Asteroid death “not certain”

Great news! This learned writer (no: this one, not me) seems to suggest that humankind might actually have the technology and ability to prevent an asteroid strike which would likely end all life on earth.

As long as we have a few decades of warning time.

But: Great news! NASA is tracking loads of these potential planet-devastating lumps of rock (when they’re at work, at least), and so we’re likely to get quite a bit of lead time before all life on earth is wiped out.

The bad news is that because we’re probably going to have a few decades of advance warning, there will almost certainly be no need for desperate measures like the inevitable big nuclear bomb. Thus any thoughts of a photo op of a massive extra-atmospheric firework display are, in all probability, wholly over optimistic.

Which is sad.

Do click through for some technologically amazing – but actually rather dull – ideas on how the-powers-that-be might protect us from certain death.

Sentences like:

We could blast it with a laser, for example.

do get the hopes up, only for them to be dashed with the follow up:

But since we don’t currently have a giant space laser, this method requires a bit more planning.

Leaving us with this riveting alternative:

In space, friction ceases to exist. Bodies move about as dictated by gravity. So, if you put something heavy near an asteroid, you can pull it off track.

This method happens slowly. It would only change the asteroid’s course at a rate of millimeters or centimeters per second per year.

BOOORRING!

It is, of course, recognised by all parties involved that any attempt to divert or blow up an incoming asteroid must be accompanied by an Aerosmith soundtrack. Understandably.

Beach Buddies

Whenever we’re walking along the beach in Cape Agulhas admiring the otter, we take a bag along with us to collect any plastic waste we find on the shoreline. Suiderstrand lies behind something of an offshore reef, so it doesn’t get as much flotsam and jetsam as some of the beaches in the area, but it does have a great number of fishermen (did I just assume their gender?) who leave behind miles (or more) of fishing line.

We never come back empty handed.

Further north, the problem with plastic is equally bad. And people are also doing something about it.

Yes, this preamble was merely opening for a link to a Grauniad article about Bill Dale’s Beach Buddies on the Isle of Man, with whom I have parental involvement.

Here is that link to that article.

Bit of hyperbole in the title; otherwise, it’s a nice positive piece about an important and praiseworthy volunteer organisation. And there’s a picture of Port Erin at the top.

Lovely.

As one of 52 Unesco island and coastal biosphere areas, the Isle of Man is focusing now with partners in Menorca, the Maldives, the Philippines and other islands on eliminating single-use plastic from their shores.

If that eventually puts Bill Dale out of a job, he could not be happier.

Indeed. I’d much rather have my hands free for… well… most anything else than picking up rubbish really, as I walk the beagle along our favourite bit of local coastline.

The Southland Coffee post

Some time ago, I spotted a post on Instagram inviting me to get in touch with new coffee start up called Southland Coffee and give them a go.

Now, I’m no coffee snob. My love affair with coffee may be strong (and black), but it is also completely under control. I am not one who needs to go to that latest place or try that new blend or bean.
No drama here: I can comfortably survive through a day without coffee (although I rarely prove it).

But I like drinking coffee and – like everybody else – I enjoy doing things I like. It’s almost like that’s how the word “enjoy” came about.

So, long story short, I got in touch and I received a box of individually wrapped coffee sachets. Here’s one now:

Tear the top off the sachets and you get something that is akin to a teabag with some stiff card templates attached on either side: a design apparently imported from Japan. Tear off the top of the “teabag” and fold out these templates and suddenly, you have a cup-top coffee filter. Thus:

Sorry about the mug. I couldn’t find one with Theresa May cuddling an Alsatian.

Add some hot water from your flask (if you’re out and about on the beach or the mountain) or your kettle (if you’re in your kitchen) and you have fresh, delicious filter coffee in just a couple of minutes.

It’s not rocket surgery. And you – like me – will be surprised at just how sturdy that filter clip thing is, despite its unobtrusive design.

Pretty ingenious stuff.

I asked for a bit more information from Jeremy – the man behind the brand, and got this:

My wife popped over to Japan last year and brought some of these hanging-ear coffee filters back for me because I have a love-love relationship with coffee.
The are apparently huge in Japan.
We source coffee from a few roasters around Cape Town, grind and pack ourselves and that’s pretty much it.
We are trialing it at R120 for a pack of 10 and so far they are flying out the back of my Hilux.

Other features: Recyclable packaging, free delivery to Cape Town addresses (on Thursdays “so you have it for the weekend”), shelf life of 12 months in an unopened sachet, and yes: because they pack it themselves, you can ask them to stick your favourite coffee in there for you – but you will need to order a minimum of two packs. Reasonable.

The website you need is here.

And, let’s be clear here, while Southland did send me some coffee to try, they also made that offer to anyone else who saw that Instagram post. They didn’t ask me to blog about it and no money has changed hands here. This is an honest review of a cool product.

If it wasn’t very good, I’d tell you so, but this is simple, decent coffee, innovatively packaged and I’m going to see if my Dad has read this far by ordering him some for Christmas.

Yours in coffee,
6k. x

More micro in the news

I had literally an email about yesterday’s post, in which I lamented the frankly appalling image of microbiology in the news. And it turned out that the email was sent regarding a speling errer in the post, which I thought I had, and have now, corrected.

Still, despite the lack of support from the 6000 miles…  reading public, I set out with renewed vigour yesterday in an effort to find and document a better side of my favourite branch of science in the media.

I failed.

The most recent stories I could find which involved Microbiology were this one:

which included this line:

Staphylococcus aureus, which causes a range of conditions including MRSA, was found three times more often on the surfaces of air dryers compared to paper towel dispensers during an international study.

Well, MRSA is Staphylococcus aureus, it’s not ‘a condition caused by’ Staphylococcus aureus. It’s almost as if the S and the A in MRSA stand for… ag… you get my drift.

Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect anyone?

Anyway – the upshot of this whole thing is that there are fewer bacteria that are going to kill you while you’re in hospital if people use paper towels than if they use jet air dryers.

We found multiple examples of greater bacterial contamination on surfaces, including by faecal and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, when jet air dryers rather than paper towels were in use.

Nice. [dry heave]

And remember, folks: Hand dryers also terrorise the vulnerable.

… And this one:

No issues here though, because the chances of anyone picking up a virus and transmitting it to anywhere around the world in this scenario is… oh… is actually really high. Could there be a worse place for nasty viruses to be found? This is literally how pandemics start. Or at the very least, it’s how they become pandemics.

Not great.

The image that Sky News chose to illustrate this story is interesting.

Now, I’m not someone who travels an awful lot, but I’ve done my fair share of flying, and that looks highly illegal. I’m pretty sure that whoever’s plastic security tray that is, isn’t getting their stuff back.

But then, considering that it’s now all – from their Old Spice stick deodorant to their Maybelline foundation (mmm) – covered in nasty viruses from the tray anyway, maybe not getting it back is actually quite a good thing.

Perhaps the best professional advice I can give is for you to pick your hand luggage up from the plastic security tray, and then go and immediately wash your hands in the first public loo that you can find.

Unless there’s an air dryer in there, of course.
In which case, you’re already as good as dead.

Song for a Seagull

A really addictive, happy pop tune from London 4-piece Teleman: Song For A Seagull. This will improve your Saturday.

And a really original video too. Live Instagram (despite its problems) feed from the back of a black cab in London? Brilliant.

Apparently the usernames popping up on the screen, helpfully in time with the lyrics, are the handles of fans who wrote in asking to be in the video. A little bit of editing magic and it looks like they’re singing along.

Simple, but so, so clever.

This song has now made it onto my Inspired By 6 Spotify playlist. And in case you want to share that more easily, I’ve made a bit.ly for it:

http://bit.ly/InspiredBy6

Please share the wealth – enabling people to listen to really decent music is a public service.