Monday, 15 August 2011

Shane Warne, TAIslim and the phantom clinical trial

Shane Warne is a man of integrity. He is the last person anybody would accuse of selling out. Sure, he is always going on about one product or another, but really, there is nothing wrong with telling the world about the things you like, and Warnie likes a lot of things. Why, in the last fortnight alone he has, on twitter, enthusiastically endorsed Russell Crowe's new album, McDonalds Cheeseburgers, British Airways, Carlton Draught (twice), Spinners by Shane Warne, 888 sport bets, Mr Whippy (twice), Special K and Dunhill1, and has not declared any financial or other interest in any of these products. He's just a fan.

And when he loses a lot of weight in just a few months, and puts it down to "Fitness and healthy lifestyle, with help from @StevenBaker10 and his protein shakes and Tai Slim drinks", and some people deign to suggest that it is simply a marketing exercise and not a genuine miracle weight loss product, then I am, to be perfectly honest, shocked and saddened. I mean, you only have to look at the post on his website2 to see how genuine he is about this.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Internet browser versus IQ: The truth!

A new study has found that people who think that Internet Explorer users are dumber than users of other browsers are actually dumber than Internet Explorer users.

Researchers came to this conclusion after reviewing media reports, blog posts, comments, forums and tweets referring to the AptiQuant hoax; a made-up report claiming that IE users - and especially those using older versions - had average IQs up to 40 points lower than those using other browsers.

The researchers collected all online references to this study that were written in the two days before the hoax was exposed, and categorized the commenters into those who got "sucked in" and those who "called shenanigans".

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Sockpuppetry of the dicks

What would you do if, like me*, you had a prominent online presence and people started saying nasty things about you on blogs or in comments or on Youtube, or you weren't happy with your Wikipedia entry?

If you said, "I would create a fake online persona and set about deviously correcting all of these perceived wrongs" then you are a dick. If you are now thinking "you'd have to be a moron to believe that you could get away with something like that" then you are not a dick, although you are a bit up yourself.

Recently, a couple of high profile hands have unwillingly emerged from the sockpuppets they control. First up was Scott Adams, author of the comic strip Dilbert. He created the pseudonym PlannedChaos and for several months went around defending "himself" on websites such as Reddit and Metafilter, including, at least twice, referring to himself as "a certified genius". He ended up outing himself as certified douche bag.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

How to win the lottery. Part 3: The Scam

Thus concludes the epic trilogy that is "How to win the lottery". If you were wondering, yes there will be a digitally remastered special extended edition, some disappointing prequels and I'm currently working on a 3D version that is bound to be an embarrassment for all concerned.

In Parts 1 and 2 we learnt that if Mr Sucker buys a quickpick every week for fifty years, he will lose about $14,000.

Is there any way that he could increase his odds of coming out ahead? Yes, there is, but before you proceed, I must warn you that each of these techniques brings with it a terrible curse. Enjoy.

Monday, 20 June 2011

How to win the lottery. Part 2: The Payout

Part 2 in a three part magnum opus - or possibly optimus prime - on how the lottery really works, and what you can do to make it work in your favour, if you can, which you can't. Or can you?
Mr Sucker lived a simple life. He loved his family and worked hard to support them. His one vice was his weekly lottery ticket. And the occasional line of cocaine. And the prostitutes, the many, many prostitutes.

But let's concentrate on the lottery, at least for this post.

In Part 1 we learnt that his lifetime chance of winning 1st division was approximately 1 in 262, and that he was guaranteed to win 4th, 5th and 6th division many times. But what I want to know now is how much money will he spend in total, and how much can he expect to win?

The total spend is easy: A standard quickpick each week for 50 years is approximately $20,400 at today's price ($7.85). Calculating the winnings is a bit of a pain in the arse, but here goes. There are two ways: The first is to calculate the average number of times he will win each division, using the odds calculated in part one, then multiply these by the average dollar amount paid out for each division. This sounds hard. Fortunately, there is an easier way. A much easier way. One might call it a piss-easier way. Tattersalls and the Victorian State Government have already done the work for us.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

How to win the lottery. Part 1: The Odds

I like to keep my posts, like my love-making, short and/or sweet, so when this one started ballooning out to Oracian, or possibly John Holmesian proportions, I decided to break it up into a trilogy of geeky maths delights, guaranteed to show you how to win the lottery.

I have bought precisely one lottery ticket in my life. I was fifteen and it was technically illegal. Luckily, I won jack shit.

I gave up, because you'd have to be stupid to buy a lottery ticket. Or so I keep telling myself.

Do you buy lottery tickets? If so, the following conversation may sound familiar to you, especially if your name is Bob.
"Hiya Bob, what brings you to the local newsagent where I buy my pornography."
"Hey Cedric, I'm just picking up my weekly quickpick."
"Tattslotto, eh? Did you know that the odds of winning Tattslotto are more than eight million to one against? Eight million!"
"I think I heard something like that. Still, you've got to be in it to win it."
"Uh uh. Sure, someone will probably win, but, statistically speaking, it is virtually impossible for you to win. You don't buy Powerball too, by any chance? "
"Er, sometimes, if there's a jackpot."
"Fifty five million to one*. Fifty five! Million! Man, you are such a Sucker. You won't catch me throwing my money away on this delusion. Those odds are seriously crazy. Did you know that the chance of getting hit by lightning is only one in 1.6 million? Know anyone who has been hit by lightning? Ha ha! Now, if you'll excuse me, I believe that the latest issue of Brazilians get brazilians is out." 
"Right then. See you later, Prick**." 
Cedric seems like a nice enough guy, and I like calculating big numbers and have as much interest in the goings-on behind the curtains at beauty salons as the next man, but the thing is, those odds are not true - or at least not honest. How could they be? It is a ruse invented by the anti-fun brigade. I mean, c'mon? Multiple people win these lotteries nearly every week.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Bolt Cola - now with 10% less carbon pollution!

Melbourne columnist, broadcaster and prominent climate change denialist* Andrew Bolt likes Coke. He also has a television show called The Bolt Report. On this television show he has a segment called "Spin of the Week". On this week's show his spin of the week was "carbon pollution". Here is the transcript.
And to our spin of the week. You’ve heard a thousand times that to stop global warming we’ve got to cut our emissions or, as the urgers now put it.

[this is followed by footage of various politicians repeatedly saying "carbon pollution"]

Carbon pollution? Now that phrase is meant to make you think of dirty soot, but it’s a lie. They aren’t talking about carbon, but carbon dioxide, which isn’t black stuff but invisible gas [breathes out]. And carbon dioxide isn’t pollution but plant food for photosynthesis. Now look, this is the sound of carbon dioxide [cracks a can of Coke open] and if that really was pollution would I do this? [takes a mouthful] Ahhh.
Yes, he really did say "ahhh".

It was pretty funny.

I study pollution for a living. The two big ones in my field are nitrogen pollution and phosphorus pollution. These come in various forms, often from fertilisers, and when they end up in the water they cause eutrophication and toxic algal blooms. This is bad.

They are also plant food.
They are also in Coke.