities deserve congratulations on the professional harmonious handling of this affair.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

It is indeed quite a big place

Click to enlarge slightly
Hubble Space Telescope view of thousands of galaxies made
during the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey.
Credit M. Giavialisco/University of Massachusetts, Amherst and NASA

The more we learn about the universe, the less we grasp. It’s simply too big and too complicated to understand… and I’m not even sure that the words I’ve just written make any sense. In any case, the central premise of William’s Treatise on the Cosmos is that we humans were not designed to understand what it’s all about. We shouldn't even try to do so.  So let’s simply forget about that would-be question, best described as a non-question

Phil Collins is alive and kicking

Next spring, he’ll be carrying out a small tour of France, Germany and England, accompanied by his son on drums. “I want to do some concerts. If the public’s happy, then me too.” Click here to access a French-language video.

Political opinion of a distinguished intellectual

Jean d'Ormesson, 91, believes that Alain Juppé will indeed be the next president of France, but that his presidency will not go down in history as a remarkable era. In a nutshell, nothing much will happen in France. The brilliant and alert member of the French Academy considers Juppé as a kind of Jacques Chirac. I tend to agree.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Cartoonist on Trump

Click cartoon to enlarge

Nicolas Vadot is Franco-British and Australian.


Random morning message

There’s a nice French expression to designate a sudden urge: une envie de pisser [wish to pee]. That’s what happened to me a moment ago, leading up to the present message. It’s a philosophical viewpoint that has been pursuing me ceaselessly for a long time. So, here it is.

Our outlook on existence is totally biased by the particular dimensions of our observations, which define a mere window. We remain incapable of adopting windows that might be more macroscopic or microscopic.

• The first weakness means that, in spite of our gigantic windows out into space-time, we remain like ants who imagine their anthill as the entire universe.

• The second weakness means that, in spite of our fondness for elementary particles and string theory, we humans are not very good at dealing with things that are far smaller than what we see through our eye-glasses.

Besides, it’s funny that we introduce a direction into these two scale differences. What right do we have to say that, in the macroscopic case, existence appears to get bigger and bigger, whereas it’s smaller and smaller in the microscopic case? Maybe we should simply say that the differences are no more than changes in our two kinds of viewpoints, without claiming that one change is “bigger” and the other “smaller”.

For the moment, it’s primarily the second weakness that has inspired my matinal philosophy message… but nothing really changes when we move to the first weakness. All our human conclusions about what is good or bad, and what is right or wrong, have been concocted from within our familiar everyday window, at the level of human organs and our devices such as eye-glasses. For example, people use their normal viewpoint to encounter all kinds of happenings, from peace and love up to war and terror. This suggests that our above-mentioned human conclusions would no longer have the same sense if we were to modify our viewpoint, by moving in an up/down direction. In other words, morality is not a universal phenomenon. It’s rather a purely relative viewpoint-based affair.

Personally, I am both awed and frightened by this conclusion. For the moment, therefore, I avoid the temptation of accepting it completely.

Ah, if only our existence were to be nothing more than watching a rugby match! Sadly, at no instant in my existence has my life ever moved an instant into such a nirvana. That has always been my major problem...

New Yorkers love French art and France

Spencer Hays and his wife Marlene have just announced a huge future donation to the Musée d'Orsay in Paris: 600 paintings from the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th. This is the largest overseas donation to a French gallery since 1945.

Early arrival of a future Oscar winner

Click here to view a TV-studio performance
of Jean Dujardin in December 1996.

Friday, October 21, 2016

We all know that cheese stinks

So, why do we want to eat it? There must be some kind of logical answer. Well, there is… but it’s not necessarily a simple affair.

First of all, there are many people who love cheese. But there are also a great number of folk—roughly 6% of French society—who simply hate the stuff. So, what’s happening? Click here to access a French-language article and video on this subject.

Neuroscientists at the CNRS in Lyon and a biology laboratory in Paris have published a study, here, indicating that your appreciation or your hatred of cheese depends upon a small like/dislike gadget in the centre of your brain known as your globus pallidus. When your tastes are normal, the pallidus turns on a like icon. If not, it turns on a dislike icon. Now, insofar as your pallidus seems to work a little as if it were using FaceBook, I suggest that we refer to this cerebral organ as your CheeseBook gadget.

Iraqi forces at Mosul advance more rapidly than planned

Positive news from the Iraqi prime minister Haïder al-Abadi reached a high-level Franco-Iraqi meeting in Paris via a video link from Bagdad. An Iraqi diplomat, presiding over the meeting, warned however that victory in Mosul would not end completely the war against Daesh.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

New DNA found

 Omar Raddad in 2008

Newly-analyzed biological traces related to the murder of Ghislaine Marchal data would appear to confirm the presence of a previously-unknown individual whose data existed already in the automatically-updated French National File of Genetic Profiles [fichier national automatisé des empreintes génétiques — Fnaeg]. The official outcome of this spectacular discovery will be released in the next few days. We can hope that the identity of the real murderer will at last be known, proving the total innocence of Omar Raddad.

Old and new

Yesterday evening, I watched a wonderful US documentary describing the construction of the Great Pyramid. It was simply unbelievable.

This morning, I read an article in The Daily Examiner describing the future construction of a new bridge alongside my native town in Australia. It’s simply unbelievable. Click here to access the article. Director Mark Stevenson outlined the $185 million project. The new bridge will be built in three days, and we are told that building operations will be “a sight to see”.

The rusty crumbling old bridge is supposed to survive for ages.

Painful situation for high-priced TV sets

If you believe what you see, a fellow seems to have wandered into a shop at St Austell in southern England and accidentally destroyed several high-priced TV sets. It’s highly likely, though, that he was simply a professional actor who got paid for a smart publicity stunt. Click here to see this funny show.

An alert too many

On Tuesday evening, the excellent investigation show run by Elise Lucet wanted to illustrate the problems they had encountered in trying desperately to contact the French minister of Defence, Jean-Yves Le Drian, So, they screened a fake alert message, of the kind sent out by police when a child has been kidnapped.

There was just one big problem. At that same instant, a baby had in fact been kidnapped, and the police sent out an authentic alert message. But that was neither here nor there. The confusion simply added to the atmosphere of an excellent show, whose highlight was a no-holds-barred debate between the brilliant journalist and Christian Estrosi, mayor of Nice. The right-wing politician, with financial egg on his face, was being blasted for the costly deal he had struck up with a private firm in order to obtain for Nice a luxurious sporting stadium… which appears to be half-empty most of the time. As for the baby kidnapped in Grenoble by her father, she was soon found, unharmed. So, all's well that ends well.

Funnily enough, the people being blamed are not those who were responsible for the fake alert, but rather the police who created the authentic message. They were silly enough to write that the alleged kidnapper was a man "of the black race". It's high time those nitwits learned that there's only one human race on the planet Earth, Homo sapiens. And its possible colors are, not only black and white, but all those of the human rainbow.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Tired of the fog? Try the frogs!

Since the UK’s Brexit referendum, no holds are barred. Paris started a campaign on Monday, run by the Defacto company, in an attempt to woo business and talents from London.

French ecology star fails in the primary

The French press views the defeat of Cécile Duflot as a big surprise.

The contenders Yannick Jadot and Michèle Rivasi emerged victorious from the primary.

Waiting for the murderer to show up

Two journalists, Jean-Michel Laurence and Béatrice Fontenau, have published a book about a French criminal affair that remains unsolved, at least in theory : the Dupont de Ligonnès mystery.

Beneath the rear porch of a nondescript house in Nantes, in April 2011, police found the remains of an adult female and four young individuals.

 DNA tests revealed that the bodies were those of Agnès Dupont de Ligonnès and her four offspring: three sons and a daughter.

As for the father, Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès, no trace of him has been found since 15 April 2011, when he was seen leaving a low-cost hotel in Roquebrune-sur-Argens, carrying a bag on his back that might have contained a weapon. The police are looking out for him constantly.

Copies of my Jewish novel arrive on my doorstep

My decision to use the typescript of my Jewish novel for a self-publishing experiment was intended above all as an experiment, enabling me to understand the revolutionary Ingram-Spark system. My All the Earth is Mine script was totally familiar, because I had been playing around for years with this imaginary political-fiction tale, and the only graphical stuff in the future book would be a simple diagram of Israel. So, this test enabled me to build up confidence in myself before tackling the far more complicated challenges of my two genealogy books: A Little Bit of Irish and They Sought the Last of Lands. Funnily enough, I believe today that this crazy novel—inspired by my lengthy fascination for the Hebrew religion and language, not to mention my love of the modern land of Israel—was in fact a more profound writing endeavor than my two family-history studies. Meanwhile, bringing out this novel was a memorable initiation process for Gamone Press.

Donald Trunk strikes again

I don't know whether to call it groping or just plain snatching.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Picture says more than words

This website—Why Doctor?—deserves a prize for its choice of a good picture to illustrate their news article on an epidemic that has just hit France. The picture hints at the nature of the epidemic.

Tour de France 2017

Whatever happened to Brittany ? Northern France ? Grenoble ?
On the other hand, it's nice to see the Tour starting in Germany.
As for aircraft, they deserve to be given a jersey with a number.

Click map to enlarge it a little

Monday, October 17, 2016

Death is said to be just around the corner

I'll put the older fellow first.
And ask you to guess what they have in common.

Leonard Cohen, 82, is a famous Canadian singer.

Clive James, 77, is a well-known Australian writer. 

And what do they have in common ?
Well, they both see themselves permanently on the verge of death.
And they seem to take pleasure in describing this situation
and telling us complacently about all its subtleties.
I'm a little fed up with their imminent departures,
which end up boring me....
even more than Dylan's Nobel Prize.
But don't misunderstand me. I truly hope they both stay with us
until the proverbial cows come home.

Australian obliged to consult a psychologist

There are some strange brains Down Under. The Australian tennisman Nick Kyrgios, 21, has been suspended from competitions in principle until 15 January 2017 because of his unsportsmanlike behavior. If he wishes to return to the courts before then, Kyrgios is obliged to consult a psychologist. It’s a tough mission for a professional person. I’m talking, of course, of the psychologist. He or she had better be careful. If Kyrgios didn’t like what he heard, the psychologist might receive a direct smash.

Washington Post announces start of Mosul assault

Un article dans le Washington Post, aux alentours de 00.30 [heure de Paris], annonce que l’attaque contre Mossoul vient d’être lancée par les forces d’Iraq. Le journal français Le Monde confirme vers 1 h 20 : Le premier ministre irakien, Haïdar Al-Abadi, a annoncé le début de l’offensive dans la nuit de dimanche à lundi.

An article in the Washington Post, half an hour ago, announced that Iraqi forces were beginning their assault on Mosul.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Latest Brice de Nice is out


Is the title pronounced like the English words "ice" and "nice" ?
Or rather like the final syllable of "police" ?
Well, both pronunciations are possible and acceptable.
The correct pronunciation depends entirely on one thing only :
How you prefer to pronounce his name?

Peter Sagan world road champion

The Slovakian cyclist Peter Sagan, world road champion last year, has just defended his title in Qatar, beating Britain’s Mark Cavendish and Belgium’s Tom Boonen. Click here to see the finish. In France, we all love this fellow, both for his friendly personality and for his bike stunts… not to mention his great cycling achievements.

English female Mozart

Alma Deutscher, 11, has composed an opera, Cinderella, which will be presented at Vienna on 29 December. Here’s an early chamber version of the first act.

French balcony-builder will have some explaining to do

Last night at 11 o’clock, in the centre of the city of Angers, a third-floor balcony suddenly tore itself free and slid towards the ground, killing four students who had been calmly standing on it, celebrating the recent renting of the flat by friends. On its way down, the balcony tore away two lower balconies. The mayor announced that an inquiry will be held with the aim of detecting construction flaws. Click here for a video.

Our brains believe whatever they see

I imagine an experiment in which viewers are presented with a pair of twins, both of whom have an unidentified substance in their mouth. Viewers are told that one of the twins has a chunk of chewing gum, whereas the other has been tricked into chewing a poisonous substance that will inevitably end up killing her. Viewers are asked to study carefully the two chewing twins, for exactly a minute, and try to determine which one is soon to be poisoned.

The experiment works better if viewers are encouraged to use the major half of their brain : either the left hemisphere, or the right hemisphere. If viewers happen to be puzzled by this advice, they can be told that their brains will solve that problem automatically.

Obama informed on artificial intelligence

A French journalist at Libération was surprised by the fact that Barack Obama is sufficiently aware of artificial intelligence to be able to talk about this subject in an expert context, here.

                [Christopher Anderson/Magnum Photos]

Would French politicians be capable of behaving in the same way? The answer, I fear, is negative. I’ve always had the impression that many people in France feel they know what the expression “intelligence artificielle” signifies, more-or-less, but in fact their knowledge is quite superficial... mainly because they've never bothered to examine this subject. In totally different domains, the same kind of imaginary awareness exists in France for subjects such as the historicity of Jesus and the bible, and the principles of Darwinian evolution. People like to think they're cultivated in such fields, but they know next to nothing... even though they talk as if they did. That's France!