Time-traveling Danube Dubstep in my BBQ [Weekly Head Voices #58]

The title is pretty close to pure gobbledygook, but that’s what you get when the foundations of physics seem to have been rattled every so slightly. Let’s first take a gander at this gentleman, pointed out to me by TNR, as he rattles the foundations of absolutely insane facial expressions. He really gets going at about 23 seconds into the video:

The insane asylum soundtrack accompanying this artwork belongs to the music genre called Dubstep, music that is notoriously hard to dance well to. However, the following gentleman seems to have mastered the art just perfectly (if you’re really pressed for time, start watching at 1:13):

At this junction, as they say, you might be wondering why I’m showing you dubstep videos. Well, I have only the following to offer: Alliteration!

You see, this week I flew to Vienna (unfortunately not under my own power yet) for a meeting with some old and some new friends (Graz, my man in Vienna, Rostock, Bergen, Delft) to set up a new EU research project. It’s just grand when you sit around the table discussing the ins and outs of a research project and realise that the convenors have managed to put together a perfect team in terms of skill set but more importantly also in terms of social interaction. Cross your fingers that the thing gets granted, then I’ll be able to tell you more.

On the topic of flying, you will not have missed that CERN LHC scientists measured an ever-so-small discrepancy in the arrival time of neutrinos travelling over 732 km through the Earth (I wish I could do that) to Gran Sasso.  The neutrinos seemed to have arrived 60.7 nanoseconds earlier than they should have, had they been traveling at the speed of light.


The scientists really did their best to explain that the devastating impact of this result, were it to be true, necessitates further study to find for example hitherto unknown systematic errors that could be the cause. The media of course had great difficulty not sensationalising the whole business. Personally, my money is naturally not on faster than light travel. Whatever the case may be, this world event has resulted in the prerequisite physics jokes. My favourite is this one, via @flyosity on twitter:

“We don’t allow faster than light neutrinos in here”, said the bartender. A neutrino walks into a bar.

On the topic of world events, Saturday September 24 was the South African national Braai Day. BRAAI DAY PEOPLE! As is the duty and pleasure of every red-blooded Saff Efrican I fired up my BBQ on Saturday. On Sunday, I did so again, this time with some of them lovely rib-eye steaks (yes, after years of practice I make a perfect medium-rare pink-in-the-middle steak on the barbie) and, even more importantly, joined by a full complement of my super-social neighbours. Perfect weather, scorched animal parts, zillions of kids running around (not scorched), beer and friends: Life is exceptionally good.

For this week’s backyard philosophy, I wanted to bring under your attention Steven Pinker’s new book, to be released on October 4 and titled The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has DeclinedPinker is a well-known experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, linguist and popular science author with a penchant for evolutionary psychology. In this book, Pinker argues that we humans currently find ourselves  in the most peaceful time of our species’ existence. Looking back through history, it becomes apparent that we’ve been becoming persistently less violent over the past hundreds of years. I find that an absolutely marvelous observation!

Let me conclude with suitable Pinker quote, found on this Pharyngula post (emphasis mine):

I think the final and perhaps the most profound pacifying force is an “escalator of reason.” As literacy, education, and the intensity of public discourse increase, people are encouraged to think more abstractly and more universally, and that will inevitably push in the direction of a reduction of violence. People will be tempted to rise above their parochial vantage point, making it harder to privilege their own interests over others. Reason leads to the replacement of a morality based on tribalism, authority and puritanism with a morality based on fairness and universal rules. And it encourages people to recognize the futility of cycles of violence, and to see violence as a problem to be solved rather than as a contest to be won.