Monthly Archives: January 2009

Milk of Human Kindness

cowlickinghand-1In a previous post, I pointed out how peculiar it was that most of us prefer to consume bovine milk rather than human milk. Also we find breast-feeding beyond infancy perverse and disgusting. Why is this?  I find this question fascinating for many reasons. Anyway, the Swiss restaurant owner who has opened an establishment that serves food cooked with human milk is finding it hard to meet demand. But there might be a simple solution.

Drs Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson of Newcastle University have shown that by giving a cow a name and treating her as an individual, farmers can increase their annual milk yield by almost 500 pints. Basically treating animals in a much kinder, humane way is good for yields. Anthropomorphism is not such a bad thing after all.

Oh and as for human milk…. oh come on.. would you?


Filed under In the News, Newspaper, Weird Story of the Week

Beckham’s Bottom is Magical: Update

beckhambottomWhenever, we take part in events or situations where the outcome is important, our SuperSense kicks in whereby we engage in behaviors and rituals that we believe will affect the final result. Also, as I noted in a previous post, when we experience a sense of loss of control, we also become victims of magical belief.

It’s no surprise then that superstitious rituals are extremely common in sport both amongst players and fans. Nick Hornby wrote about his ritual of biting the head off a sugar mouse and lobbing it into oncoming traffic before each soccer match in his masterpiece of male obsession, “Fever Pitch.” 

Today we learn that touching David Beckham’s bottom for luck has become a superstitious ritual to his fellow team-mates at the Italian club AC Milan. Well that’s their excuse as I am sure that many would like the opportunity to massage Beckham’s gluteus maximus.

As Hornby points out in Fever Pitch, the problem with superstitious rituals is that they have the tendency to become even stronger and more elaborate. Simple conditioning theory suggests that a string of failures should reduce the tendency to engage in ritualistic behavior. However, intermittent success (which is often the case for soccer) can increase these rituals in an attempt to regain the perception of control. This means that Beckham’s bottom could experience increased attention from the other players over next 3 months during his stint with AC Milan.

Watching Italian soccer may take on a whole new dimension or do you think  I am being too ‘cheeky?’

UPDATE FEB 5th. We now learn that Beckham is considering staying at AC Milan! I wondered what persuaded him?


Filed under In the News, Newspaper, supernatural

The Gonad Doctors

brinkleyjohnr_fThis one is for “poietes” and her last comment, but really I do need to start  sharing some of the strange stories that I have covered in my quest to unravel the human SuperSense. The book will be published in 70 days. Yikes. So here is a snippet. In it I talk about the amazing story  of Dr. John Brinkley.

As a trainee medical student, John Brinkley worked in  a Kansas slaughterhouse and noticed that the prowess of billy goats. What made them so jumpy?  The owner of the goat farm had been complaining of reduced libido and Brinkley suggested inserting male goat gonads in to the aging farmer’s scrotum.

The operation worked, and the aging farmer went on to father a son, called “Billy” no less. John Brinkley went on to earn a fortune and the mighty and rich on both sides of the Atlantic lined up to pay large amounts of money to have the gonads of others inserted into  their scrotums. I don’t want to give the whole story away but it involved huge amounts of money, crime, international outrage, an attempt to be elected governor, and possibly the explanation for how HIV transferred from monkeys to man. I think you will enjoy the story.

Needless to say, this type of thinking is pure essentialism where we believe we can absorb the youthful properties of others  through intimate contact. Yes, the gonads are a source of vital hormones but inserting another animal’s or man’s family jewels will not make you more vibrant.


Filed under Essentialism

Michael Shermer Evening.

b111hb_lgMicheal Shermer will be giving a public lecture at the Will’s Memorial Building in Bristol, UK on Tues Feb 3rd evening at 6 pm. He will be talking about “Why Darwin Matters: The Case for Evolution and Against Intelligent Design.”

If you have been under a stone for the past 3 years then you may have missed all the hoo-haa about religion and the neo-atheist movement spearheaded by Dawkins, Dennett, Harris & Hitchins, the so-called four horsemen. Shermer has an altogether different approach which uses humour and wit to what I believe is greater effect.

Those of you who have seen Michael Shermer will know that this is an evening not to be missed. For those of you who have not heard Michael before, then check this out.


Over 250 seats were booked in the first three days of announcing this talk, so we are moving the event to the large  Great Hall. There are still some sits available but you have to book them now. Go to the events section for details.

Guess who is lucky enough to be asked to chair the evening? Yup that ‘s right, me.


Filed under book publicity

Shape-Shifting Goat Arrested for Car Theft

goatA goat is currently being held in Kwara State police cells in Nigeria,  accused of car theft. According to the BBC report, a vigilante group captured the goat who they claim is actually a lycanthrope or ‘shape-shifter.’ Lycanthropy has its origins in myth but does have a rare clinical manifestation in some psychotic patients who believe they can transform into animals.

After hearing about General Butt Naked in the last post, one might be tempted to think that supernatural beliefs are the norm on the African continent but before jumping to stereotypes, I would urge caution. Apparently, the gang captured the goat and then immediately went to the media. One is reminded of a certain famous anthropologist who was fed many a yarn by the “natives” coz they thought it was a bit of fun. However, whatever the motive, there is a more worrying concern that the police have lost control over the mob-rule that now terrorizes the society.


Filed under Newspaper, supernatural

General Butt Naked Confesses to Cannibalism

liberia2203One of the more strange supernatural beliefs is that you can absorb the strength and vitality of others by consuming their flesh. Last year, Milton Biahyi, aka “General Butt Naked,” gave evidence  at Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). As a notorious warlord, Biahyi confessed he was responsible for deaths of at least 20,000 people during Liberia’s brutal civil war 1979-93.

Biahyi earned his nickname for charging into battle wearing nothing more than boots as he believed that he was protected by magic. He also confessed to the TRC that he had conducted sacrifices and eaten the hearts of children in the belief he could absorb their essence and vitality.

Clearly, a dangerous man, but thankfully no longer charging around a battlefield. Rather, he has become an evangelical Christian. You can’t make this stuff up.


Filed under supernatural

How To Kiss Passionately

I just heard about the Belgian stabbings in the childcare centre. Who would let a man with his face painted white and eyes blacked out into a childcare centre. I mean… really?  

I am so sickened by this that I think that everyone needs some cheering up. So here is a very funny movie about kissing. It has nothing to do with supernatural beliefs though kissing is a pretty essential behaviour.


Filed under General Thoughts

About Face – AlphaInventions is Better for Voyeurs – Update

I decided to remove the invitation on my blog to join me on FaceBook…. There is something very unsettling about this alternative community. It’s a bit like the pod people in “Invasion of the of Body Snatchers” – a whole bunch of people that you interacted over the course of your life that you discover all know each other and have been talking about you and you never knew. Well that’s how it first feels.

I joined FaceBook last week and was horrified to discover pictures and comments about me that I never knew existed. I found myself drawn to ‘bookies’  photo albums and peeking at who they knew. You know that feeling at parties where you make an effort to introduce people and they turn round and tell you that they already know each other? ‘Great’ you say, and then you instantly wonder why they never mentioned it before. FaceBook is hell for paranoids.

Luckily, everything, so far were posts from real friends. But then I realized that letting anyone join you on FaceBook was a commitment. Sometimes you don’t want the world to see pictures of  you drunk in a bar in Tokyo singing karaoke, or dressed up as member of KISS, or worse! And what about rejecting, removing or DEFACING people from your FaceBook. You might as well tell them that they are losers. We can’t be friends with everyone we know and we certainly can’t be friends with people we don’t know. “A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet?” Sorry Mister Rogers but that is just not normal.

So Facebook is for me and friends only.. people that I have really met., on the other hand, allows me to exorcise my voyeuristic urge  – it’s an automatic dim sum from the blogosphere that randomly exposes those who wish to be visited. Somehow, that does not feel pervy or intrusive. And bloggers, as we all know, we want people to come and see our worlds.

So what do you feel about FaceBook?

UPDATE: and if YOU think I am being paranoid then check this out


Filed under General Thoughts

Sometimes I Feel Like a Headless Chicken

mike-1Last week, I nearly died. I stopped work at my desk computer and looked around for my laptop to begin the long journey home that is my commute. My laptop was not on the chair where I habitually leave it as part of my daily routine. It was gone….OMG!!!… Six months of work not backed up! Books, papers, projects. I panicked and started running around but it was late at night and there was no one to ask. I was convinced I had been burgled. Lots of people from cleaners to workmen have master keys and I have often arrived at my office to find somebody fixing a light, etc. Three years ago, I lost my lab computers from a burglary that put my research program back a year. I thought it had happened again.

I ran around like a headless chicken trying to search every possible location. Then I called home. Have you checked the car? It was there. I had not even taken it out. 

It had been a hard week. Lots of meetings, a new graduate student, projects to discuss and a presentation to the one of my funding agencies. This is what happens when you try to do too much. When you overload the executive functions of your brain, things start to fall apart.

Not so for Mike, the famous headless chicken who lived without a brain for 2 years. There again, birds can get by with just a brain stem. Sometimes I wonder if that is not such a bad thing.

Now that I have recovered my precious laptop, I have spoken to my IT guy who will provide me with an external drive that automatically backs up everytime I come into the office. His name is Mike.

Have you got any good “headless chicken” moments?


Filed under General Thoughts

This is Just Getting Silly….

atheistbus460Now, a UK Christian bus driver has refused to drive one of the buses bearing the atheist slogan.

He said, “This is a public attack on people’s faiths. I have a lot of passengers who are over 90 or are seriously ill, and to tell them there is no God seems a bit insensitive, when God is probably all they have left in the world. Faith is a very important thing in people’s lives, and I think [the poster] pushes the issue too far.”

You know what? Even as an atheist , I agree with him.

But let’s get rid of all this advertising from both sides.


Filed under atheism