John Walker's Electronic House

Rum Doings Episode 78: The Jewiest Of All The Ghosts

by on Jul.14, 2011, under Rum Doings, The Rest

In Rum Doings 78 we don’t discuss who is to answer for the Olympic ticket fiasco furore. We then drink a suspicious-looking rhum, and instantly ban being foreign.

We then discuss… sugar! It’s going to be an award winning episode. Nick mentions this lecture. Sugar takes us to water, which takes us to how John is better than his sister. Then we move on to our greatest subject of all time, So Haunt Me. And learn of the sad death of Miriam Karlin.

We both have something of a revelation of the nature of our relationships, and then ask that ultimate question: have you ever seen a ghost? No, we don’t really ask that. But we do consider what we’d do if we ever thought we had. Then Nick explains to John that events he went through never took place.

Are we disappointed that we’ll never go into space? And plane crashes. Which brings us to Nick’s specialist subject of plane safety. You get to find out why planes sound like barking dogs.

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32 Comments for this entry

  • Jonathan

    Ah — I was just thinking about So Haunt Me a few days ago (while discussing why I find Tessa Peake Jones so awful) but couldn’t think of the show’s name, so thank you!

  • Geetoo

    The ghost gets the Boo-bie prize.

  • Jambe

    These are really great to listen to.

    The Doctorow/Taylor episode was really nice, and I’d have commented on it were I not in the process of moving at the time (and unpacking and getting to know the area since). I’d already come across most of the opinions Doctorow expressed given that I follow him closely, but Alice Taylor was new to me and very intriguing. The talk of abandoned theme parks was interesting.

    Sugar is indeed too ubiquitous. On a related note, I seem recall a fairly recent study suggesting that many Americans consume less than a quarter of the recommended amount of insoluble fiber which leads to markedly increased risk of chronic bowel disorders and, importantly, obesity (since insoluble fiber works to modulate nutrient absorption).

  • Nick Mailer

    Jambe: one of the cheapest, easiest ways to get soluble fibre is oat bran. I get a bag of it for less than a pound which lasts me weeks. You can make it into a filling snack, or you can just sprinkle it into stews, on top of spreads and into wraps – you don’t even realise it’s there, and it does its job.

  • mister k

    I have nnot watched the lecture out, but I always propose caution (as, to be fair, you mentioned) when one guy, no matter how qualified, makes very specific nutritional claims. Even if the science of how it should be consumed by the body is correct, does he have solid statistical evidence of fructose having this effect? Still, reducing one’s sugar intake is hardly likely to be a BAD thing. I do drink a fair amount of fruit juice, and am basically addicted to fruit (I probably don’t want to stop the latter addiction as it stops me snacking on less healthy things).

    I detest ryanair. The brother of its founder came to speak at my school, and taught us about self reliance and building a business from nothing… despite the fact that he had a job given to him by his brother. My main irritation with ryanair is those fricking adverts they buy in papers where they clumsily espouse some moronic short sighted political opinions.

  • Nick Mailer

    mister k: As I said, and as you confirm, he overstates the case. That said, he does present some very interesting statistical analyses and, to give him credit, he is taking part in proper clinical tests. At the moment, it’s a fascinating hypothesis with some data to back up some of its claims. We’ll see whether the full extent of his alarm is justified as the data come in.

  • James

    I enjoyed the plane facts, I didn’t know that stuff about arming the doors. Now I really want to see someone get hit in the face with the emergency slide! I’m flying on an MD-11 in a couple of weeks, the last of the passenger tri-jets.

    Nick’s description of the V speed callouts was wrong.

    Before V1 = you can still stop on the ground.
    V1 = is when you take the problem into the air.
    VFR = rotation speed
    V2 = minimum speed to become airborne.

    To stop after V1, the brakes would need to absorb roughly four times the energy needed beforehand.

  • Jambe

    I read the Economist spaceflight article in question. It was short-sighted and cynical. Surely space exploration will decline over the next 2-5 decades but prognosticating much beyond that seems pointless given the extemporaneous, haphazard nature of past space exploration.

    I’m actually sympathetic to the cynicism. The most compelling reason for space exploration is the exploration itself (and wrt Mars there’s the impact-safeguard angle) but I doubt most people think that’s a compelling-enough reason even though NASA’s budget is trivial. Supposing the western world’s tech culture survives for another century or two, I imagine our collective opinions of space exploration will have changed.

    Also, tangentially: spin-offs aren’t justifications for space endeavor so much as fortunate side-effects. I don’t see why space programs must be thought of as industry or tech incubators. Carl Sagan said it best with, “you don’t need to go to Mars to cure cancer.”

    Robots are much more sensible than human explorers. I don’t know why some people are so religiously infatuated with the idea of people in space. There is little to stop us from robotizing and/or automating most if not all facets of spaceflight and space-construction. We could even use robots to construct colonies which would eventually receive human occupants.

  • Nick Mailer

    James: you are correct about the v numbers. I realised I was wrong as I said it.
    Jambe: if you don’t understand the desire for human – direct human – exploration, then you don’t understand the evolutionary or psychological basis for any exploration. When the first hominids took their terrifying steps out of Africa, some stone-aged robot would have been no alternative.

  • Vagabond

    I saw the sugar video a few months ago. Following one of the “suggestions” videos related to the it eventually led to me to picking up a copy of Gary Taubes book “Why we get fat”. If Taubes is correct, and he makes a compelling case, then it is frightening how little scientific evidence there is to back up current nutritional advice, and indeed how much there is that flat out refutes it.

  • Jambe

    I understand the natural desire for physical exploration. Your analogy is weak; we didn’t have any alternative to stepping out of Africa, but we have a baldly cheaper and safer alternative to stepping off the planet (or into the deep sea, or into any other hostile environment).

    I wouldn’t advocate no human spaceflight at all, just more reliance on automata in an interim phase between infrastructure deployment and fleshy-body deployment. I think that’s perfectly sensible.

  • Daniel Rivas

    I’d say human spaceflight is a moral imperative. Robotic exploration is a useful tool, but should never be viewed as the end unto itself. We are the only known (to us) example of sapient life. That is, we are the only known instance of the Universe observing and attempting to understand itself; we are precious.

    Those who say that we should just stay put (or worse, that the world would be better off without us) can be termed justifiably as Evil. The Earth will last for a few billion years, at most. That’s nothing. We should be attempting to last the duration.

    Quixotic as that may seem, we can but try.

  • Jambe

    I’d agree that human spaceflight should be given high priority. I’m a pragmatist at heart, though; surely it’s a good idea to spread ourselves around if only to minimize the odds of our extinction. Indulging our curiosity and wanderlust and fulfilling our capacity as the Sun’s sapient snowflakes is fine and dandy, but threats of impact, volcanism, pandemic, etc, are far more compelling reasons to colonize the solar system.

  • devlocke

    Re: Diet soda, it’s an acquired taste, but it’s totally doable. I used to drink ~4 liters of Mountain Dew (do they have that over there? I vaguely remember being super annoyed that I couldn’t find it in Dublin/London, something like 7 years ago, on my one trip to your Isles) a day; I hated all diet drinks with a passion.

    It didn’t make me fat, but it totally destroyed my teeth, and in an attempt to keep that from getting worse after getting a lot of dental work done, I forced myself to switch to diet drinks. I now find that regular soda isn’t any better, and further, makes my mouth feel funny because I’ve gotten used to the mouthfeel or whatever of diet drinks.

    Ironically, after being the same weight from like, 13 to 25, during which time I was drinking those massive amounts of soda-with-the-sugar-in, I am now a 31-year-old who is around 50 pounds heaver, post-switching-to-diet. When I was drinking tons of sugary soda, I was also in a location where I could and did walk almost everywhere. I’ve since moved to a shittier and less central neighborhood, and I have to drive everywhere, and I’ve ballooned up. It’s kind of annoying.

  • devlocke

    Re: space exploration, I suspect that the U.S. won’t be driving innovation there so much anymore, because we no longer have a zeitgeist that even pretends to have any interest in anything other than cash, and furthermore, short-term cash. But as we go broke with that mindset, other places will end up with the disposable income necessary to pursue great works for their own sake and also the drive to do so, because they’re not so culturally bankrupt, and it’ll get worked on. Slower, perhaps, but steadily.

    That’s probably totally naive, though. Make fun of me, Nick!

  • Ryan Rigney

    Just commenting because you fellows keep whining about how you never get feedback XD

    Love the show. Keep up the work!

  • scotchmi_st

    What did the ghost say when he won the prize? I don’t know. But do you know what the french ghost said when he won the prizes?

    J’ai gagner les prix!

    (You have to say it out loud.)

  • George

    I found the aeroplane facts very interesting as well. I recently flew to and from Malta on, I think, an A320 (possibly an A318 for one of the directions), and was very confused at the barking dog noise. Though to me it sounded more like a windscreen wiper juddering across a too-dry screen – unless that’s a different noise altogether.

  • Nick Mailer

    George: It depends on how frequently the sound is repeated. Often, it’s only “barked” occasionally, but in this youtube video, its constant repetition means it does indeed sound a little as you describe:

  • George

    Ok, thanks. I figured it was something to do with hydraulics/pneumatics but wasn’t certain.

  • IcyBee

    What did the ghost say when he won the prize?

    Well… at first, he cried “WoooooHoooo”.
    Then he spook at great length and with such eloquence that he put all the other prize winners’ speeches in the shade.
    Then he celebrated by drinking too many spirits, ending up three sheets to the wind and made a complete spectrecle of himself. Everyone was aghast.

  • Alex Bakke

    Enjoyed the podcast as always.

    One thing I think should realllllly make a return, is the sound of opening the bottle. It was hinted at this week and it was enjoyable.

  • George

    What did the ghost say when he won the prize?

    “I’m very honoured, but actually, in the 200m hurdle event I have a somewhat unfair advantage.
    Plus, I have all this prize money but no body to share it with.”

  • Nick Mailer

    Actually, that last one is substantially good.

  • Trellism

    Prof ‘Sexy’ Brian Cox said on the radio recently that he doesn’t believe in ghosts because, of course, their existence disproves thermodynamics, i.e. what’s powering them.

  • David N

    Hi, John and Nick,

    Glad to see that you are linking Lustig’s video. While you certainly are correct that he gets a bit extreme in the video, I think it still works as a good primer for anyone who doesn’t know just how bad fructose is for our bodies.

    Over the last few years, I had gradually ballooned up to a peak of 225lbs by February of this year. I’m only 5’10”, so you can imagine that I was rather obese. I had tried low-fat diets with plenty of sustained high-intensity exercise before, but I never saw much success. That was when I discovered Lustig’s video. It kind of opened my eyes to just what I was putting in my mouth and what it was doing to me.

    From there, I spent weeks reading articles and studies on the topic, and came to the conclusion that fructose, and processed carbohydrates in general, are absolutely terrible for us, especially when consumed in the massive quantities that most people do today. So I went on a low-carb diet starting in mid-February . A lot of people laughed that I was doing an Atkins diet and dismissed my efforts, but after a couple of weeks the results really started to show. I only changed my diet and didn’t incorporate any exercise at first, but I was already seeing dramatic weight loss and much higher energy levels throughout the day, so I kept it up.

    As of this morning, I weighed in at 168lbs, for a total reduction of 57lbs over approximately five and a half months. I incorporated simply resistance exercises in late March or so, and have also succeeded in greatly increasing my muscle mass, particularly in my arms and legs.

    I’d post more detailed information for those interested, but this post is already way too long. So, instead, I’ll post two links to two forums that helped guide me through this process and contain a massive amount of information and links to scientific studies backing low-carb, low-sugar diets. I encourage anyone to give these a read sometime when you have time, especially if you are overweight and don’t want to be.

    Something Awful Low Carb Mega-thread (massive information dump in the first post):

    NeoGAF Weight Loss thread (lots of discussion throughout, but might be best to skip to around page 110)

  • David N

    Oops, caught a spelling error in my last post (should be “simple resistance exercises”).

    Also, to echo Vagabond a bit, the “Why We Get Fat” book by Gary Taubes is great. Some of the information therein seems to be disputed by some, but overall, it works as a great introduction into how our body processes various macro nutrients, and shows how much quackery is involved in the modern ‘nutritional wisdom’. For a more in-depth scientific view on the topic, check out his “Good Calories, Bad Calories” book, too.

  • Ion of Chios

    I read somewhere that various studies have ‘proven’ that ingestion of sugar significantly decreases the effectiveness of your immune system during the time that your body is processing it and that fructose is the worst of all sugars in this respect – if you’re eating sugar all the time, your immune system is running sub-optimally all the time.

    And now, Nick and John, on to the contentious subject of cholesterol – good or bad for you? Apparently statins are the one of the most profitable drugs that the industry has ever stumbled upon, yet some say there is, at best, no scientific evidence to prove that they are beneficial, and, at worst, they may increase your chances of having repeat heart attacks and suffering from other nasty side effects, like impaired immune system function. A callous, insidious corporate money-making conspiracy that has been spectacularly successfully in duping medical professionals and governments worldwide? Discuss … I reckon we’d all be better off taking more vitamin C.

  • Ion of Chios

    Also, how come you guys didn’t discuss my intriguing philosophy topic – which I twitted ‘@’ you on Twatter ages ago – while at the same time having the brazen audacity to whimper pitifully on about how no one comments on your ‘Doings, ever? (Actually, this is not a serious criticism. Or, is it? Or, IS it? … Or, IS IT?)


    By the way, being a late adopter, I’ve just recently managed to work my way through my backlog of ‘Doings oeuvre, and I’d just like to say, ‘Keep up the good work, chaps!’

  • David N

    There’s nothing wrong with cholesterol in itself. A high overall cholesterol doesn’t mean much. It’s the LDL cholesterol in particular that you need to watch out for. The higher that is, the worse off you are. However, you want high HDL cholesterol. If you have low HDL cholesterol and high LDL cholesterol (a common makeup of people who eat low fat diets with lots of carbohydrate and hydrogenated vegetable oil), then you are at a much higher risk for cardiovascular disease than someone with much higher overall cholesterol numbers who also had very low LDL cholesterol.

    I can find some links to some studies if you’re interested.

  • Ion of Chios

    David: yes, thanks, links would be appreciated.

    I’ve conducted a far-from-exhaustive internet study on this and have found that most experiments have been far from conclusive – in fact, they often disprove what they are set out to, or are purported to, prove. At present, I’m not convinced that LDL cholesterol is bad for you, nor am I convinced that attempting to control cholesterol levels – through diet or statins – is beneficial.

    The mainstream perception of cholesterol seems to be that it is like some sort of limescale, wholesale clogging up the inner surfaces of your vascular plumbing. In reality, arterial plaque is localised to high-stress vessels, near the heart, and is not a build-up of gunk on top of the arterial wall, rather a thickening of the arterial wall as a result of cholesterol-based repair due to damage. There is some evidence to suggest that the body only uses cholesterol to repair arteries when there is insufficient vitamin C available.

    To be honest, I’m not sure what I believe at the moment. Here’s some probably facile curios which I’ve picked up from various places:

    1) As a carnivorous product of evolution, surely man-animal is ‘designed’ to be able to cope with eating a large amount of saturated fat?
    2) Why is cardiovascular disease a relatively new phenomenon in human history?
    3) Why is man the only animal that suffers from cardiovascular disease (side teaser: perhaps because man is also on of the few animals that can’t produce vitamin C?)?

  • Ion of Chios

    (And, in case Nick reads my preceding drivel, yes, I am aware that the first sentence of my second comment is either ungrammatical or does not mean what I intended it to mean – there doesn’t seem to be an edit feature.)