Sympathy for the devil

A man that convinced many others that he could use magic to bring a lottery win has been sentenced to a long term in prison.

The Toronto Star devotes a few thousand words to this story, but I’ll confess I have very little sympathy for the victims. The one most prominently mentioned in the story had 105,000 CAD in free cash to spend on this jaw-droppingly stupid scam. The devil (for whom I’m not really sympathetic either; he deliberately fooled gullible people, preying on their mental weakness—evil) was not Bernie Madoff, preying on friendships and moving money around in a Ponzi scheme; this scam was transparently fake from the first words.

Particularly interesting (to me) is how the writer of the Star article somehow treats the victims’ idiocy as a non-issue.

Rand Paul and mandatory vaccination

Rand Paul vaccinatedRand Paul, whatever his other flaws and virtues, is a physician, so his comments on vaccination on Monday caused considerable eyebrow-raising, and accusations, muted or not, of either pandering to the tinfoil brigade or of his not being a very good physician.

Will Wilkinson at The Economist parses Dr Paul’s comments, and gives a cogent (IMO) “liberaltarian” defence of (virtually) mandatory vaccination.

Jesus and Mo

The author of Jesus and Mo hits the rhetorical nail on the head. You can’t insult an idea.

A cartoon shows four panels of Jesus and Mohammed in bed, reading and talking

Associated Press censors itself

Apparently, right-wing pressure has caused the Associated Press to remove a picture from its library. Read Conservative values: opportunism and cowardice. Because we mustn’t offend anyone! The picture is a work of art exploring the edges of sacrilege. Sorry, people, this is the real world. You do not have a right to remain comfortably unchallenged at all times.

So in case you’re wondering what it looks like, the golden image of Immersion (Piss Christ) is here.

A crucifix with Christ on the cross in a golden glow from the urine he's submerged in

Piss Christ by Andres Serrano (1987)

The image is from Wikipedia, which has a discussion of the picture and its provocative title.

Llama antibodies may lead to new treatments for HIV

Antibodies found in llamas are smaller and denser than ours and may be better at getting at receptor sites that the HIV binds to. Five antibodies against HIV, which work in vitro, have been identified. There’s still the problem that our antibodies may react against the llama antibodies. Read about the newly discovered llama antibodies.

The image below compares a human antibody to a llama antibody.

llama-antibody

I’m surprised that this is controversial

Recent findings that two-thirds of all cancers are likely due to random chance have brought some surprising pushback. There’s an emotional reason for hoping that it’s all controllable, but that’s simply not likely. Cells mutate at random; the body’s defence systems clear out most of them; but by a second chance, some are missed. Get used to it. Eating your veggies won’t prevent all cancers. Read “On the importance of luck.”

The first pterosaur fossil showing complete wings

The first fossil showing the extent of the wing membranes of a pterosaur was found back in 1873.

Ferris Jabr has posted a picture: pterosaur wings.

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