Wednesday, September 05, 2018


88 mph?
The classic time travel paradox is to wonder what would happen if you traveled back in time and killed your grandfather before your father was conceived.
  1. Your father would never be born so…
  2. You would never be born so…
  3. You couldn't travel back in time so…
  4. Your grandfather would survive so…
  5. Your father  would be born so…
  6. You would be born so…
  7. You could go back in time to kill your grandfather
  8. Start again from #1
This particular 'causal' paradox has being causing time travel authors problems for years. It's been used as proof that time travel is impossible and that if it were possible something would interfere to prevent the murder or whatever event is a problem.

Any change you make in the past impacts the future in some way. Even a tiny change can trigger a major event later. Years ago I read a story about a time traveler who stepped off his allowed path and trod on a butterfly in the age of dinosaurs. When he returned to the present everything had changed. Humans no longer were the dominant species on earth. Presumably:
  • the butterfly did not lay eggs
  • the eggs did not hatch
  • the caterpillars did not feed a shrew like mammal which died of hunger
  • evolution did not as a result eventually produce apes and mankind. 
So if time travel was to be found possible would it be considered too dangerous to use?
A while back I wrote a short story in which the time travelers had to go back in time to make sure that the Titanic did sink (See It Wasn't a Dark and Stormy Night - Titanic Time) If it didn't sink billions would die as a result. 1,500 deaths in the Titanic disaster was a small price to pay to save billions.

Is there a way around these paradoxes? Yes there is!

At every instant in time where alternate events can occur other alternate universes are created and branch off. As soon as you make a change through time travel you close down one possible alternate universe. Go back and kill your grandfather and your universe no longer exists. As a result you can never return to it but you could go forward in time to any of the myriads of universes where you didn't commit the murder. There would be a slight problem though. Since you didn't come from that universe there would now be two of you! One of me in the universe is enough! Perhaps if I time traveled I would be best returning to the universe where I did kill my grandfather. I wouldn't be around there. The only problem with that is I arrive with no identity. A person with no history, no possessions other than what I take, nowhere to live. Effectively I'm an undocumented alien in that world.

So if I do decide to take up time travel I'm not going to travel far in the past. I'm not going to do anything which puts me at risk. Perhaps I'll travel back in time a couple of hours and give myself the winning lottery numbers? I suspect anyone who can time travel is well aware of the risk which is why we don't see travelers from the future.

Searches related to Time paradoxes

5 Bizarre Paradoxes
How Time Travel Works
Classic time travel paradoxes (and how to avoid them)

Monday, September 03, 2018

Will MS Outlook not let you change your Gmail password?

If, for any reason, you've had to change your gmail password you'll find Outlook 2016 doesn't seem to want to let you update it and will start generating error messages. The fixes offered by MS Office simply don't work. You can't get a window where you can change the password.

So this is what you do:
From the File tab select this

Then this:

You'll finally get a window where you can see and change a password field:

Save it once you change to the new password and your problem is solved.

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Saturday, August 18, 2018

Why we should get rid of amalgam or 'Silver' fillings

Image result for amalgam fillings

Recently the use of amalgam fillings has been banned in Europe for children under 15 and pregnant women.
Why? Because these so called 'silver' fillings contain mercury and mercury is very toxic. Over time the fillings give off a vapour which you breath in and which is absorbed into your blood. Most of this is removed and excreted by your kidneys. The amounts involved are very low and are generally deemed safe. However a few minutes spent on research using internet will find many sites which warn of the dangers from amalgam fillings:

  • Kidney damage
  • Brain damage
  • Heart damage

The risks from each filling are low but accumulative. Dentists are resisting the change  because mercury amalgam fillings are quick to do and last longer. BUT they shouldn't resist! Because it's the dental workers who face the main risk!

Let me interrupt the blog and tell you a story.

Years ago I taught chemistry to schoolchildren. At the time we used mercury to make barometers, played with it to grow hair on aluminium and 'silver' plate pennies. We also used benzene as a solvent and used asbestos mats to protect benches from hot Bunsen burners.
Benzene was the first to go. It was found to be carcinogenic so we teachers were advised to use toluene instead. Not because of a risk to children but because we chemistry teachers would be exposed to benzene vapour far longer than the children.
Asbestos was next. We knew asbestos fibers were dangerous for many years before the public became concerned. We thought we were safe using asbestos cement products and taught children tto wet asbestos sheets before they cut them and not to blow asbestos dust out of brake drums with an air line. Then we looked in the drawers where we stored the heatproof mats and found them full of dust! They had to go because we teachers were the ones at risk.
Mercury was a different matter. We already knew it was dangerous. Remember that expression 'as mad as a hatter'? This didn't come from Alice in Wonderland but from the fact that hatters were constantly exposed to mercury when they shaped felt into hats using mercury. It caused mental breakdowns.
 Image of mad hatter 
We teachers stopped playing with it as soon as we shone a UV light on it and saw the vapour being given off - it goes purple under UV light. We dusted mercury spills with sulphur and vacuumed them up from the cracks in the floor. When we had to use it, we put it under water or did the experiments in a fume cuboard.

Dental workers are constantly exposed to mercury vapour!
  • A series of research articles has shown that dental workers’ exposure to mercury can have behavioral, cognitive, and psychological impacts.
  • Mercury affects the kidneys. Dentists and dental assistants have a higher risk of kidney function disturbance than other industrial workers.
  • Dental workers have a higher rate of the use of prescription medication (for neuropsychological, neurological, respiratory, and cardiovascular conditions related to their occupational mercury exposure.
  • Specific genetic traits have been associated with dental workers, their mercury levels, and memory recall, anxiety, and other neurobehavioral responses.
  • Dental workers and risks of mercury allergies have been studied.  Exposure to dental amalgam correlates with a higher prevalence of mercury allergies.  Mercury allergies have been linked to autoimmune diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) multiple sclerosis, and chronic fatigue syndrome, as well as other adverse health consequences.
  • The dangers of exposure to mercury for pregnant dental workers have been recognized, and fertility issues and menstrual cycle disorders have been reported in female dental workers as well
Now let me ask you. Do you really want to be treated by a mad or otherwise ill dentist?
I think it's time to ban the use of new mercury fillings entirely.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Don't Print This!

When I was a teacher I was always complaining to students about the amount of paper they waste. By the time they'd printed work a few times, used worksheets, exam papers, made a few paper airplanes and got newsletters they must have been well on the way to using the average office worker's 10,000 sheets per year.

Paper is environmentally expensive to produce and most people are not aware of its effect on the environment.
So let's look at this on a 'per sheet' basis ; (standard copy paper).
  • Each sheet weighs about 5 grams
  • Just over 15 grams of wood are used to make it.
  • For each sheet 5 grams of sludge is produced which has to be disposed of.
  • To make each sheet requires 200 KJ of energy of which 95 KJ are bought in as coal/gas/oil or electricity.
  • Each sheet produces 12.9 grams of carbon dioxide during its manufacture, transport and eventual disposal by decomposition or burning.
  • Each sheet used adds 6.1 grams of carbon dioxide to global warming (the remaining 6.8 g is used by the trees grown for the next sheet).
  • Each sheet of paper produces 0.06 gram of sulphur dioxide and 0.04 grams of nitrogen dioxide in its manufacture. Both cause acid rain.
  • Each sheet adds a tiny amount of nasties such as dioxin to the environment.
  • Recycling means less trees are cut down but does not significantly affect the amount of undesirable gases produced due to its reprocessing costs.
  • White recycled paper adds a disastrous amount of bleach and sludge to the environment. The ONLY sensible way to recycle paper is to use it for unbleached cardboard. I've seen 'recycled' toilet paper. Hopefully that should be 'toilet paper made from recycled paper' but somehow, recycled brown toilet paper just doesn't appeal. And NEVER use brown paper in place of the paper you use for cooking - those nasties will get into your food!
Now since that average office worker is using 10,000 sheets of paper per year this means they are adding:
  • 61 Kg of CO2 to global warming
  • Using enough water to fill a small swimming pool
  • producing about 130 Kg of acid rain causing gas.
  • adding 45 grams of 'nasties' to the environment
Make what you will of this post. Just one thing - don't print it!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Dealing with spam

What is spam and why is it called that?

'spam' is any message you are sent from a person or business who you have not given permission to contact you. The message being not relevant to you and unrequested. It was given it's name by computer geeks after watching a Monty Python sketch about a cafe where meals included SPAM (the SPiced hAM canned meat). Effectively spam is something unwanted.

When was the first spam sent?

Even before the advent of the World Wide Web spam was becoming an issue. The first spam email was sent out  by Gary Thuerk on ARPNET, a predecessor to the Internet, on 1st May 1978. It's been with us ever since. At first, it didn't seem an issue but now the majority of emails sent are spam and comments posted on blogs are often flooded with spam. A huge amount of time is wasted just deleting spam and time costs money.

Is spam illegal?

That depends on your countries laws. In many - it is illegal to send spam. Certainly the majority of spam is sent from places which have laws against it. The trouble is that spam is effective because people have a problem:
People are gullible and can't resist clicking something which looks interesting.

So what can we do?

No laws will ever stop the spammers. It's up to you to minimise the impact of spam.


Set up mail filters in your email program. I use Outlook. I right click a spam email, select 'Rules' then 'Create rule'. I can then add the sender to a blocked list, select unwanted words or phrases in the email subject or body and tell outlook to automatically delete the email or put it in a spam/junk folder.
  • NEVER follow a link in a spam email - no matter how tempting.
  • NEVER buy anything promoted by spam. They are already breaking the law so can you really trust them with credit card details? For the same reason never buy anything from someone who cold calls you to sell items.

Blog comments

The situation here is more complex. You usually invite comments on blogs. The trouble is many comments are unrelated to the blog and there either to get a link back to a website which helps their search engine ranking. You need to weed out these comments. 

Here's a selection from one of my blogs:

I want to show my appreciation to the writer just for rescuing me from this dilemma. Because of exploring through the search engines and obtaining ideas that were not pleasant, I thought my life was over. Existing without the presence of approaches to the problems you have fixed as a result of your main article content is a crucial case, as well as the ones which may have adversely damaged my career if I hadn’t come across your website. Your primary understanding and kindness in controlling a lot of things was excellent. I don’t know what I would have done if I had not encountered such a subject like this. I can also now look forward to my future. Thank you very much for your skilled and amazing help. I will not be reluctant to propose your web page to anyone who would
like recommendations on this issue. [web link to boneoakforskolin]

Comment: All this text just to get a link to a website!

Frгeelancing also can result in an еnormous “plus” concerning your income.
As a suƄstitute օf having to acⅽept the precise salkary thats provided by the one rеgulation firm that you simply worқ, you mіght ave a sbstantial amnount of leeway iin setting your ownn payy rɑtes.
Comment: Notice all the typos? Not accidental - they are there to stop automatic spam detection from picking out spammers favourite terms. The sender of course provided a web link.

This issսe may end up in considerɑbly more moneу for ʏou.
Grow your online community with voice comments. Let your readers voice their opinions in a fun, fast and easy way. Improve your user retention, website SEO, and get more conversions. Get the Free Plugin here, [Link to Voice-Comments plugin]
Comment: Not at all relevant to the post but a spam promoting a wordpress plugin (which I don't want).

WordPress has now enabled voice comments for websites. Bring your website up to date and get the free plugin here, [Link to Voice-Comments plugin]
Comment: More of the same on a different post..

What’s up friends, its impressive post on the topic of educationand entirely defined, keep it up all the time. [link to malware infected sites mentioning jimgriffin]
Comment: The provided link led to a site offering software cracks. Nothing at all to do with the post. It originated from the same computer as the following spam. Download any of the cracks and you can be sure to infect your computer with malware.

Thanks to my father who shared with me about this web site, this blog is actually awesome. [link to malware infected sites mentioning jimgriffin]
Comment: This link lead to a site which immediately tried to infect my computer with malware.

Hello! I know this is kinda off topic howeveer , I’d figured I’d ask. Woul you be interestted in trading links or maybe guest autuoring a blog post or vice-versa? My website discusses a lot of the same topics as yours and I believe we could greatly benefit from eahh other.
If you are interested frel free to shoot me an email.
I look forward to hearing from you! Awesome blogg by the way!
[link to where you can buy silicone wristbands]
Comment: Yes it is off topic and spam, even if apologised for, is still spam.

Give Your Website Users a Voice. Let your readers voice their opinions in a fun, fast and easy way. Improve your user retention, website SEO, and get more conversions. Add Voice Comments to your Website for Free Today, [Link to Voice-Comments plugin]
Comment: Yet a third advert for that unwanted plugin.

Have you ever wanted to work from home or just top up your earnings ? This tried and tested system teaches you how you can make a small fortune from the comfort of your own home. [Link to Work-from-Home site]
Comment: Dummy! I DO work from home and I'm not interested in get rich quick schemes. If you are so concerned about my fortune - just send me the money.

It's worthwhile checking the links commenters provide. However make sure you have up-to-date anti-malware software and I suggest you use an incognito browser window to check them. If the comment adds no value to the post and doesn't actually refer to it, then delete it even if it is full of praise.

Some blogsites use CAPTCHA to reduce the number of comments made by spambots. Unfortunately, although they are getting better, they are still a deterrent to genuine people and don't stop those humans whose purpose is simply to get a link to their site. How many times have you got one of these words in weird fonts wrong or failed to spot that corner of a road sign?

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Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Is social media ruining people's lives?

  • It allows people who are otherwise isolated to communicate. Examples of this would be the elderly and people who are autistic.
  • It can act as an outlet for expression thereby relieving tension.
  • It can relieve boredom.
  • It can allow you to make new contacts.
  • It can inform you of new events, opinions and products.
  • Many accept things on social media as true without checking. Some then make bad decisions based on this.
  • It can expose people to trolls, cyberbullies, liars and groomers. Particularly a problem amongst the young.
  • Some people get too involved to the exclusion of all else. You need to get out, exercise and talk to people also.
  • It can destroy contact in the real world.
  • Advertising can be obtrusive.
The jury is still out on this question. I would suggest that it’s one of those good things 

Saturday, March 31, 2018

The best lie I ever told

A while back I developed a skin cancer on the end of my nose. It was a small whitish patch which disappeared and reappeared and which I eventually mentioned to my doctor. Tests confirmed it was a basal cell carcinoma. I went to a hospital in Newcastle for treatment.

Treatment involved surgically removing the cancer which is then sent to the lab to examine the edges. If the edges prove cancer free the wound will be stitched up. If the edges are cancerous, back you go for further surgical removal of the area. It's all done under local anesthetic and I didn't feel any pain.

The Surgeon who did my operation was treating a number of us on the same day. After the operation I was bandaged and sent back to the waiting room - a room full of people with huge bandages on their nose. We were told that it would be an hour or two before our results came back from the lab so if we wished we could go for a walk, have a coffee or a meal in the hospital restaurant.

Coffee! It was three hours since I had coffee and I was willing to brave the restaurant  despite the huge bandage. I made a quick trip back to my car to make a phone call and took this picture first.
Off I walked down the long hospital corridor to the restaurant and walking towards me the other way was a small boy and his mother.
"Mam! What's wrong with that man's nose?" he asked loudly. I could see his mother cringing in embarassment. I stopped.
"My name is Pinocchio. You might have heard of me. I grew up." I said.
"I've always had this problem about telling lies and every time I tell one it makes my nose grow a little bit. So every now and then I come in here and get a bit chopped off."
"Oh. I see." said the boy looking worried but apparently quite satisfied.
Mum entered into the spirit of the story and turned on him, "And that's why I keep telling you not to tell lies!"
Off I walked trying to keep a straight face and it was only afterwards that I remembered that I had nightmares after seeing Pinocchio as a four year old.

Anyway, the cancer proved to be gone and the surgeon stitched up the end of my nose leaving it a better shape now than it was before. I spent two weeks looking like Gonzo though before all the bandages came off.

I'm still proud of that lie but I hope he didn't get nightmares.