BRENDAN. FUCKING. RODGERS.

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There’s only one Brendan Rodgers. His name was sung so loud it’s still reverberating round Anfield, bouncing off that glorious scoreboard that’s probably a little worn out from trying to keep up with Liverpool this year.

Another unbelievable scoreline in an unbelievable season of thrashings, which has seen teams not just beaten, but humiliated, begging for the whistle to blow so they can taste the sweet relief of defeat. Crawl back to their team coach and drive far, far away from that hellish place where teams go to die. Anfield.

Brendan Rodgers has not just met his own challenge of making Anfield a fortress again, he’s smashed it. At times Liverpool play at a pace and ferociousness that is simply unplayable. Big teams, little teams, teams who play in blue and get ideas above their station, all have been annihilated in front of the baying red crowd. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

At some point it’s easy to imagine Rodgers striding onto the field as in that famous Gladiator scene, as yet another team lies broken, and scream “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?”

Brendan_Rodgers_2816006b

Rodgers has done so much, in so little time it’s easy to forget what he took on. A side struggling in the league, in serious need of rebuilding with no real plan or style. Sure, the football wasn’t bad, but from one week to the next you never got a sense of what a finished Liverpool side would be like.

Well we do now, and it just put 4 past the league leaders in under 20 minutes. It made the film 300 look like a Disney fairytale. It was brutal, relentless, terrifying. Wave after wave of pressure, smashing Arsenal into submission then going again. And again. And again. That, was death by football.

If you cast your mind back, Rodgers inherited a side that amassed just 52 points in the league that season. We lost as many matches as we won, and 5 of those defeats came at home. It featured Andy Carroll and Charlie fucking Adam, ambling around the Anfield turf like a hippopotamus with veins full of nougat. It was as it finished up, an 8th place side.

In two short years under Rodgers’ stewardship those 52 points has become 50 before the second week of February. We’ve already won one more match than in the whole of that season, with 13 games left to go. His Liverpool, who went top of the league at Christmas, have won all but 2 games at Anfield, only one losing blip on the home record. The Carroll’s and Adam’s are long gone, their lumbering movements replaced by incisive, intelligent attacks by the likes of Coutinho and Sturridge. It’s a remarkable change.

But it’s not over. And that, perhaps, is the most impressive thing. We look like a genuine top 4 side, and he’s not even finished his second season here. We have a style, a swagger, a real plan that we’re moving forward with every game. He has made mistakes, he will continue to make them. He is young, and as this young team grows, so will he, its a learning curve we are going through together, and one I wouldn’t want to go through with anyone else.

I fucking love Brendan. I love his wonderful, soothing voice. I love his blindingly white teeth that could guide ships in the fog. I love the way he celebrates our goals, I love how he talks about “the group” and says “outstanding” a lot. The man wore a brown suede suit for fucks sake, I can’t not love that.

I could go on and on about how he’s turned Henderson around, somehow improved Suárez even further, got Sturridge into world class form, shown balls over team selection, brought youngsters through and helped them grow. I could espouse for hours on his talents and how we’ve been flexible, fluid and changed tactics and formations throughout the season to great effect. I love all that stuff and more, but what makes me really love him, is something I never expected he would do.

In the back of many fans heads, deep down where it’s dark and it’s gloomy and where those memories of defeat and the Hodge lie, he’s lit a fire. A faint, flickering glow that’s making us hopeful. Making us believe, if just for a moment, that we can not just come fourth, but win the fucking thing. He’s taken what we thought was possible for our young side, and thrown it out, replaced it with a Liverpool that’s mental, exciting, unfathomable, beautiful.

To borrow that little banner on the Kop from one of those glorious Champions League nights, slowly but surely, he’s making us dream.

Two Week Love Affair (Olympics)

“How much is this costing us? In the middle of a recession? 2 weeks of this boring, hyperbole filled patriotic crap, no thanks.”

Oh, how wrong I was. How very, very wrong.
From the bizarre, but strangely awesome opening ceremony, ive been hooked. The Olympics waltzed into the bar, its pureness flowing like golden locks of heaven. It fluttered its eyelashes at me and i was in love.
Oh what an event. What a spectacle.
Coming from football, where everything is dirty, bloated and corrupt, to an event that is so wonderfully raw and somehow humble, it is like switching desserts from a treacle sponge to a light lemon sorbet. Its everything that football isn’t, and I love it.
I am not a patriotic man, but that stems from a disconnect from those at the top of the power pyramid, the ridiculous monarchy and the pompous out of touch politicians, bickering like children while the real people of this country struggle on. But deep down, hidden away until now, I love this country. I love the people of this country. Danny Boyle’s fantastic opening ceremony was very much a celebration of those people, and the things they did to make this country what it is. It was basically a 4 hour show of “things that Tories hate”, and I loved it.
Then the events started. Oh the events!
Rowing, cycling, hockey, tennis, swimming, diving! Oh its glorious! And whats this? Handball? Wow that’s amazing. Basketball? Awesome! Boxing, taekwondo, gymnastics, table tennis, oh this is fantastic! What? Track and field hasn’t started yet? Sweet mother of god.
I have watched, and loved more sport this past fortnight than I ever have. I am lucky to have a job where there is a TV on constantly, and I’ve watched literally ALL THE SPORTS.

Queen of the Olympics

I have been head over heels in love with the Olympics, watching Jessica Ennis take gold in the heptathlon, Mo Farah taking the 10,000 and 5,000m double, the rowers, Sir Chris Hoy powering to his 5th gold medal, Bradley Wiggins’ immense gold, Vicky Pendleton’s silver swan song, the rise of new stars in Laura Trott, Jason Kenny and Jade Jones among others, Katherine Granger and Anna Watkins’ spine tingling reaction to winning gold, Nicola Adams making history in the women’s boxing, Ben Ainsley becoming the greatest sailor in history, Gemma Gibbons breaking down in tears in her Judo semi final, Tom Daley winning bronze, Peter Wilson taking gold in the shooting, the Brownlee brothers, Andy Murray! I cheered on Andy Murray, someone I’ve never warmed to. I was nearly in tears watching Mo Farah win the double last night, I’ve never felt like that watching sport.
Amongst all this, behind every moment has been without doubt the best commentating I have ever witnessed. No agenda, no sarcasm, no pettiness, just enthusiastic, knowledgeable, passionate commentators. They have been outstanding, how some of them keep their cool when it’s all going on is beyond me. They have all been fantastic, apart from Colin Jackson, who has been hilarious alongside Micheal “cool as a motherfucker” Johnson. When Colin is flapping about like a teenage idiot, Micheal has been sat there, with just a small grin on his cool face, its been brilliant.

One of many brilliant moments.

I’ve discovered a new sport to love, Basketball, I’ve discovered new sporting heroes (if you want to call them that) in people like Laura Trott, ive watched in awe as these humble superhumans go about their business with this unexpected wave of emotion when they win a medal.
Piers Morgan has been up in arms about athletes not singing the national anthem when they win gold. Why? Why should these people who have dedicated their lives for this one, fleeting moment of glory have to do anything when they are stood there, in front of their home crowd, after winning a gold medal? The Queen doesn’t matter, it’s not about her, the national anthem is as out of touch as she is, it doesn’t represent our values or us the people of Britain. They are what matters, the fans, the people, that’s what every single athlete has praised when they’ve done well, how incredible the crowds have been. So what if Chris Hoy doesn’t sing the anthem, he just won 5 gold medals, he can do what the fuck he wants as far as I’m concerned. Another thing Piers has missed the point on, is that many athletes are stood there in tears on that podium, they are so incredibly emotional that they can barely keep their eyes open, let alone sing. He’s painting them as disappointments when they’ve just WON A FUCKING GOLD MEDAL, he can do one the pompous knob.

Just people.

The Olympics has nestled itself into a special place in my heart, even outside the British athletes, everything is incredible, China’s diving wonders, America’s swimming dominance, Phelps grabbing his 18th gold medal, Usain Bolt becoming the greatest ever sprinter, Blake giving him a run for his money, Oscar Pistorius, AKA “The Bladerunner”, the Russian high jumper that looked like Sideshow Bob, Brazil taking their first ever gold in the gymnastics, USA decimating in the basketball, it’s all been so wonderful to watch. Athletes from all countries embracing each other, south korean players hugging north korean opponents, Iranian athletes with Americans, the first Saudi Arrabian woman athlete taking part, cheered home all the way by the crowds. There was a woman from Turkey who pulled her hamstring badly in the first half a lap of her 800m heat, she finished it, grimacing all the way round because this is the Olympics and nothing was going to take that moment away from her, an American sprinter actually broke his leg and still completed his part in the relay race because he “didn’t want to let his team down”. He broke his leg, and didn’t even bother to stop because that would have let his team down.

“Blade Runner”

 

This is what I’ve loved about the Olympics, it’s not about tribal loyalties and bickering, booing the opposition to put them off, every political or personal agenda is left at the door, these are just people who want to compete. It’s the old “it’s not the winning, it’s the taking part” phrase encapsulated in one beautiful spectacle. The person who finishes last is cheered as hard as the one who takes gold, sure the winner takes the limelight, but even those that come at the back are cheered and congratulated just for being there.

Redgrave

 

This was perfectly when Mark Hunter and Zac Purchase took silver in the rowing, just being edged out by Denmark. “I’m sorry, we let you down” was the remark after they got out, then Sir Steve Redgrave, 5 time olympic champion and one of the greatest sportsmen in history put an arm round their shoulder, “you’ve not let anyone down.” Everyone broke into tears, here was a man who won gold in 5 Olympic games, telling these lads that they’ve done everyone proud, imagine what that feels like. Tom Daley took bronze in the individual diving and everyone partied like he’d just won 10 gold medals, because any medal is an unbelievable achievement, and every single one of those athletes who won a medal, every single one of those athletes that took part, deserve an immense congratulations, because every single one of them has made me and the whole country proud.

The Mo-Bolt

All this isn’t very well written I admit, but I had to acknowledge just how special the Olympics has been and how utterly wrong I was about it in the run up to the games.
And today it ends, as quick as it started, my beloved fling will exit stage left and it will be a long 4 years until she walks back into my life. I don’t want it to end, I want to cling to this 2 week love affair and not let it go, but I know it has to. All good things have to end, and this, this magnificent, shining beacon of sport, this bonanza of pure athleticism stands above all others as the greatest show on earth.

Calculating A Players Worth

With the quotes from Brendan Rodgers on the ongoing situation with Agger, the prospect of losing one of our best players (again) is striking fear into the hearts of Liverpool fans everywhere.

“@BenSmithBBC: Rodgers on Agger: ‘Every player has his price. Daniel is a top player, loves the club. But you can never say never.'”

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“Every player has his price”, an unfortunate modern football phrase that I happen to agree with. This is football, no player is bigger than the club and better players have come and gone, and will come and go. But, and it is a big but, calculating that price isn’t simple.

In my opinion, a players value cannot be as easy as just how good is that player. Porto’s Hulk has a well documented release clause of £80m, is he an £80m player? No, but is it a stupid price tag to put on arguably your clubs best player? No.

You cannot simply value players on how good they are. Its the reason Joe Allen is currently locked in one of our many transfer sagas, with valuations of £15m+ floating round. Some have laughed at that, citing Arsenals recent purchase of Santi Cazorla for the same price. Allen is not on the same level as Cazorla, but they are valued the same, why?

Its to do with the players value to the club. They could be a £5m player, but worth tripple that because of several factors. Conversely, they could be a £25m player, valued less because of the state of the selling club.

For me, a players valuation depends on a certain amount of factors, outside of the simple how good a player they are.

1: A players worth to their area. How strong are they in their department, best player, squad player, youth?

Being the best player in their area increases that players value to the club

2: How deep the squad is in that area.

If you are down to your bare bones in a department, they are hugely valuable, hence why lower clubs will often fight to keep hold of a good player.

3: The players standing in the club.

A clubs captain, a senior player or even a highly rated youth prospect will mean their value is increased.

4: Their skill set. Do they bring something unique to the club?

If a player does something that very few else offer, either with a particular talent, or being proficient in several roles, they are worth more.

5: How successful/secure the club itself is.

Top clubs can command the best players, lower clubs can’t compete, and so have to try harder both to find good players, and to keep the ones they have. The best clubs can often have talented players that aren’t getting playing time, forcing moves out of the club for less than they are worth. If a club is in financial difficulties, they might be forced to sell at a lower price.

6: Age and health.

Do they have a good injury record? How old are they? A player dogged with injury issues wont be able to command as high a fee. Same with players approaching their last years.

7: Contract.

A player on a long contract is under no pressure to leave. Alternatively, a player with a year left will either have to sign a new deal, or move clubs.

8: X-factor.

I loathe this term, but it’s something that you can’t quite put your finger on. A fan favourite player, someone who is loved by the fans or has perhaps had a great career with the club. It’s not tangible, but it does add value to a player.

These are the points that I consider to be most important when trying to figure out a players worth to a club. Using this, I’d like to try and calculate Aggers worth to Liverpool.

1. He is invaluable to his area. Our strongest area is defense, and he is the best player in that unit.

2. We aren’t that deep in defense, one of whom is an ageing Carragher, others include a young Coates, then reserve players.

3. He is a senior player in the club, he is a leader in defense and his country’s captain.

4. Agger offers a skill set that very few players in the world offers. He is a strong defender, a ball playing center back and a great footballer. There aren’t many players that have all those attributes.

5. We aren’t a top 4 club. Sorry guys, we aren’t. We cannot afford to let top players go if we do want to be a top 4 side. We cannot attract the cream of European defenders if he were to leave. The worry here is, we don’t know if we have to sell before we buy. I hope we don’t, because that’s no way to get back to the top.

6. He has had injury issues, this is his one negative point. Often blighted with problems, he has spent a lot of his time on the injury table.

7. He has 2 years on his contract, we don’t need to sell him. No issues here.

8. Agger is one of those players the fans have taken to their hearts. He obviously adores the club and has always said great things about us, he doesn’t want to go.

It’s clear that every player has a price that we have to consider selling at, as I’ve just shown, Agger offers a lot to this club and even with his injury problems, his footballing worth is more valuable to us than any cash we receive.

His value must be placed somewhere between 25 to £30m, because of his skill set, his standing in the side and him being part of our solid defense.

The club doesn’t have to sell him, he is happy and settled in Liverpool and loves the club. Even if an offer of say, £27m came in, it’s not nailed on that you should sell if that players valuation is met.

You have to consider the effect selling a top player has on the squad, it may cause others to question their place here if they feel the club isn’t being ambitious enough.

If a club, like we are right now, is in a transition, or building a new project, keeping stability is hugely important, and with that the value on almost all players increases, because if you are already having to make several changes to fit a new style or philosophy, you don’t want to have to add more problems for yourself.

Agger is a problem with a very simple solution. We don’t need to sell. He doesn’t want to leave. We shouldn’t sell our top players at this time, he shouldn’t be sold.

Teach The Controversy! (of there being no controversy)

Ever since the intelligent design movement snuck into the world, believers of it have come up with many clever sounding tidbits in order to try to persuade the uneducated that their bullshit has some basis in fact.

(Spoiler: it doesn’t)

They range from the intelligent sounding, but baseless “how could the eye have just evolved”, to my favourite “teach the controversy”.

This tiny line conveys two things. Firstly it implies that there is doubt over the validity of evolution, which there isn’t. At all. The second it suggests that the alternative to evolution is on an equal footing to the great theory itself.

Where to start. Ok, evolution isn’t some idea that was just plucked from nothing and then stated as fact. Since Charles Darwin first penned his idea down, with one of the most gorgeous little sketches I’ve ever seen, the evidence for evolution has skyrocketed.

 

 

Today, it’s not just proven itself as a scientific theory, it’s about as proven as it’s possible to be outside of mathematics.

Evolution happens. This is a 100%, take it to the bank fact. Genetic mutations happen, this is not something that can be disproven because we have seen it happen. We have made it happen. No amount of magic wizardry will change this fact.

The theory of evolution explains how these mutations happen, how they are selected for through natural selection, sexual selection etc and how environmental changes or the introduction of a new predator allow for these mutations to change an organism over hundreds of generations, sometimes taking millions of years.

To say the evidence for evolution is overwhelming is an understatement. If you imagine the evidence for intelligent design could fill a teacup, the evidence for evolution would fill the entire observable universe several times over. That is to say, there is no evidence for intelligent design aside from one fairytale book, while the evidence for evolution encompasses a dozen independent disciplines and has amassed literally hundreds of thousands of pieces of corroborating, verifiable proof.

You can never be sure of a theory in science, because new evidence could be unearthed that could change something, but if you put a gun to my head and asked me to point to a theory that I thought would never, ever be thrown away, it would be evolution. This isn’t born out of faith or a dogmatic desire for it to be kept there, it’s because I have spent years looking over the evidence for evolution and it is simply astonishing just how solid it is.

The alternative to evolution is intelligent design, and it postulates that because the universe looks incredibly ordered and precise, that is must have been designed that way. It suggests that some unknown thing designed and then created everything we see around us.

Hold up a second….this sounds familiar. Where have we heard this before?

Religion! Ahh yes, of course, who else would want to discredit evolution so much that it had to create another name for its bullshit because its original bullshit was banned from being taught as fact in schools.

Intelligent design is a slightly different, but equally dangerous beast. It will use fancy, sciency sounding spin to paint this picture of doubt about evolution.

Can I just take a moment to express just how fucking ridiculous it is that in 2012 I am having to defend logic and reasoning. What are we? Two years fucking old, do we still think Santa brings us presents? Fuck a duck this shit pisses me off.

Anyway, where was I? Ahh yes, intelligent design, or ID for short has managed to rope in some “scientists” to help push their falsehoods. Chief of whom is Michael Behe, or to give him his full title Dr Michael “discredited by his own university because he spouts so much bollocks” Behe.

Pictured: Moron

He says that certain cells, organs bacteria etc, are irreducibly complex, this means that they are so complex that the understanding of evolution cannot explain how they came to be like that, therefore it must be an intelligent designer.

 

This is firstly, wrong.  And secondly, hilarious.

 

It’s a 4 year old’s understanding of the world. “Well, I don’t understand how it works, therefore it cannot be explained and it must be magic”.

It can be, and has been explained, so much so that Behe’s own department at his university released a statement to say they totally disagree with Behe’s views. His. Own. Department.

Think about that, ID’s own headline star was so wrong about his views of science that his own biology department actively sort to tell the world they don’t share them. That’s how wrong he  is.

From the outside the idea of irreducible complexity seems legit, it has a fancy sounding name, it sounds like science, it sounds like people have actually researched this. I can see why people get drawn in.

But really, it’s just a gimmicky way of saying “well it looks designed, so it must have had a designer”. Sound as impressive now? Or just simplistic?

If Behe was as knowledgeable as he makes out to be, he might have done some actual research into his ideas, as his peers did. And his peers ripped the absolute piss out of it.

The flagellum is the often referred to bacterium that Behe deemed too complex to have evolved in gradual steps. Until people showed that’s exactly how it evolved.

See here for a perfect dissection of the flimsiness of Behe’s argument and how wet and limp his attempts to discredit evolution are:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/punctuated-equilibrium/2011/jan/10/2

Just because you don’t understand how something evolved gradually doesn’t actually matter, the evidence tells us that it happens. The evidence speaks for itself.

But why let a metric shit ton of proof stand in the way of a premeditated attack on evolution.

Teach the controversy they cry, proclaiming that their ID deserves to be taught alongside evolution in science classrooms as an alternative.

Ok then, are we going to “teach the controversy” about other things?

Teach alchemy alongside chemistry.

Teach astrology alongside astronomy.

Teach magic alongside physics.

Teach that the earth is flat alongside the theory it’s round.

Teach the theory of cosmic syrup alongside gravity.

Teach tales of mythical creatures alongside zoology.

Teach the earth is 6000 years old alongside that it’s 4.54 billion years.

Teach that storks deliver babies alongside natural birth.

Etcetera, etcetera. There is no more controversy in any of those theories than there is in evolution. If anything, evolution is more proven than most of them.

LET THE KIDS DECIDE!

 

Intelligent design, as well as being deceitful, dangerous, and a woeful attempt to disguise religion, is a pathetic excuse of an explanation of anything. Ok, lets say it’s true. Let’s say that it was designed, what then?

Who designed it? How did they design it? Why did they design it? Who designed them? Do they need a designer? If not, why not? It offers no explanation of anything, it would take everything we know about how the laws of physics work and biological systems operate and replace it with nothing. It doesn’t explain a fucking thing, it doesn’t even explain itself and could never explain itself because it would have to lie outside of the natural laws of physics because they do not allow for giant magic beings that can clap something into existence.

 

 

For something to be an explanation, it has to actually explain something. It has to offer a how to the question posed. It has to show the process of what’s happening, you can’t just go “because it did” and expect that to be enough.

If intelligent design proponents can come forward with some cold, hard evidence to how their idea works, and show us with empirical proof how it works and the processes involved then great, let’s get on that Nobel prize-winning data, because it will be the biggest discovery in all history.

But until then, until you can actually show how it works, please, go back to your religions and stay away from the big kids table, we’re trying to do science here.

 

 

That Higgs Boson Thingy

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past 10 years, you must have heard of the Higgs boson, or by it’s tagline “the God particle”. It’s the current star of news show physics, alongside the machine built to detect it, the Large Hadron Collider.

But what exactly is this superstar particle and why is everyone going nuts over it?

Particle collision which may have produced a Higgs boson

First, we must look at the area of physics that it is part of. The universe around us has been found to be made of twelve fundamental particles, governed by four fundamental forces, the electromagnetic force, the strong and weak nuclear forces, and the  gravitational force.

Each of the fundamental forces has a different strength and range, the strong nuclear force being incredibly strong, but only at an atomic level, gravity being by far the weakest but works over an infinite range.

We know that three of these forces result from the exchange of force carrier particles, which belong to a group called ‘bosons’. Matter particles transfer tiny amounts of energy by exchanging bosons with each other.

Each fundamental force has its own corresponding boson particle. The strong force is carried by the ‘gluon’, the electromagnetic force is carried by the ‘photon’, and the ‘W and Z bosons’ are responsible for the weak force. The ‘graviton’ is the theoretical particle that is supposed to carry the gravitational force, but has not been (and will never be, due to the nearly undetectable nature of gravitons) proven under experimental conditions.
These different particles, the bosons, quarks, leptons and such, help to build up the standard model, our most accurate view of what our universe is made from.

The Standard Model

So we have basic particles, fundamental forces and the particles that carry these forces, but where does the Higgs boson fit in to all this?

In the 1970’s, physicists realized that there are very close ties between two of the four fundamental forces  the weak force and the electromagnetic force. The two forces can be described within the same theory, which forms the basis of the Standard Model. This ‘unification’ implies that electricity, magnetism, light and some types of radioactivity are all manifestations of a single underlying force called, unsurprisingly, the electroweak force.

But in order for this unification to work mathematically, it requires that the force carrying particles (bosons) have no mass. We know from experiments that this isnt the case, so physicists Peter Higgs, Robert Brout and François Englert came up with a solution to solve this conundrum.

They suggested that all particles had no mass just after the Big Bang. As the Universe cooled and the temperature fell below a critical level, an invisible force field called the ‘Higgs field’ was formed together with the associated ‘Higgs boson’. The field prevails throughout the cosmos, any particles that interact with it are given mass via the Higgs boson. The more they interact with the Higgs field, the heavier they become, whereas particles that never interact are left with no mass at all, like photons.

How the Higgs field theoretically works

Finding the Higgs would be a big moment in physics, it would help confirm the standard model as correct as it predicts there should be a Higgs particle. It would also explain why things have mass, particularly why the photon has no mass, but the W and Z bosons are incredibly massive.

So far, experiments at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland have hinted that there is something around the energy range scientists expect to find the Higgs, but it has not been confirmed as a discovery because the experiments have to stand up to a very strict ranking system called the sigma scale.

The sigma scale is the scale of how likely a result is to happen. In order for a discovery to be announced, it must reach a five sigma rating, meaning that there is a one in a million chance there is a signal there without there being a new particle. Rumors are that the data is close to this level, with reports of 4.5 to 5 sigma ratings for the Higgs.

It seems a case of when, not if the Higgs is discovered, but its the future of physics that makes the hopeful confirmation so exciting. The existance of the Higgs boson at lower energy collisions (as is looking likely) would open the door to explore supersymmetry, a core component of string theory, and which is the leading contender in the conundrums of dark matter and dark energy, incredibly mysterious substances that makes up around 98% of our universe, but we can’t detect any of it.

Dark Matter. Like this, but everywhere, and we cant see it, or detect it at all.

 

So not only is the Higgs boson an incredibly important particle for the physics we are studying now, it will be the first stepping stone to what has been called beyond standard model physics.

The next few days will be incredibly interesting to watch, as scientists at the LHC calculate their data, and are looking increasingly likely to confirm the existence of the Higgs boson. But it’s the path and the future that it points to, which will be most interesting of all.
Suggested further reading:
In depth article on supersymmetry.

Public. Y U No Love Science? (A Rant)

No one reads science just for the sake of learning. Why? It’s (excuse my language) fucking amazing. It blows my shitting mind every time New Scientist drops onto my mat, learning about dark magnetism, muons, how we evolved speech, how mutations work, what the inside of the LHC looks like, growing medicines from plants, mining comets, bose-einstein condensates, biotech research, sprites, carbon nanotubes, ferrofluids, aerogel, perfluorocarbons and a billion other amazing things that are just ridiculously fascinating.

Why don’t people like this? Why do people find science boring or dull? I can’t think of anything better than discovering something new, learning about a bizarre phenomenon and going “wow, that’s how that works”. Seriously, Google a few of those things up there if you see something you haven’t heard of before, it will rock your world.

 

Knowledge is what we do. Our species crave understanding, we demand answers and when we can’t find them, we build enormous machines to find them because, well because we just want to fucking know what’s going on in this bat shit crazy universe.

Sadly, science still has this air of mystery about it, which is equally frustrating and baffling. Science is about information, it’s about sharing ideas and advancing knowledge, it couldn’t be a more open concept if it tried. If I want to learn about anything, say how bones grow, I would Google it and read any number of articles on how it works, from very, very simple writings, to full in-depth articles explaining the finer details of osteoblasts and lower-functioning osteocytes. Whatever your starting point, fresh out of school, to PhD level, the information is available. So why do so few grab this information by its balls and demand it release it’s knowledge juice? (Bad analogy, scratch that).

The point stands though, when I left school I was left wanting for more. I was bored easily and with a fairly unchallenging job, began reading about evolution. I had a decent understanding about it, from biology lessons and arguing with creationists, but I wanted to dig deeper. A few weeks later I had read hundreds of pages of information on fossilisation, natural selection, sexual selection, DNA, gene mutations, gene sequencing, dinosaurs, human evolution, Charles Darwin’s life, ring species, the Galapagos islands and so much more. I loved it, I couldn’t get enough. I was like a sponge, soaking in the sea of knowledge on the internet.

Sadly, most people still see science as this unknowable, unfathomable mystical thing that will blow your brain out if you even dare to attempt to look at a web page explaining quantum mechanics. That shit has quantum in the title, and who the fuck knows what that even means.

Is it hard? Fuck yes, if it was easy we’d know everything by now. But it isn’t hard to start digging and looking at some articles. Formula 1 is hard, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ever drive a car, it’s an entire world away and the beginning is really simple.

As I mentioned earlier, even difficult subjects can be simply explained and understood, there’s just a depressing lack of enthusiasm about science, which is baffling because it is just so awe-inspiring.

Just think about where you are right now. At work, at home, on a train, think about where you are in the universe. How you got here. The processes that are happening right now to you and around you. Reading this article you will have moved millions of miles around a gigantic ball of fusing hydrogen, a little blue spec of rock whipping through space. Meanwhile trillions of neutrinos are passing straight through your body right now, without you even noticing. You are a product of billions of years of evolution, from a tiny single-celled organism, right through to you.

How is that not amazing? How does looking at the night sky, seeing a litter of stars glinting back at you from an incomprehensibly massive universe not make you shit your pants in amazement?

Why isn’t this beautiful, complex natural universe celebrated more? Why does it fail to hold our attention? WHY!?

There are theories in science that explains how 1 particle can be in 2 different locations at the same time. And how a liquid will climb up and out of a beaker on its own. And why time runs slower at different places. And how everything around you is made of empty space. And that there is a planet made entirely of diamond. And that there is something we can’t detect that makes up most of the universe. And that just  looking at a particle can change what it does. And there is a star that is 1,500 times the size of our sun. And that this may be one of an infinite universes, with an infinite number of possibilities, one of which you have the power of Thor, live in a castle on the top of a mountain and your job is to test drive formula one cars in between being personal underwear assistant to Katy Perry, while eating cookies, that rain from the sky, while dinosaurs roam round, shooting lasers from their fucking heads.

Pictured: Science

 

Seriously, how fucking awesome is science!

3 Parent IVF. A Bit Of Common Sense

I’m sure you have all seen the scaremongering headlines, probably from the Daily Mail, about “3 parent IVF” and if you don’t know what you’re talking about, like the Mail, you might be wary of such a weird and ethically troublesome piece of science. But is it that morally unsure?
 
Firstly, we have to look at exactly what this process involves.

The technique that has been in the news recently is called “pronuclear transfer”, and starts by fertilising a woman’s egg with a man’s sperm using IVF. The nucleus (center of a cell with all the genetic information) of the fertilised egg can then be transferred into an emptied nucleus in another egg in the same way.

The fertilised egg has 98 per cent of its DNA in the nucleus. Half from the mother and half from the father. The remaining 2 per cent is what’s known as mitochondrial DNA – DNA in the cells’ factory that are found outside of the egg’s nucleus, and are inherited solely from the mother.

Mutations in this mitochondrial DNA can cause genetic diseases in children. Some can be incredibly serious and often fatal conditions such as muscular dystrophy. (More information on mitochondrial diseases can be found here.

This technique of IVF, using donor eggs with mutation-free mitochondria, aims to try and eliminate these diseases. It is estimated that this process could save over 100 newborns a year from dying of various diseases.

Sounds great so far right? Where the problems start is when people, who we will refer to as “Daily Mail morons”, read a scary headline and know nothing at all about the process get on their highest of horses and proclaim this to be some sort of genetic tampering abomination. Most likely they will have found a way to liken it to the cliched “wanting perfect children”, or blame it on immigrants.

The Tory MP Nadine Dorries ridiculously claimed on Channel 5’s Wright Stuff program last week, that this process could lead to the “3rd parent” trying to lay claim to the child years later. Now, on the face of it, you might not think it’s that ridiculous, but it is. It really is.

Remember, the mitochondrial DNA accounts for 2% of all the cells DNA. This DNA isn’t responsible for characteristics or eye colour, temperament, whether you go bald at 22,  or anything like that, it’s simply there to supply energy for the cell. Thats it. In total, around 0.1% of a child’s overall DNA comes from mitochondrial DNA.

Zero point one percent. You couldn’t lay claim to a child conceived this way any more than you could lay claim to David Beckhams kids. It’s a farcical claim made my someone who has done no research, spent no time looking into it and just saw some overall drivel in the Mail and regurgitated it. To millions.

This is exactly what’s wrong with the way science is portrayed to the public. In general, people don’t take too much notice of science (despite it being responsible for literally everything in their lives, but that’s another rant). They see some headlines, hear someone talking about something and that’s it. No one does any digging for themselves, and it irritates me.

Take this for example. I’ve read on this technique before, but even if I hadn’t, it takes 5 minutes to Google “3 parent IVF” and read three or four good, easily understandable articles on it. All of which debunk any idea of there being any moral issues with it.

“3 parent IVF” is a bit of a misnomer, as the third person involved isn’t technically or legally a parent, they are simply offering a healthier factory in which to conceive their egg.

I’m not a scientist, I don’t have any vested interest in any areas of research or have any advanced degrees in scientific education, and I could still talk more sense and provide more information than 90% of anyone on a TV panel show or journos in the tabloid media.

It would be absurd to have someone pandering on about complex financial systems, or psychology, or engineering without them being well educated in the subject, yet it happens all the time with the media and science.

People read a newspaper report, which has probably left out some details to stir up some controversy, then they proclaim it like they know what they are talking about.

I actually had a very heated debate about two years ago on this very subject, when it was being trialled on monkeys. They hadn’t read anything on it, just a small article in a newspaper. They then stood there trying to argue how morally wrong it all was and that it was awful that we were even thinking about doing this with people. I of course blew it all out of the water, using some facts and common sense, but without that debate how would they have known any different? They would’ve believed what was there and that’s that.

Education is key. We need better standards of science reporting, The Times has really stepped up it’s efforts and with their Eureka magazine (put in as a free magazine the first Thursday of every month) it is among the best newspapers around for science, along with the Independent.

If you can afford it, I strongly recommend New Scientist magazine, it is a fantastic weekly magazine with news, articles and opinion pieces. It ranges from basic explanations to more complicated, but it’s all easily understandable without sacrificing information.

We need to strive for quality reporting, or we end up with situations like the farcical MMR-Autism shitstorm we had a few years ago, where people actually died through bad, misleading reporting of science.

Pictured: Dangerous reporting

People from the Daily Mail (not that they read this, being too busy writing angry letters to people over immigration, using their fancy Princess Diana stationary set) need to chill the fuck out and actually research something before jumping on the “this is ethically outrageous” bandwagon they, and the media love.

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