Monthly Archives: December 2015

My big dumb 2016 life project: Days of the Year

I like the idea of doing life projects. Put simply, they’re when you commit to doing things in your life on a large scale. Classic examples include:

  • Dice Man living his life according to the roll of a die (fictional).
  • Danny Wallace saying yes to everything.
  • Dave Gorman travelling the world according to Googlewhacks.

Wallace and Gorman are the frontrunners in this kind of thing really. There’s also:

  • Danny Wallace travelling the world to start a cult.
  • Dave Gorman challenging the UK to play him at games, which I reviewed here.
  • Danny Wallace AND Dave Gorman travelling the UK to meet people called Dave Gorman.

And most importantly of all, there’s Dave Gorman’s Important Astrology Experiment. I don’t know why more people don’t know about this show. It’s amazing. Dave Gorman lives his life according to his horoscope for 40 days. Taking them literally as possible, he examined whether it made him happier or not. Hilarity ensues.

Here’s the first episode:

So basically I WANNA DO SOMETHING LIKE THIS TOO.

I’ve got ideas. I’m…. funny! I’m excitable!

So here’s the plan: Live my life according to whatever ‘day of the year’ it is that day!

Ever notice how it’s always some ‘international day’ these days? Of course you have! I wrote about it here, remember? There’s so many of these days, in fact, that some days have several ‘days’ associated with them. And each month has about three things associated with it too.

Let’s take January for example, and see how I might live my life around that.

JANUARY 2016 IS: GET ORGANISED MONTH

So yeah, every day in January I’ll do something to organise my life. Sort out my finances, clear my desk. That kinda thing! Woop. Easy peasy. And the days?

Well, JANUARY 1ST IS: COPYRIGHT LAW DAY

Ok, it’s not the most exciting day to kick off with. But it’s established so I’ll do it. The description for it reads as such:

Without copyright law, we’d never stop fighting over who owns what. Celebrate Copyright Law Day and thank the creators of books and movies you love!
So I’ll thank some creators on that day! Hooray. What a way to bring in the new year.
In case you’re wondering, I’m using daysoftheyear.com to manage this. You’ll notice that each day has a couple of entries, so my rule will have to be the one that’s listed first is the one I’ll do. This gives me a WEEK 1 ITINERARY of:
  1. Copyright Law Day
  2. Science Fiction Day
  3. Drinking Straw Day
  4. Hypnotism Day
  5. Bird Day
  6. Three Kings Day
  7. I’m Not Going To Take It Anymore Day

What a week it’ll be.

I’ll hashtag it daily on Twitter with like #RICHARDS2016 or something better. And I’ll do a weekly blog post roundup of my adventures. If I have any.

Yay. This is gonna be so cool!

Please please please please let me get a book deal out of this.

An explanation of everything Insane Clown Posse consider to be miracles

Insane Clown Posse are a fascinating band. They’ve somehow managed to create an entirely unique genre of music: Clown Rap. They describe themselves as hip hop, horror core, rock rap, and other things. But at its heart, it’s just Clown Rap.

Here’s what they look like:

Insane_clown_posse9

But enough background. If you wanna know about ICP there’s plenty of writing already out there listing how weird and wacky they are.

I’d like to talk about a specific ICP song: Miracles. Here’s the vid:

It’s pretty weird, huh? It’s just them listing things they think are miracles. (Probably part of their ‘hidden’ Christian agenda, right?). Most famously, it spawned an entire meme around the “magnets” line.

efaffe9f0ef28f7cb8542acd2928c35f.320x180x1

In this article, I’d like to help Insane Clown Posse by explaining how the things they’re confused about work. I hope they find it a useful introduction to the world of science. So here goes!

If magic is all we’ve ever known
Then it’s easy to miss what really goes on
But I’ve seen miracles in every way
And I see miracles everyday

Ok, that’s just the intro. So far so good. There’s some MIRACLES coming up now though.

Oceans spanning beyond my sight
And a million stars way above em at night
We don’t have to be high to look in the sky
And know that’s a miracle opened wide

So, the oceans and stars are miracles? Nah not really. They’re just parts of the earth and galaxy. They’re pretty much the most bog standard things in our lives. If we didn’t have the oceans and stars you wouldn’t be around to appreciate them. So yeah, nothing special here really. The sky is not a miracle.

Look at the mountains, trees, the seven seas
And everything chilling underwater, please
Hot lava, snow, rain and fog
Long neck giraffes, and pet cats and dogs

Ignoring the fact they added “please” for no reason other than to rhyme with “seas” there’s a lot going on here. Mountains and trees are basically the same as above – natural objects that are utterly unremarkable. “The seven seas” is just the “oceans” from before repeated.

“Everything chilling underwater” – so, fish? Nah. They’re not miracles. They’re just creatures that have evolved to live underwater.

“Hot lava” – as opposed to? Cold lava is basically just rocks. Lava is formed when rock gets hot and becomes molten. A miracle? I don’t think so.

“Snow, rain and fog” – you’re just listing weather here mates.

“Long neck giraffes, and pet cats and dogs” – weird grouping of animals here. Above, they listed ALL underwater creatures but here they choose just two domestic pets and LONG NECK GIRAFFES? Nope, nothing miraculous about those either really.

Pure magic is the birth of my kids
I’ve seen shit that’ll shock your eyelids

Childbirth is often said to be a miracle. “The miracle of creation” they call it. But it’s really not. Reproduction is a very standard natural process. It’s just what all animals do. Was your wife pregnant for nine months? Yes? Then she’s gonna have a baby. Not miraculous. My eyelids remain unshocked.

Just to be clear, the definition of a miracle is a an event not explicable by natural or scientific laws. For some reason, ICP have chosen thus far to focus exclusively on events explicable by scientific laws. Do like UFOs or something instead, not widely understood scientific processes like “fog”.

The sun and the moon, and even Mars
The Milky Way and fucking shooting stars
UFOs, a river flows
Plant a little seed and nature grows

That’s more like it! The first two things we can skip, they just fall under ‘space stuff’ which is pretty unremarkable. “UFOs” is more interesting. By their very nature, they cannot be explained (otherwise they’d be FOs). But are UFOs miracles? I don’t think so. In most cases they can be explained away in some sense – people seeing things wrong, secret military tests, weather balloons, weird weather, whatever. These are all perfectly rational explanations.

Consider Bayes’ Theorem. It’s a scientific/philosophical theorem about the probability of events given other events. To steal directly from wikipedia:

P(A|B) = \frac{P(A)\, P(B | A)}{P(B)},

where A and B are events.

  • P(A) and P(B) are the probabilities of A and B without regard to each other.
  • P(A | B), a conditional probability, is the probability of observing event A given that B is true.
  • P(B | A), is the probability of observing event B given that A is true.

So in practice, this can be things like ‘if a disease testing machine is 95% accurate and you’re testing for a disease that affects 1% of people, how likely is it you have the disease if you get a positive result?’ The result always freaks people out, because it’s much lower than you’d expect [16% in this case!].

What does this have to do with miracles? Well, people aren’t all too accurate at determining things. We’re well below perfect miracle detectors. We’re fooled easily, basically. So our detection rate (for pretty much anything!) should be well below 95%. Say, 50%.

And then consider nature, the odds of a miracle actually happening in nature should be very low indeed. Ruling out quantum events, the possibility of an event occurring that violates the laws of nature should in fact be absolutely zero. It shouldn’t happen. But let’s be generous and say there’s a 0.000000001% chance that an event could occur outside of the laws of physics.

With our detection rate of 50%, and the minute chance of a miracle actually occurring – what’s the outcome according to Bayes? Well, I’m past my prime in terms of actually running the numbers, but it aint’ good. In short: we’re far far far far more likely to be wrong about what we think is happening than it’s the case that the laws of nature have been violated (like the test for the uncommon disease – it’s more likely the test is faulty when it gives out a seemingly positive result).

Thus, armed with Bayes’ Theorem, Occam’s Razor, and a decent helping of Cartestian scepticism we can pretty much say that UFOs aren’t miracles. They’re just weird clouds or big owls or something.

“A river flows” – not a miracle.

“Plant a little seed and nature grows” – THIS IS LITERALLY JUST HOW PLANTS GROW OMG.

Niagara falls and the pyramids
Everything you believed in as kids
Fucking rainbows after it rains
There’s enough miracles here to blow your brains

Niagara falls is a natural object formed by river processes and different rock types. The Pyramids were built by people. I believed all kinds of dumb things when I was a kid, but I don’t think we can just include stuff kids think in our inventory of miracles. That seems like cheating.

“Fucking rainbows after it rains” – from Wikipedia: A rainbow is a meteorological phenomenon that is caused by reflection, refraction and dispersion of light in water droplets resulting in a spectrum of light appearing in the sky.

“There’s enough miracles here to blow your brains” – no there isn’t. We have exactly zero miracles here so far.

I fed a fish to a pelican at Frisco bay
It tried to eat my cell phone, he ran away
And music is magic, pure and clean
You can feel it and hear it but it can’t be seen

What’s the story with the pelican all about then? It’s clearly not to be another of ICP’s supposed miracles. It seems to just be an amusing anecdote that ICP felt like including in the song… for some reason? I guess they couldn’t find anything else to go in those two lines.

“Music” – not magic. Vibrations of an object cause variations in air pressure around it, which is picked up by us and interpreted as audio. It can sort of be seen, just look at a vibrating guitar string or bass speaker.

Music is all magic
(Are you a firm believer in miracles)
You can’t even hold it
(Do you notice and recognize miracles)
It’s just there in the air
(Are you a firm believer in miracles)
Pure motherfucking magic

I am not a firm believer in miracles. They have failed to prove this point.

Music is a lot like love, it’s all a feeling
And it fills the room, from the floor to the ceiling
I see miracles all around me
Stop and look around, it’s all astounding

They’re really pushing this ‘music = miracles” line. But don’t buy it. It really isn’t. ESPECIALLY not their music.

Water, fire, air and dirt
Fucking magnets, how do they work?
And I don’t wanna talk to a scientist
Y’all motherfuckers lying, and getting me pissed

First four there are just the natural elements as identified by the original Greek philosophers. That reality is combined of these as constituent parts has long since been debunked. They’re not miracles.

MAGNETS. Hahahaha. Here’s how magnets work –

Ferromagnetic metals have large amounts of unpaired electrons in their outermost shell. These electrons produce a gravitational effect, which tends to be in one direction or another. Line up these electrons in the same direction (towards a  ‘pole’) and you can produce a magnetic field. Basically like this:

magdom4

The magnet can then push/pull (repel, attract) other ferromagnetic objects within its magnetic field. So like a needle can be made magnetic, but a tree branch can’t.

All sorted? Good. Magnets ain’t miracles.

“And I don’t wanna talk to a scientist, y’all motherfuckers lying, and getting me pissed” – it’s frustrating that they so vehemently reject the advice of scientists. I have no doubt that they’d find their guidance really useful. Maybe they have consulted one in the past but they didn’t get the answers they were looking for. It’s still weird though that you’d attempt to catalogue miracles without at least hearing out a scientist. Oh well. Next!

Solar eclipse, and vicious weather
Fifteen thousand Juggalos together

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the earth. It happens somewhat regularly, depending on the part of the planet you’re on. I’m not even sure what “vicious weather” is meant to refer to here – like storms and stuff? Not miracles.

The gathering of 15,000 ICP fans is a miracle in the figurative sense – how can they stand each other? – but not actual in the sense we’re interested in.

I seen a caterpillar turn into a butterfly
Miracles ain’t nothing to lie

It’s called metamorphosis. Lots of animals do it. We have a pretty solid understanding of how it works.

Shaggy’s little boys look just like Shaggy
And my little boy looks just like daddy

Info: Shaggy 2 Dope is one of the ICP rappers. The other is Violent J. Here they remark that Shaggy 2 Dope’s son looks just like Shaggy 2 Dope. (Without the clown makeup, one assumes). Well mate, that’s just genetics. Physical characteristics are coded into your DNA – to a large extent – and are passed onto your offspring as part of the reproductive process. It would be much stranger if your genetic offspring didn’t resemble you at all. Family resemblance is not a miracle; in fact it’s not at all surprising whatsoever.

Crows, ghosts, the midnight coast
The wonders of the world, mysteries the most

Crows? Haha. But “ghosts” is curious. Like “UFOs” they’re going for the supernatural, which I really do think is their best strategy here. But again, I’m gonna go with Bayes and suggest that most people that think they’re seeing ghosts are just mistaken. Ever notice how we only have really shaky footage or grainy photos of ghosts? You think we’d be able to get at least ONE caught and studied under scientific conditions. Maybe then they’d say “nope, we can’t explain this!” and we’d have a proper miracle on our hands. Until then, I’m not allowing “ghosts.”

“The midnight coast” – well, that’s infuriatingly unspecific. Which coast? All coasts? They’re not that great. More info needed, please. Likewise with “wonders of the world, mysteries the most” – that feels like a lazy copout by a lyricist that has run out of things to list (he’s already done long neck giraffes and crows, after all). So no, you don’t get these either, ICP.

After this, they just sing about miracles a load more without giving any further specific examples.

Total miracle count: 0

Well, that’s disappointing. But I hope we’ve all learnt something today.

I’ll leave you with the incredible trailer for the direct-to-video Insane Clown Posse MOVIE, ‘Big Money Rustlas’ (sequel to ‘Big Money Hustlas’)