The Anti-Alchemy of Particle Accelerators

One of the most popular pseudosciences in history was converting lead into gold, because pseudoscience is always about making money from the dull by not understanding how things really work. As with many ancient sillinesses technology has now double-enabled us to both do it, and to realize it’s not worth the effort.

The idea that elements are all made of the same parts and can be transmuted from one to the other turned out to be true. The problem is that smashing lead down to gold consumes far too much person-time and energy, both of which are far more useful than gold. In fact the original lead is considerably useful than gold (by a factor of four thousand in terms of annual global production). Especially when you discount imaginary applications like “this shiny stuff is more valuable than other shiny stuffs”.

Which is why I love the wonderful coincidence of superscience with antiquated bullshit: the RHIC and ALICE particle accelerators use gold and lead ions. High-energy alchemical colliders, converting both the most noble and base metals into understanding of the universe.

The Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider uses gold not just because they’re heavy ions, which is kind of its thing, but because gold only has one stable isotope. (An isotope is another version of the same element with more or fewer neutrons – chemically identical, but it changes all the nuclear math). Which makes it relatively easy to know that all your gold nuclei are exactly the same. Because when you’re colliding hundreds of particles at 99.995% the speed of light, you don’t want the answers to be wrong because an ion added an extra one at the start.

At the Large Hadron Collider, A Large Ion Collider Experiment uses lead ions because they’re bigger, and bigger is better even at the subatomic level. The lead ion is the biggest stable ion there is, and it’s a double-magic number: both the protons and neutrons are arranged in perfectly filled spherical shells, making it a double-magic nucleus and as spherical as possible to simplify the collision calculations.

Leading to my two favorite things about this:

  1. Science enabling the word “magic” to actually mean something real and important, something which permeates everything, but something that most people still can’t see even though it’s all around and through us.
  2. The most sophisticated machine in the universe as we know it treats things as spheres to make the math easier.

The result is the exact inverse of alchemy: instead of failing to convert material due to lack of understanding, we convert material into understanding directly.

Superscience continues with

Saving America With Superior Weaponry

I’m inspired by the US delivering advanced computers to foreign schools, though it’s a shame they’re in the nosecones of high-explosive bombs. Those things cost over twenty thousand dollars each. Which means US schools could combat government education cuts by combating the government directly. It sounds scary, but it’s outright terrifying that the richest country in the world is more interested in funding smart bombs than smart citizens.

Declare US schools to be hot-beds of future civil unrest and anti-capitalist criminals, because when you cut funding to education that’s exactly what they are. The government wouldn’t even need to give them the money, just save gas money by dropping the same bombs on their own country. The students could cut out a useful computer, use the shell casing as sports equipment, and if the teacher has four hundred pounds of high explosive to play with maybe the they’ll finally shut up and listen to history for fear of becoming it.

In fact, we could solve all the US’s problems with improved weaponry:

  • Projectile syringes so that vaccinations can be delivered by shooting people, immediately forcing every state to mandate it no matter how many people are vaccinated against their will. Especially in schools.
  • Release pressure on homosexual issues by requiring any man who wants to hold a gun to hold someone else’s erect penis first. If you can’t handle something that shoots life, you’re not allowed anything that shoots death.
  • Retask InterContinental Ballistic Missiles to target offshore bank accounts instead of nuclear warheads. Politely invite corporations to pay taxes instead of accountants.
  • Require congresspeople to receive one weekly tasing per hundred thousand dollars of corporate sponsorship received. At the very least this would result in younger blatant corruption.
  • Flamethrowers could be adapted to deal with the Westboro Baptist Church by being pointed at the Westboro Baptist Church.

More military solutions with

Scientists Discover Answer To All Scaremongering Headline Questions: “No.”

Will water give you cancer? Could peeing in buckets end all our energy troubles? Will the Large Hadron Collider destroy the Earth? Scientists have found a grand unified answer to all these problems and more, and the conclusion is “No.”

Corollary: “Duh.”

“Question marks are how you print bullshit lies without getting in trouble,” explains Doctor Sherlock Obvious of the Negative Excrement Institute. “If there was the least scrap of truth they’d report it as fact and it would be the story of the century. Deep in the scarred sewage trench that used to be a heart they know it’s bullshit, but they’ve reached the point where absolute toxic falsehood is an inconvenience instead of a reason not to print it. They’re scheduled to squat out something in the next twenty minutes, so they stick a question mark on the end to peddle noxious fearmongering bullshit.”

“It’s actually quite simple, like the click-bait headline writers. We’re hoping someone will make a browser plug-in which detects headline question marks and appends NO IT ISN’T.”

The question headline works by willfully misinterpreting the basics of the scientific method to achieve the exact opposite effect: a belief in things without evidence. The scientist can’t rule anything out entirely, so the scaremonger seizes the openness to new data to scream the absolute absence of any with “SO THERE’S STILL A CHANCE!”, whipping everyone up into a lather of bullshit. If you asked a taxonomist if there was such a thing as a unicorn, they’ll say that Equus Unus has never been observed.

“But can you definitely say there have never been any unicorns anywhere in the universe?”

“Of course not, though, haha, it’s extraordinarily unlikely…” but the bullshitter is already demanding that audiences be fitted with mandatory magical swords at all equestrian events to protect themselves from being headbutt-stabbed.

It’s the easiest way to not technically lie, and the easiest way to plant an idea while pretending to do the exact opposite. For example:

“Could io9’s stupidity damage the entire progress of the human race?”

No. Thank Thoth. But the idea has been planted with stuff like this.

(Source: morons at io9)

(Source: io9, who aren’t always so idiotic)

The story is another couple of lawyers manufacturing themselves a job by opposing the very idea of progress. Again. But instead of reporting “Unqualified lawyers manufacture bullshit case out of thin air”, io9 decided “Hey, those lying attention-thieves are on to a good thing! We’re on their side!” This time the lawyers are taking on an upgrade to the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider. It’s an exemplar of the legal system as molasses poured into machinery of progress so that all kinds of insects can crawl in and get fat before being eventually crushed by the gears of progress their own parasitic existence has slowed.

It’s based on the appalling idea that democracy means unqualified assholes and experts have equal weight. They don’t. If you’re a lawyer: fine, you get to deal with law. Particle physicists don’t come into your courtroom and bombard you with antiprotons. But if you keep this bullshit up, maybe they should. Because the laywers apply their form of only-literally legitimate pedantry to fields where it has no function.

They write “The original [RHIC] report assumed the RHIC would only run for a planned 10 years. But thanks to program extensions, the RHIC is now entering its 15th year”. We know laywers change their minds about what you’re allowed to get away with every time a judge farts, but the laws of physics haven’t changed in the last five years.

“The machine has also been continuously upgraded since the report… The suitability of models and assumptions used in the original analysis might be profitably reappraised.”

It’s nice to see them reveal their real motivation with “profitably reappraised”.

The next trick is usually destroying probability by taking a 0.0000000001% chance of anything, then multiplying it by six billion people no the planet, then by thousands of collisions, and then you might as well multiply them by the 718 Pokemon to the power of twelve zodiac signs because you’ve already destroyed the concept of probability math. Simple multiplication of odds is to probability what throwing stones is to architecture: you can cause pain and fear, but you’re not making anything worthwhile.

The idea of particle acceleration destroying the planet is disproved by cosmic rays. The Earth has been bombarded by far higher energy particles than anything we can generate for its entire existence. If the entire universe can’t wipe out the Earth with stranglets, micro black holes, and other words these writers heard somewhere once but never really understood, then the scientists (who actually created those terms) thank you for the compliment. But their hardware isn’t quite as powerful as everything else ever put together.

We need to stop listening these bullshit headlines. We need to stop people from using the legal system like a media mafia. “Sure is a nice plan to upgrade you got there after finally extracting some funding from politicians who hate and fear what they don’t understand. Sure would be a pity if anything happened to it, like baseless scaremongering.”

A question mark at the end of a headline means “THIS IS LIES, CLOSE THE WINDOW.”

Continue your anti-anti-education with

Ikaruga Means “It’s My Fault And I Love It”

The greatest vertical shooter ever made is now available on PC. “Bullet hell” shooters fill the screen with waves of instant death and it’s your job to kill it all. They’re such pure expressions of arcade joy that ten pence pieces start forming in my pocket even when I’m playing it at home. They’re based on awareness and reflexes and a wonderfully important shift in priorities: you might want to detonate everything, but you definitely need to stay in one piece to do that, and every time you die it’s because you let your destructive impulses win. It’s the Force applied to arcade games.


Games like 1942 may be Bullet Hell, but Ikaruga takes Dante’s Inferno and selects “Flatten All Layers”, squeezing nine hells into one beautiful hellish vision but one wise player can still get all the way through unscathed. Just like the Catholic sinner version, the most important part of a bullet hell is knowing that it’s all your fault. It’s easy to fill a screen with dots. It’s hard to arrange those dots in a way which will kill people without really upsetting them. The game lives or dies based on whether your deaths are “bullshit!” or “aughh, next time!” Which is where Ikaruga’s incredibly simple genius comes in: it has a “don’t die” button and it’s your fault if you didn’t press it.


All enemy fire is either black or white, if you’re the same color it charges your superweapon instead of shooting you, and you can flip any time. This releases the game from wimpy constraints like “ever having a single spot of the screen which isnt’ covered in laser fire”, and it embraces this newfound freedom with the fury of a thousand killer suns. It is amazing. Later levels are like being inside three competing fireworks displays, a murderous Mandelbrot set, and a killer crossword, simultaneously, and it’s always your fault if you die and it is glorious.

It’s Buddhist reincarnation as a game mechanic. You don’t get upset about dying, you know what you did wrong, and you know you can do better and reach a higher level next time. And you’ll keep going until you finish it and break free of a cycle you now see is only an incredible game. A game wrapped in gorgeous giant mech design, stirring music, and scraps of scene text giving the impression of an entire intelligent world adding depth to your two-dimensional quest to get up and end everything you meet. Even the level intro text paragraphs understands the gameplay, because you don’t have quite enough time to read it all at once. They know you’ll be back.

And when you’re done there’s the insane difficulty mode where you can only fire out bullets you’ve absorbed first. You wonderful lunatic.

Ikaruga is available on Xbox and Steam.

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RoboCop: No Spoilers And You Should See It

I was very worried about the new RoboCop, and I’m very happy to have been very wrong.

Luckily he seems the forgiving type.

Luckily he seems the forgiving type.

Growing up I watched the original so often it’s been installed as one of my prime directives. Trailers for RoboCop 2014 didn’t leave me hopeful, but I’m delighted to report that it’s the Inverse Trailer Effect: shitty movies can look awesome because they’ve been built to sucker people in with best bits which can be reduced to a minute of five-second smashes, and awesome movies can look shitty because all the best bits won’t fit in five-second smashes. Robocop 2014 is the latter.



Now a NO SPOILER checklist of essential RoboReasons fans should see the new movie.

  • Brutal evisceration of modern media bias: YES
  • Gorgeous callback to original RoboCop design: DOUBLE-YES
  • Villains who are unquestionably assholes: YES
  • Upgrade of original message to suit the times: YES
  • Sequences the original would have included if they could only have dreamed of having the special effects to pull them off: YES

And most importantly

  • Famous Quotes From The Original, Multiple:
  • – Cool line used seamlessly: CHECK
  • – Cool line crowbarred in a bit but you don’t mind because it’s the best one: CHECK
  • – Cool line used in brilliant inversion of original meaning: CHECK! SCREENWRITING BONUS!

The movie understands (just as the original did) that simply standing there and shooting bad guys while invulnerable isn’t a compelling plot. Despite being the plot of most action movies. There are a couple of glorious show-off sequences, like the original drug factory shooting gallery, but the plot progression doesn’t depend on fights getting bigger until you end up with tough-guys-throwing-each-other-through-a-steelmill. It’s a classic RoboCop final showdown, but with a new solution to fit the new Robo. I’m still annoyed that Officer Lewis was testicled for no reason other than “they already have a woman”. On the upside, Clara Murphy is an actual character instead of the feared self-propelled tear-lubricated wet blanket.

It’s not a retread of the original, it’s a new movie, and rather a good one. It’s how a RoboRemake should work: a genuine rebuild, using cool parts from the originals (even salvaging a couple of concepts from RoboCop 2), fleshed out with their own new material, and released into the civilian population to kick ass.

More movie fun with Pacific Rim: The Story of the Irish Jaeger and 5 Sequels Made By People Who Must Not Have Seen The Original.

Cyclops Should Be The Best Boyfriend Of All Time

The X-Men’s Cyclops is famous for being about as romantic as being shot in the face, even though he does the exact opposite every day. He’s as much fun to date as fossilized excrement, and the only reason he ever has relationships is “You’re both primary characters so get on with it”. His lack of lovability comes from his absolute dedication to training and improving his abilities, motivated by:

  • Truly internalizing the fear that mutant powers could kill people at any second
  • Shouldering the burden of leading mutantkind in a world which hates and fears them

You can see why he’s humorless. But the same factors should make him the best boyfriend of all time.

Being honest, this is more fun than most dates. (Source: Marvel)

Being honest, this is more fun than most dates. (Source: Marvel)

Why? Because in most continuities his girlfriend is Jean Grey, most powerful psychic on the planet, frequent avatar of the Phoenix Force which could destroy everything ever, and single mutant most likely to kill all the people at any second. Which makes Scott our point man for

  1. Being there for her when she needs to share her worries about losing control.
  2. Knowing her so intimately that he can tell when she’s not sharing her worries about losing control, again, because she’s only an Omega-level mutant with the power destroy minds and planets, why on Earth would she warn people, of course she’ll just hold her forehead for a second and think “Oh it’s nothing, I’d better not tell anyone I’m about to psionically destroy everything again“.
  3. Reminding her of her humanity through the power of love to save us when she starts psionically destroying everything again.

That’s three different ways he can save the world, and they’re all crippled by being colder than a broken robot. They’re primary characters in a relationship more predestined than Romeo & Juliet, and it often takes them years to even admit that they like each other. There’s no point in assembling an academy of mutant might to deal with threats to humanity when your strategy for dealing with psychic Armageddon is being too shy to bring it up.

It’ll also help with human-mutant relations. Phoenix and Dark Phoenix are the first time that both the good and evil versions of something have threatened to destroy the planet and been the same person. Jean Grey alone sets back sapien-superior peace by infinity years. In the series the metaracism might swing up and down in a sinewave of storyline-necessity, but no sane human would be okay with letting one person run around with the ability to end everything.

“So you’re saying she can destroy the planet sometimes, or destroy the minds of anyone she likes anytime?”

“Yes, but only when she’s under great stress.”

“So how do you deal with that?”

“Oh, you know, make her dress in skintight latex and take her places people are trying to kill her every week.”


“It’s not an ideal strategy.”

We know that it’s actually the Phoenix Force, and good luck explaining that to people who hate and fear you.

“It’s not her, it’s an incarnation of the omniversal creative spark energy which happens to be hosted by her. Basically a big cosmic force boy did it and ran away.” 

So if Scott Summers wants to dedicate his life to training to protect the world? Brilliant! That training should be romantic! He should be Casanova 9000! He should have doctorates in being the world’s greatest listener, psychologist, and lovemaker. His endless training in Danger Room sessions should focus on massage and advanced hand-holding, perfecting his ability to front-flip through open windows without spilling the poured glass of red wine while using his optic blasts to light the candles he’s covered the room with. Because if he can keep Jean Grey happy he’ll have done more to protect the planet than the X-Men and Avengers combined.

Indulge in more overanalysis with Why Tony Stark Is Earth’s Mightiest Hero, and 6 Reasons Iron Man Is Objectively Better Than Batman.

The Worst Bartender In The World

Bartenders are submarine captains of the psyche, working long hours in cramped conditions, dealing with vastnesses of liquid and pressure to plunge into those long dark voids of time, space, and psychology that to all others remain unknown. But with submarine captains it’s because no-one else has ever been. In the bar it’s just that no-one else remembers.

And I met the worst one in the world.

Note that being ignored, shortchanged, or punched by a  bartender doesn’t they’re bad. It means they’re making their shift easier, more profitable, or easier again, and if a bartender punches you I guarantee it’s your fault. True, sometimes that fault is “entering a bar while non-local” but you need to be aware of that. Too many people treat bartenders as servants. The bartender is instead an extremely generous lord allowing you into their castle: you may request whatever you want, and they will work to make your stay pleasant, but disrespect them at your peril.

A while back I wrote about the excellent Professor Elemental, and thanks to the real rule 1 of the internet – “Assume everyone can always see everything” – he read it. We talked, we interviewed, and after one of his shows we retired to the green room. When that ran out of having drink and being in an open club, we went elsewhere.

To the worst bar in the world.

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The Trump Endurance Experiment

This article first appeared on the now-defunct in 2012. Minor edits have been made.
It is reposted to celebrate Trump’s recent humiliating loss to a Scottish wind farm.

Donald Trump personally proves everything Marx said about capitalism. He inherited his money, has been fired from more positions than a Decepticon jet engine, and now hires Z-list actors to pretend he fired them to feel better.

He paid this man to be an ego-prostitute

He paid this man to be an ego-prostitute

This is a multimillionaire with nothing better to do than reality TV, and he still had to make himself the judge to avoid being voted off.

Enough money to do anything and he chose "Celebrity Apprentice".

Enough money to do anything and he chose “Celebrity Apprentice”.

He drew attention to his YouTube account with the stupidest announcement of his life, automatically making it the stupidest announcement ever made, so I’m going to watch all 128 videos. (Or you can skip straight to the big announcement video in Part 3).


There are five pages of these. I’m about to endure more pages of insanity and angry yelling faces than the Necronomicon.

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