BBC NEWS | Health | Swine flu: How serious a threat?

BBC NEWS | Health | Swine flu: How serious a threat?: “If the avian flu H5N1 virus had spread from human to human like this then I would be extremely worried. It would be top of my Richter scale.

But this swine flu worries me less because as a population we have a basic immunity to H1N1. Outside of Mexico there have been no deaths, so it doesn’t seem so aggressive.

And not only are we coming up to the summer, which makes it less likely for these viruses to spread as well, but Britain has enough antiviral drugs for half of the population.

So we should not panic in any way. This does not look as though it is going to be a virus that sweeps the world and causes huge mortality.”

Corn Sryup Danger

We have been discussing this for a while. In North America corn syrup is very popular and in everything, little nearly everything. In Europe, sucrose was more popular and is not in everything too.
In North America we seem to develop a roll of belly fat, that people don’t seem to have to the same extent in Europe and I am sure (mine at least) is due to my increased intake of corn syrup.
Need to cut back…

All Sugars Aren’t the Same: Glucose Is Better, Study Says – TIME: “Think that all sugars are the same? They may all taste sweet to the tongue, but it turns out your body can tell the difference between glucose, fructose and sucrose, and that one of these sugars is worse for your health than the others.

In the first detailed analysis comparing how our systems respond to glucose (which is made when the body breaks down starches such as carbohydrates) and fructose, (the type of sugar found naturally in fruits), researchers at the University of California Davis report in the Journal of Clinical Investigation that consuming too much fructose can actually put you at greater risk of developing heart disease and diabetes than ingesting similar amounts of glucose. In the study, 32 overweight or obese men and women were randomly assigned to drink 25% of their daily energy requirements in either fructose- or glucose-sweetened drinks. The researchers took pains to eliminate as many intruding factors as possible by asking the volunteers to commit to a 12-week program; for the first and last two weeks of the study, each subject lived at UCD’s Clinical and Translational Science Center, where they underwent rigorous blood tests to determine their insulin and lipid levels, among other metabolic measures”

The Associated Press: Mexico City suspends school over flu epidemic

The Associated Press: Mexico City suspends school over flu epidemic: “MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico City has suspended classes at schools and universities to contain what could be a new flu strain.

Health Secretary Jose Cordova says private and public schools in this metropolis of 20 million have been ordered to remain closed Friday. The measure could be extended in coming days.

Cordova says the flu is a ‘new, different strain that can attack anyone.’ He says authorities are investigating whether it is related to a unique new form of swine flu reported in Texas and California. All seven people in the U.S. recovered.

The government says at least 20 people have died nationwide from the flu in the last three weeks, 13 of them in Mexico City.

The total number of cases is estimated to be more than 800.”

The Blurry Summit of Mars’ Pavonis Mons | Universe Today

The Blurry Summit of Mars’ Pavonis Mons | Universe Today: “This strange image was captured by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on board NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) on April 11th. At first it looked like a classic example of my early camera days without a tripod; most of the photos I took were blurry or out of focus (due to my less-than-perfect eyesight). So when I first saw this picture of the summit of one of the huge Martian ex-shield volcanoes, Pavonis Mons, I assumed it was a mistake; HiRISE either had the shakes or it had developed myopia.

Actually, this image is in focus, HiRISE is working perfectly. It’s the Martian surface that’s blurry…

Pavonis Mons is one of the Martian “Big Three” ancient volcanoes situated on the Tharsis bulge. Second only to Olympus Mons (the biggest volcano in the Solar System, standing at a mighty 27 km above the Martian surface), Pavonis Mons certainly isn’t small. It reaches 16 km into the Martian skies where the air is so tenuous, it barely reaches a pressure of 130 Pa (compared with the 600 Pa mean surface pressure of Mars), that’s 0.1% the average sea-level pressure on Earth.

When you have an atmosphere so thin at such high altitudes, there are consequences. In the case of this HiRISE image, the issue is that the summit of Pavonis Mons becomes rather blurred.

During major dust storms on the planet, huge quantities of dust can be deposited at the tops of these tall volcanoes, covering them in a thick layer. When the wind blows, it lacks the muscle of the thicker atmosphere found 16km below, so less dust is picked up and transported away. Although small ripples in the dust can be seen (highlighting the fact that there is a weak wind blowing up there), it doesn’t carve definite shapes into the regolith. Instead, it leaves a thick layer of fluffy, smooth dust to collect. When images are taken from space, it has a blurry appearance.

In case you don’t believe me, look at this high resolution version of the image above, zooming into the top right-hand corner where you’ll see a small, recent (and in-focus) impact crater. Also, look at the focused ripples in the dust on the lighter northern edge of the volcano.”

BBC – Nick Robinson’s Newslog: A truly historic budget

BBC – Nick Robinson’s Newslog: A truly historic budget: “Few budgets can claim to be truly historic. This one was. Not for the policies the Chancellor unveiled but for the grim statistics he had to produce.

They confirmed that Britain is in the sharpest recession, has the highest borrowing and is about to experience the biggest public spending squeeze since the war.

Alastair Darling did not try to hide this. It isn’t his style and, besides, it wouldn’t have been possible. Instead, he told a story of the British economy being hit by a global shock; of a government that had chosen to spend and borrow more to stimulate growth; and of a willingness to ask the richest to pay more for the cost of what had gone wrong.

Gordon Brown used to be accused of taxing by stealth. Alastair Darling announced that he was breaking Labour’s manifesto pledge not to raise the top rate of tax with a flourish – he is confident that the public is now ready to see the rich pay more.

The Treasury these days prefers stealth spending cuts. Nowhere did the Chancellor explain the consequences of what is to come – a period of public austerity which will dominate politics for years to come.

All this was overlaid with a large dollop of optimism that the economy would start to grow again around the turn of the year and, what’s more, grow mighty fast.

If the Treasury’s predictions are wrong – as many suspect they are – the next budget will replace this one in the history books.

Even if the optimism proves right, politicians will have to live with the fall out of this crisis for many years to come.”

Where’s the remotest place on Earth? – environment – 20 April 2009 – New Scientist

Where’s the remotest place on Earth? – environment – 20 April 2009 – New Scientist: “SO YOU’VE hitch-hiked through Central America, stalked rare beasts in Madagascar and trekked your way through northern Chile. You’re pretty well travelled, even if you do say so yourself. Before you get ideas about being an intrepid explorer, however, consider this. For all their wide open spaces and seeming wildernesses, none of these places can be described as remote in 2009.

In fact, very little of the world’s land can now be thought of as inaccessible, according to a new map of connectedness created by researchers at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy, and the World Bank.”

Eccles Cakes

Have some people coming around, so have been looking for good old British fare.
Eccles cakes it is. This is the authentic recipe I remember, from when I was buying these for lunch at the students union in Manchester…

Also in the link is the history.

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Pre-heat oven to 220°C


  • 500g flaky pastry
  • 25g melted butter
  • Nutmeg
  • 50g candied peel
  • 100g sugar
  • 200g currants


  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and butter and cook over a medium heat until melted
  2. Off the heat, add currants, candied peel, nutmeg and allspice
  3. On a lightly-floured surface, roll the pastry thinly and cut into rounds of about 0.5cm thickness and 10cm diameter
  4. Place a small spoonful of filling onto centre of each pastry circle
  5. Dampen the edges of the pastry and draw the edges together over the fruit and pinch to seal
  6. Turn over, then press gently with a rolling pin to flatten the cakes
  7. Flatten and snip a V in the top with scissors. Place on a baking tray
  8. Brush with water and sprinkle with a little extra sugar
  9. Bake in a hot oven for 20 minutes (220°C) or until lightly browned round the edges
  10. Place on a wire rack and allow to cool.
  11. Try not to eat them all at once!

Satellites Show How Earth Moved During Earthquake | Universe Today

Satellites Show How Earth Moved During Earthquake | Universe Today: “If you have ever experienced an earthquake, you know that the Earth literally moves beneath your feet. And now there’s satellite data to show just how much. Scientists studying satellite radar data from ESA’s Envisat and the Italian Space Agency’s COSMO-SkyMed, have been able analyze the movement of Earth during and after a recent earthquake in central Italy. A 6.3 earthquake shook the town of L’Aquila in on April 6, 2009, and have used satellite data to map surface deformation in the Earth that took place after the quake and the numerous aftershocks that followed.”

Best Bread Recipe

This is the Bread recipe I have been using

500ml flour (loose in measuring cup)
200ml water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon yeast

Knead, and rise until double
Shape, and rise until double

Bake in oven, pre-heated to 475F until brown.

(I am finding this works well for small loaves, for a large loaf I have been dialling down the heat a bit and letting cook for longer… 30m rather than 15m for example)

You can add other ingredients to this basic recipe, so I have been experimenting with quinoa and flax seed for example.

Remember that this is a good book on bread. Recipe is adapted from this, to make it a little easier to remember. Technique in book is also useful.

Teens Love Aggregation and ‘Free’, Newspaper Study Finds | Epicenter from

Teens Love Aggregation and ‘Free’, Newspaper Study Finds | Epicenter from “Don’t overload them. Less is more: Reduce the volume of information. The teens in the study’s focus groups craved a ‘top headlines’ approach and ‘a simplified overview of the news they often find at Yahoo, Google, AOL and their e-mail providers.’

Create home pages that satisfy. It should provide ‘an adequate sense of the news’ on its own — No click-baiting. Include a brief summary with each headline; One sentence can be enough. Get rid of clutter, like little video boxes, small ads and tabs.

Include visuals with anything that matters. But photo galleries are no substitute for a story.

Convey what’s important with a clear, visual hierarchy. The generation that grew up with chronological blogs prefers prioritization. ‘They want you to take a stand on which stories of the day are most important and to convey what you’ve decided.’

Avoid pages that require too much scrolling or clicking. ‘Web usability has long emphasized limiting the number of clicks to reach information, but the degree to which teens want to avoid clicking it noteworthy.’

Break up information into management chunks. Categories on the home page, interrupted text on story pages.”

Pentagon preps for economic warfare

Pentagon preps for economic warfare: “The Pentagon sponsored a first-of-its-kind war game last month focused not on bullets and bombs — but on how hostile nations might seek to cripple the U.S. economy, a scenario made all the more real by the global financial crisis.

The two-day event near Ft. Meade, Maryland, had all the earmarks of a regular war game. Participants sat along a V-shaped set of desks beneath an enormous wall of video monitors displaying economic data, according to the accounts of three participants.

“It felt a little bit like Dr. Strangelove,” one person who was at the previously undisclosed exercise told POLITICO.

But instead of military brass plotting America’s defense, it was hedge-fund managers, professors and executives from at least one investment bank, UBS – all invited by the Pentagon to play out global scenarios that could shift the balance of power between the world’s leading economies.

Their efforts were carefully observed and recorded by uniformed military officers and members of the U.S. intelligence community.”

Was there a UFO above Dunton? – Biggleswade Today

Was there a UFO above Dunton? – Biggleswade Today: “Villagers report strange sightings in the night sky above a Mid Beds village
A mysterious light was spotted in the skies above Dunton on Sunday evening.

Residents saw an unidentified orange ball of light at around 10.15pm.
One told the Chronicle: ‘It seemed to be a sphere containing glowing flame, orange or yellow like a sun.

‘But it wasn’t a meteor or comet, it wasn’t travelling fast enough and had no tail.

‘It was silent, it wasn’t a plane or helicopter. It wasn’t a balloon or weather balloon.

‘We watched it till it flew past our property and past our tall conifers until it was out of sight, it seemed to spin or oscillate while it flew.

‘I couldn’t hazard a guess as to what it was, a bit of a mystery really.”