Monday, 28 November 2016

Challenging Greenpan on their packaging

Saw this "Greenchef" frying pan by "Greenpan" and wondered whether the company's Green credentials extended to ensuring their generous cardboard packaging was from a sustainable (or recycled) source.

Greenchef by Greenpan, recently at ASDA

So sent them the following message via their contact form :

"Hello, Saw one of your GreenChef pans in ASDA and wanted to know whether the card packaging is from a sustainable source (e.g. FSC, Recycled). Hoping you can advise, Ash, Nottingham."

Update 30th Nov
Received an email from Greenpan saying that "the packaging is from a recycled source", which was nice to hear.

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Discussion : Science and Religion

The Nottingham branch of the British Science Association along with Newman University recently put on a panel discussion aiming to encourage open-minded dialogue between science and religion. @GavSquires was there and has written this guest post of the event!

The panel consisted of Anne-Marie, a member of the local Baha'i community; Stephen is from Newman University; Gush is the president of the Leicester Secular Society (the oldest secular society still running in the country) and Richard is from the Department of Theology at the University of Nottingham. They all faced a series of questions from both a moderator and the public audience...

The Panel

Q: What recent scientific discovery has inspired you?
Gush: There was an MRI experiment on a living brain where they asked people to choose between pressing a red or a green button. There are activities happening in the brain before we consciously make the decision. Our brain then rationalises the choice.

Stephen: The different facts of evolution and types of evolution in single-celled organisms. The fact that there is protein residue on haemoglobin means that we can demonstrate the common ancestry between humans and chimpanzees. Then there's epigenetics and anti-bacterial resistance.

Anne-Marie: Self-driving cars. Tesla took an idea and changed the problem from within, he had the vision to totally change how we transport everything. It has that "two blokes in a shed" feel - scientific discovery and visionary thinking.

Richard: Higgs-Boson - it goes back to the birth of quantum theory. The mathematical formulae are beautiful and these days all of our technology, such as smart phones, are based on quantum theory.

Human Brain MRI

Q: Do science and religion have any common goals?
Gush: Yes, religion was our first attempt at understanding the world - sunrise, volcanos, floods. It was rational to look for agency. It then became a "set in stone" way of understanding. Science has taken over as a way of understanding.

Anne-Marie: They are both tools - they can be used well or badly. They can both be used for the betterment of the world or they can be used to control, contain and for personal gain.

Richard: Their goals are fundamentally different. As a human in need of redemption, I'm interested in what happens after death - science cannot answer these questions. Science is very Cartesian - "I think therefore I am", religion is more, "I am thought of, therefore I am" God brings us to rest outside of ourselves.

Stephen: They are different terrains - "How do things work?" vs "Why are things there?" Religion gives us a sense of belonging. There are parallels in science but it is different. Elaine Ekland looked at why scientists aren't religious and discovered that patterns about religion fall by the wayside in scientific establishments. People saw themselves as scientists first and foremost.

The Earth from Apollo 17

Q:Do we have free will?
Gush: Could you make a decision that even God couldn't predict? We have a much more limited free will that is determined genetically and by our upbringing. We can choose whether or not we follow the law. So, we have enough free will to make punishments and law but not absolute free will.

Richard: There are questions about the interpretation of the MRI experiments that Gush talked about earlier. I used to be a determinist and then I discovered Kant and now I believe that free will is essential. You can't talk yourself out of the belief that you have free will.

Anne-Marie: I don't know, it's an interesting question for those of us of a religious persuasion. If you believe that everything is the will of God, then it could affect the way that you live. There is an old saying, "Trust in God but tie up your camel" We need to take responsibility for our actions.

Stephen: If we are to hold people to account, we have to believe in free will. Why do so many people in the US not believe in evolution? In many cases it is embedded. In some cases, such as cell division, acceptance rates go up when some knowledge is given. However, religious identity has an impact on acceptance rates for the theory of evolution - people can't hold onto their moral and religious framework.


What does religion bring to modern society?
Richard: Come to choral evensong - it's a wonderful experience even if you don't believe. The Christian church should be fostering culture. Some things are perhaps not so good after 2,000 years but some are.

Gush: Ethnic minorities have greater adherence to their faith groups because these are the people that they know have the same culture. There have been great works of art commissioned by religious people. Today it's the aspects of community, togetherness and identity.

Stephen: Hard question to answer. Religious organisations do things in society that others don't such as volunteering. In an increasingly secular society we are becoming a bit default. We need religious input into decisions.

Anne-Marie: We don't live in "the modern age", we just live now. Is there a purpose to religion? If it's only the social aspect, then it's a bit of a waste. We have a dual nature - our animalistic side and also something deeper. Religion should help with we explore this deeper side. It's not just an individual journey, it needs to be collective. All human beings matter - we can unite people behind a common goal.

Foodbank foodpacks at a Church

Image Sources
Brain, Earth, Kant

Talk : The Politics of Illness

Interesting Cafe Sci talk recently by Chris Ward, emeritus professor at the University of Nottingham, comes to Café Sci to talk about "The Politics of Illness". @GavSquires was there and has written this guest post of the event!

Prof Chris Ward

What is illness?
Prof Ward commented that illness isn't the same as disease. For example, an Ash tree can have dieback, a disease, but it isn't ill. Illness is specific to certain types of being - you might describe a dog as being ill but you wouldn't describe a fruit fly as being ill. Disease caries itself on its sleeve, it has an objective quality that illness doesn't have. You can have a disease but not really be ill, for example athlete's foot. But can you have illness without disease? Illness is a state of suffering and incapacity. For example, ME (or chronic fatigue syndrome) doesn't present any symptoms of disease. What are the states of being for ME sufferers and their families? This mystery illness for which we have yet to find a cure.

What is politics?
Prof Ward quoted a definition of politics as the "study or practice of the distribution of power in a given community". In the case of healthcare there is the doctor, the patient and the illness, a three-way relationship that involves the transfer of power. So, it is a political act. Politics filters all the way down to even the mother and infant relationship - we have the translation of very powerful intuitions into political life.

The politics of individuality are also at play - the stigma attached to illness. The idea of being classified, whether it is willingly, unwillingly or unknowingly. Just because someone is ill, they still have opinions. The highlighting if individual differences and the stigma that can come from something like ME. You also get situations where people are thinking, " I'm not myself therefore I must be ill". There can also be a certain prestige to being diagnosed as being ill and following such a diagnosis, one can deviate from regular behaviour. Those with a questionable diagnosis do not experience this.

The politics of illness often comes down to whether it is illness or something else - the battleground of the physical verses the mental. Often ill people are not heard, understood or believed. The can be denied help, confused, attacked, angry and incoherent. But what do these low level responses really mean? Those with ME are often not seen as "passing the test" of actually being ill. Mental illness attracts the same stigma. Most doctors accept that ME is a real disease but there are still some people who think that it can be overcome with positive thinking and exercise. The diagnosis generates such passion and energy that it's been known that ME researchers have faced death threats.

There's also an outer context - public issues of social structure relevant to illness. Medication is led by big pharma and doctors - doctors are seen as agents of social control. So, there can be issues of diagnosis verses social structure. How often do we hear of women's issues being dismissed as being emotional problems and mental illness being seen as a brain disease rather than psychological? All of this is happening at the macro level - how do we correct people to the higher level of thinking?

There are psychological influences at work when it comes to the politics of illness - fear of the other (the well vs the unwell) and of course the deeply ingrained the fear of death. With illness there is also a loss of sense of security in oneself. This is at the very heart of what illness is - not being oneself. Indeed, when you challenge someone's illness, you challenge their self. There is also an issue with language - it dictates that illness must be a thing. When someone says that they are ill, the first question is usually, "what is it?"

Café Sci returns to the Vat & Fiddle on the 12th of December at 8pm when Nicole Porter will speak on Biophilic Design - Buildings and Cities to Connect People With Nature. For more information, visit the Café Sci Meetup page:

Sunday, 27 November 2016

NAE : Fighting Walls - Street Art in Egypt and Iran

Remarkable exhibition on at Nottingham's New Art Exchange (until 18th Dec 2016) called "Fighting Walls : Street Art in Egypt and Iran".

The exhibition describes some of the politically motivated graffiti that has appeared in these cities during times of civil stress.

General view of the exhibition

The "No Walls" campaign was initiated by Salma El-Tarzi in response to the barriers placed on major streets around Tahrir Square. This particular "opened wall" was painted by Ammar Abou Bakr

The barriers had a significant adverse effect on daily life and breaking them down only resulted in the authorities rebuilding them even stronger.

So artists "opened the wall" in a different way....

Opened Wall by Ammar Abou Bakr

A number of Egyptian protesters lost their eyes to rubber bullets and shotgun pellets fired by police. One victim, Ahmed Harara, lost the sight in both eyes in separate incidents and became named "The Living Martyr". In another case, video footage showed a policeman sniping at protester and being congratulated by his colleague on hitting someone in the eye "In his eye! It was in his eye! Bravo boss!". Activists promised a reward for the identification of the "Eye Sniper" and he was eventually found to be a Lieutent El-Shenawy and was sentenced to three years in jail in 2013

Various Graffitiof protestors who have lost an eye

Graffiti protesting the death of Sheikh Emad Effat, an Al-Azhar scholar who had joined the protests and died from a gunshot wound.

Graffiti protesting death of Sheikh Emad Effat

This image, by artist Ammar Abo Bakr, in 2011 is of Major General Mohamed Al-Batran, Head of the Prison Investigations Department who was found shot dead at the prison. His sister reported that Al-Batran had refused to allow prisoners to flee the jail. After his death som 24,000 prisoners were allowed to escape from prison.

Graffiti by Ammar Abo Bakr

"Faryad", meaning "scream" or "shout", and written in persian script in the swirling hair, was painted in 2010 by artist FRITZ as a commentary on public anger and shock at the outcome of the 2009 election, and its aftermath when the police cracked down heavily on protests.

BFTF is really impressed by the way the artist has painted the "tiles" onto the plain wall, and the way the colour scheme erratically changes. Could look at this for a long time!


Pretty clear message in this work called Hidden Reality by artist MAD in Tehran, 2011

Hidden Reality by MAD, 2011

There was also a computer game called "1979 Revolution: Black Friday" in which the player is a character who is involved in the events of the Iranian revolution and has to make decisions in order to survive.

1979 Revolution: Black Friday

Many buildings in Iran are covered in state sponsored murals, a number of which were shown in postcard form in the exhibition.

Iranian State sponsored murals

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Sunday, 20 November 2016

Books BFTF didn't buy

Book that BFTF wanted to buy, but didn't because there was no evidence they had been printed on environmentally sustainable paper...


City County Forest
City County Forest

Emailed Pedals to ask whether the book was printed on sustainably sourced paper. They responded, winningly, with : "I have checked one copy of 'City County Forest' and can confirm there is no mention of the sustainability of the paper used in the book."


Dawn of the Undead
Dawn of the Unread

Contacted Dawn of the Undead at their very interesting blogand asked for info on the sustainability of the paper used for this graphic novel.They responded with the following reassuring message:

"Yes, DAWN is indeed printed on FSC paper, and we shall add the FSC logo to reprints.Russell Press have had FSC accreditation for many years, as well ISO environmental accreditation."


The BBC - Myth of a Public Service
The BBC - Myth of a Public Service

Contacted Verso asking for information on the sustainability of the paper used in this book.


Trump Unveiled - Exposing the Bigoted Billionaire
Trump Unveiled - Exposing the Bigoted Billionaire

Contacted OR Books asking for information on the sustainability of the paper used in this book. They reassuringly responded with :

"OR Books' UK printer, CPi, is both FSC and PEFC certified; details are available on its website...[and]...The edition you saw in your local bookseller, printed by our publishing partner Counterpoint, is produced on recycled 30% PCW [post consumer waste] paper stock"


Guinness World Records 2017
Guinness World Records 2017

Message sent via the Guinness Book of Records contact page:

"I was just about to buy a copy of Guinness Book of Records 2017 when I noticed that there was no logo or statement saying it had been printed on sustainably sourced paper (e.g. FSC certified or recycled). Can you please advise on your policy regarding this issue?"

They responded by pointing out that "We print on renewable and recyclable paper. You can find the sustainability statement on p.250 of the hardback: 'SUSTAINABILITY -The paper used for this edition is manufactured by UPM Plattling, German. The production site has forest certification and its operations have both ISO14001 environmental management system and EMAS certification to ensure sustainable production. UPM Papers are true Biofore products, produced from renewable and recycled materials.' "

You can read the UPM product statement here, it is pretty encouraging, so guess can buy this with confidence. Although possibly a bit late now. Did suggest to the publisher might want to consider "making the note a bit more prominent so that I don't miss it next time" :)


Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Pseudoscience and Conspiracy Theories on Social Media

Some examples of Pseudoscience and Conspiracy Theories on Social Media.


Cannabis does not cure cancers
Dangerous pseudo-science that could get people killed if they use cannabis oil instead of medical advice. In contrast to the claims in the article, there are MANY studies on the effects of cannabisits effects - for example at CancerResearchUK page.


Anti-Vaccine attitudes get children killed.

This post actively causes harm by discouraging people from getting their children vaccinated. If you want to see what DOCTORS say about flu vaccine, visit this CDC page.


ISIS probable are not named after MOSSAD

So, Israel secretly set up an extreme group, then called it the same acronym they use on their letterheads. Have I got that right?


Life in Libya under Gaddafi was no a bed of roses

Where is the evidence that any of the "facts" on that meme are actually true? A free health service is not the same as an effective one. I can offer your whole family free family healthcare right now. It's just that whatever your illlness, the only treatment you are going to get is paracetamol"


CERN is not making an anti-matter bomb

Very sensible video until about 6mins in then it starts to fixate on anti-matter, repeatedly saying (accurately) that 1g of antimatter has the energy potential of a nuclear weapon and (also accurately) that CERN has been trying to contain antimatter.

But what is not mentioned (although BFTF did not listed to the entire audio) is that the current state of the art is only able to hold about 40 anti-protons, which is 0.000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 1 g and according to the IOP it would take around 100 billion years to produce 1 gram of antimatter. ********************************

This is wrong on multiple levels

BFTF has noticed that there is a flurry of conspiracy theories on social media 3-4 days after a terrorist attack. This meme about the same girl being at different terroist attacks is a common one and was circulating a few days after the Paris attacks in Nov 2015. It is debunked at


My most favourite conspiracy theory EVER.

Possibly BFTF's most favourite conspiracy type theory ever.


Microwaves are not particles

Lots of errors and misinformation here. To take one example,the article says "They use electrically generated electromagnetic energy to make super-fast particles". But microwaves aren't particles. The clue is in the name. Here is a paper that talks quite comprehensively about microwave oven leakage and safety


No, this isn't evidence that ISIS are composed of Non-Muslims

Sigh. Another conspiracy theory. Even the most knuckle dragging EDL supporter knows that Muslims pray towards Mecca, so its unlikely that spies would forget this basic information. There are a number of more plausible explanations for this image. Someone who disliked Muslims might pay BIG TIME for people to generate and forward this kind of image, as it encourages a defeatist attitude and distracts people from issues that they can influence.


HumzaYusuf is unlikely to have said these words

Circulating posts that appear to come from well known Islamic Scholars, but are actually fake, is something that happens too. In this case the words do not sound like something Humza Yusuf would say.


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Sunday, 6 November 2016

Poor Lighting at Castle Retail Park, Nottingham

Sent this to local councillors in the hope they could help to sort out the shockingly poor lighting in Castle Retail Park:

Dear Cllrs,

Have noticed that the lighting in the north end of the Castle Retail Park, especially by the pedestrian entrance and across the shop frontages, is essentially zero.

I don't think this is acceptable, and believe it is a significant hazard for people using that entrance. The hazards will be compounded should we see icy weather during the winter. I would like to challenge the site owners on this but cannot find any information on who I should email.

I hope you can advise on a suitable contact I can get in touch with. I attached a picture of the visibility when I used the north entrance recently.

This is how it looks when using the pedestrian entrance to the north of Castle Retail Park.
Not good news if you are elderly or there are icy conditions

Update 9th Nov
Received an email from the "Principal Environmental Health Officer - Health & Safety" at Nottingham Council informing BFTF of the managing agent, their email and their phone number. The EHO also said they had contacted the managing agent requesting a response within 3 working days.

When BFTF walked into the retail park in the evening, the lighting in that section of the car park had been switched on and visibility was much immproved.

Same view after lighting improved

Impressed with the speed of response all round!