Wednesday, 30 March 2011

"Interest Free" not as interesting as it sounds

I am interested in interest, and my interest in interest was recently piqued when I saw a promotion for Sydney's Furniture & Bedding.
Free for 28 months! Sounds wonderful. Nice one Sydney! I've never shopped there myself, but I am told that their furniture is great. Perhaps I should check them out. But hold on a sec, what does that incredibly small asterisk next to the 28 signify? I'd better check the small print. After all, I suppose there is a slight possibility that there could be fees and charges that aren't prominently displayed in the massive banner advertisement.
fees and charges apply and are available on application

My interest started to wain, so I instead visited the website of Australia's biggest provider of interest free terms, Harvey Norman, where they are a little more forthcoming.

So what is the deal with these deals?

Take this hypothetical but imminently realistic situation. I wander into my local Harvey Norman and purchase a $1,000 computer.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Final statement by the Journal of Cosmology: Waaaaaaaah!!! Also, buy our book

Alas, all things must come to end. It is with great sadness that I must report that the special series of comically paranoid press releases from the Journal of Cosmology (JOC) have finished, forever. On the upside, they go out with a bang.
Final Statement by the Journal of Cosmology on the Hoover Microfossil-Meteorite Discovery 
All Roads Lead to the Obama White House
This latest statement is almost all in bold, so you can tell that, this time, they are serious. Read it (scroll down, down, down - the website still sucks). It goes on a bit, as usual, but in summary, the President of the United States of America is behind the plot to destroy the reputation of everyone involved in the Richard Hoover paper. Oh, yes!
On Friday, March 18, 2011, Dr. Rudolf Schild, Editor-in-Chief of JOC spoke at length with Richard Hoover and learned that the White House, i.e. the offices of President Obama, became a party to this issue almost immediately after the story broke. The exact nature of this involvement is unknown to us.
A lot of the rest of the statement is a classic straw man argument. They make great pains to point out that "Hoover's data is accurate", and nobody has proven that the data isn't accurate, and therefore they "...believe the data is real. The implications profound" (grammar still isn't their forte). The thing is, none of the commentaries I saw claimed that the data was faked. They complain about the interpretation, not the data.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Is there life on Mars?

Famed NASA astrobiologist, Richard Hoover, has been hunting meteorites and extremeophiles in the frigid Antarctic for over 10 years. To the amazement of all, what this treasure hunt has uncovered is alien life: Fossils of ancient bacteria which hailed from colonies which thrived on comets, moons, and other planets.
Finally, definitive proof of life on other planets. I've been waiting for this since, well, the last time scientists discovered definitive proof of life on other planets.

In case you didn't notice, I was being sarcastic. The Journal of Cosmology, on the other hand, is almost certainly not being sarcastic with their press release:
In a world-wide exclusive, this startling, paradigm busting research, and the pictures to back up these claims, has been published in the March edition of the Journal of Cosmology.
Dr. Carl Gibson of the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences at Scripps Institute and the University of California at San Diego had this to say: "Dr. Hover has provided the world with extraordinary evidence to back up extraordinary claims. This discovery completely changes our perspective of the nature of life and our place in the Universe, The world will never be the same."
Extraordinary evidence to back up extraordinary claims? Truthfully, I have no idea about the extraordinariness of this evidence. I am not an astrobiologist and I have no experience with "the most advanced micro-scanning technology in the world". I know a little more than most about cyanobacteria, but as far as I am aware, they evolved on Earth around three billion years ago, and that is where it ends, or should I say, begins.

Also, I haven't read the paper.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Bust a cap in your plan

How does your friendly local telecommunications company jack up their prices without jacking up their prices? This week, Telstra showed us one way.
TELSTRA will start charging all long-distance and mobile calls in one-minute blocks later this month, after moving to 30 second blocks two years ago.
What kind of difference does this make? Let's use maths to work it out. Assume that calls cost one dollar per minute. Each full minute will cost the same regardless of whether you are charged for 30 second blocks, one minute blocks or even one second blocks. That final minute, though, is where the scam kicks in. If you are charged in one second blocks, maths says you will pay an average of 50c for that final minute (or part thereof). If you are charged in 30 second blocks, you will pay 50c if the call finishes in the first 30 sec, and the full dollar if it's more than 30 seconds, for a maths determined average of 75c. If you are charged in one minute blocks, you will obviously pay the full buckaroonie. In short, Telstra now charges an extra 25c per call. All without increasing their prices. Genius.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The Nightingale Collaboration - neatly clobbering online quacks

As of today, online quacks in the UK have a reason to be afraid... somewhat afraid. The Advertising Standards Authority has new powers to investigate and punish companies who's websites make bogus claims. Not-at-all-coincidentally, the Nightingale Collaboration (NC) has just launched.

The ASAs new powers include the power to ask search engines to remove ads that link to the dodgy website. These ads are then replaced with ads pointing out how stupid the website is. Superb! Google is a partner, so it looks like it will have real balls.

The NC is specifically aiming to stamp out dodgy health claims. They are running a 'focus of the month' campaign, aiming to eradicate one dodgy health claim at a time. First up is homeopathy. Easy, seeing as any health claim made for a homeopathic product ('nothing' in a pill) is provably wrong. Easier still, the NC website includes a handy set of instructions for submitting a complaint.

Expect a truckload of complaints over the coming months and, just maybe, fewer bogus health claims online. At least in the UK. Temporarily.

I will follow with interest.