Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

Things I don't know the answer to - facial expressions in history / history of emotion

I've just seen a tweet and blog post from the Public Domain Review with self-portraits from 1790 showing the artist (Joseph Ducreux) pulling a series of unusual faces.


It reminded me that I don't seem to have drawn together (in blog post form) the notions I occasionally have about Facial Expressions through History. I think this concept popped into my head after seeing an Emma Stone gif in my timeline in which she pulls quite a face. It turns out there are quite a few gifs of her being facially expressive :) 

It struck me that I couldn't imagine someone making such a face in the 1500s. That might just be a failure of my own imagination and of course those expressions might not have been included in any art that survives. Facial expressions are an outward sign of what's going on in our heads and it seems reasonable to assume that a case could be made in either direction - either we're not that different from people living hundreds of years ago, so we'd pull the same faces, or the environment in which modern people and previous people lived isn't comparable and the facial expressions 'available' to people would differ (and difficult to prove).

Having seen Ducreux's paintings (perhaps 1790 is not that long ago) I'm moving towards 'failure of my imagination', but it still feels as if people would have conducted themselves, and what their faces were doing, very differently in the past. A lot of reaction gifs are reasonably performative, I wonder if people bothered with that sort of thing as much in the 1500s. 

Coincidentally where I work, Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), has its very own Centre for the History of the Emotions, so every so often I see if they have anything on facial expressions of yore ;)






Saturday, 14 August 2021

A bad take from Alan Freestone though not his first - undercover reporting and Trading Standards on homeopathy and autism claims

Summary: in addition to writing nonsense on Twitter about incels Alan Freestone has been investigated by Trading Standards for claiming to cure autism with homeopathy and CEASE therapy. The post below includes links to articles in The Times and The Telegraph about his claims, and to his listing on a page of people referred for their persistent misleading claims to Trading Standards by the Advertising Standards Authority.

I've added a bit at the end about homeopathy societies in the UK. Two have since publicly distanced themselves from his statements.

Update: his awful tweet was taken down on 14 August between 22:56 and 23:14pm. I can be that accurate as I sent a tweet when I got home bemoaning that it was still up then it disappeared, so I sent another. I've added a copy below.

See also, this thread

- - - - - - - - - - - - 

This post is for the benefit of people following up on Alan Freestone's particularly bad tweet from Friday 13 August 2021, in response to the horrendous incident in Plymouth. He muted me (and presumably others) several years ago after I / we challenged him on his claims to treat / cure autism using CEASE therapy and homeopathy. 

Pic 1. Tweet from Alan Freestone sent on 7 June 2018 (still live at time of writing) which says "Jo, your endless attempts to try & stifle positive homeopathy stories are very telling. You attempt to use social media to suppress views you disagree with. That's not an ethical past time. You should reflect on that. P.S. I have cured autism. I'll continue to cure autism."


Pic 2., Pic 3. w are screenshots which were taken 11 hours apart, Pic 4. (embedded Tweet) was taken at 23:56 on 14 August. These are all copies of the same tweet (sent on 13 August 2021 and still live at time of writing) which says said "I hope the women of Plymouth collectively take some responsibility for this. Misandry & the anti-man rhetoric from teachers causes incels. Young men without hope, without a path, without anything meaninfgul to strive for become dangerous to the societies around them." The earlier screenshot shows 1.5k replies, 890 retweets ( and 15 likes, the later one has 3.1k replies, 1.8, retweets and 49 likes. At time of writing his tweet has 28 retweets and 1,865 quote tweets.

Not surprisingly he's received a remarkable amount of pushback in the replies to the tweet which you can find indirectly here (until he wisely deletes it, but screenshots will remain).

In early 2019 the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) took compliance action on at least three homeopaths claiming to treat autism with homeopathy / CEASE therapy and referred them to Trading Standards (TS) in November, one (Paula Lattimer) has now made their marketing material compliant but Alan Freestone and Carolyn Stevens are still on the list. The ASA wrote a post in March 2019 outlining their position on CEASE "Why so-called CEASE Therapy claims to 'cure' autism really have to stop".

Here is the list of Trading Standards Referrals (you'll need to scroll down and click 'see more' to see everyone that the ASA has referred to TS). I don't know if Trading Standards are still investigating him or if the pandemic has made that harder.

Pic 5. shows the list of homeopaths who've been referred to Trading Standards, two are still making misleading claims.

In April 2019 Alan Freestone was the sole subject of an article in The Times about his wild claims to treat autistic children with homeopathy "Homeopaths ‘treat’ autistic children with rabid dog saliva". 

" to have treated 1,185 autistic patients with remedies such as carcinosinum, made from cancerous breast tissue; lyssin, made with rabid dog saliva; and medorrhinum, made from the discharge of a man with gonorrhoea." Note that you can buy these products (which are HEAVILY diluted you'll be relieved to hear!) from Helios UK, see the links.

In November that year he, along with another homeopath, were caught by an undercover reporter for The Telegraph (see video below) offering advice to a parent (reporter) about how to evade vaccination and what to do about schools requiring children to be vaccinated (fib, basically): "Homeopaths warning mothers not to have children vaccinated, investigation reveals". The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) expressed concern that consumers were buying dangerous unauthorised treatments from him but I don't know if any further investigation was made.

Additional info on homeopathic societies in the UK
Several people on the thread created from Alan's tweet have CCed in the Society of Homeopaths (SoH) or asked if he's a member. Alan is not a member of the SoH and to the best of my knowledge I don't think he has ever been. I also don't think he's a member of Homeopathy UK (formerly known as the British Homeopathic Association, BHA) but I think he used to be a member of the Alliance of Registered Homeopaths (ARH) but I don't think he is now. 'Homeopath' is not a protected term in the UK so anyone can call themselves that and can "practise" without being registered. There is a fourth society, the Faculty of Homeopathy, which is reserved for qualified healthcare professionals (hcp) who have also trained in homeopathy. As he's not a doctor or allied hcp he wouldn't be able to join that one anyway. 

But this isn't the Society of Homeopaths' fault. Since I'm often the first to criticise them, and celebrated their accreditation with the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) being withdrawn* earlier this year, I think it's only fair to point out that they have nothing to do with the nonsensical pronouncements by Alan Freestone, being more than capable of emitting their own nonsensical pronouncements.

Update 1: The Society of Homeopaths (he's not a member) have distanced themselves from Freestone's statements, the same also appears on their Facebook page.

Update 2: Freestone is a member of Homeopathy International (HINT) and they have distanced themselves more vaguely (website statement).

Update 3: (Fri 24 Sep 2021) - I've just noticed that HINT's Steering Committee met to discuss the matter on 17 August and decided that as the tweet was made in a 'personal capacity' that was the end of the matter. 

HINT previously published (April 2019) a guide for its members advising them not to worry to much about letters from the ASA (May 2018, made public March 2019) which told them to "make no direct or implied efficacy claims for CEASE therapy".

Further reading
* The Society of Homeopaths, and the issues with regulating healthcare in the UK (6 August 2021) By Michael Marshall (project director of The Good Thinking Society, writing in The Skeptic - the PSA suspended the SoH's accreditation in January 2021 and, presumably unable to address the problems (and citing cost), the SoH later withdrew from the accredited register scheme in July 2021.








Thursday, 22 July 2021

Open air travel, open air film screenings - which of London's piers are nearest an open air cinema?

You can steal and adapt the content of this post - I think it's quite important to share info about enjoying London as safely as possible.

To the extent possible under law, Jo Brodie has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to Open air travel, open air film screenings - which of London's piers are nearest an open air cinema?. This work is published from: United Kingdom

This means that you can copy, paste and amend the text of this post (and this post only) and republish it without my permission or without crediting me :) Tell everyone about the films and the ferries.


Yesterday afternoon I went to see Moana at Archlight's open air cinema, at the Coaling Jetty at Battersea Power Station. I travelled there from Greenwich Pier on a Thames Clipper ferry and arrived at Battersea Power Station Pier around 40 minutes later and then made the reverse journey home later. Sometimes you have to change at Canary Wharf (or London Bridge) but mine was a direct service.

Archlight also linked up with Thames Clippers and offered a pair of free tickets to one of their events (not just cinema) and have a section on ferries in the 'how to get here' part of their page. 

Given that people are encouraged to avoid 'too many other people while inside' I think travelling to open air cinema screenings by ferry is rather on point. Nearly all of the Thames Clippers ferries have seats at the back which are open to the elements and it's rather nice, especially on a hot day, to enjoy the breeze. Quite a few of them have an on-board bar as well (also soft drinks and snacks).

NOTE: not all piers are open all the time, some routes miss some piers out and the last boat home may not include your preferred end or starting pier so do check timetables and delays info on Twitter before booking tickets.

Big list of open air film screenings in London 

Thames Clippers ferries

Thames River Boats

Thames River Services

The following piers are reasonably near an open air cinema screening.

Battersea Pier
Thames Clippers run a regular service to Battersea Power Station's pier which is right next to the place where Archlight's open air cinema is (exit the pier's gangway, turn left). 

[Summer Showtime at Battersea Power Station] [Archlight Open Air Cinema] [PDF of screenings] [Battersea Pier info - it's wheelchair accessible, Last boat to central London, Canary Wharf and Greenwich: 21:32 weekdays, 22:30 weekends. Last boat to Putney: 20:24 weekdays.]


Blackfriars Pier
Pop Up Screens will be showing The Greatest Showman, Moonlight, Philadelphia, The Beach, Dreamgirls and The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert at Guildhall Yard in the City of London, in August. The venue is about a 15-20 minute walk from Blackfriars Pier [route]. 

[Pop Up Screens] [Blackfriars Pier - it's wheelchair accessible]


Cadogan Pier (Chelsea)
Luna Cinema is showing four films (Top Gun, The Greatest Showman, Grease and Star Wars: A New Hope) at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea which is a 15-20 minute walk from Cadogan Pier [route], but note that the pier has only a limited service in the evenings. 

[Luna Cinema] [Cadogan Pier - is NOT wheelchair accessible. This pier is only open in the morning and evening, last boat to central London, Canary Wharf and Greenwich: 21:26 weekdays, last boat to Putney: 20:54.]


Greenwich Pier (Cutty Sark)
Tramshed in Woolwich are showing a free sing-along version of The Greatest Showman in Greenwich Park. Greenwich Pier is a short walk from Greenwich Park / National Maritime Museum and is well-served by Thames Clippers. The pier is right in the heart of Greenwich and is usually very busy, particularly in good weather. During busy times arriving is easier than leaving as you may have to queue for a departing boat and might not get on the first one. 

[Tramshed screening] [Greenwich Pier - is wheelchair accessible, last boats from Greenwich Pier to North Greenwich, Royal Wharf and Woolwich: 23:11 weekdays, 23:29 weekends, last boat to Canary Wharf, central London and Putney: 21:38 weekdays, 21:36 weekends]


Hampton Court
Luna Cinema are showing five films (The Dark Knight, Top Gun, Dirty Dancing, The Greatest Showman [sing-along] and Bohemian Rhapsody) at Hampton Court this year. There is a pier here but at the moment there are no ferries from Westminster running, but there are occasional services from Richmond Pier. I'd not rely on this for a timed performance though, it's also very dependent on the tide. 

[Thames River Boats] [Luna Cinema]


London Bridge City Pier
#SummerByTheRiver at Scoop, More London (next to City Hall and near HMS Belfast) screens free subtitled films every Tuesday evening at 7.30pm. London Bridge City Pier is the closest and on the same side of the river. Tower Bridge is also very close too but its piers (there are two) are on the opposite side of the river. 

[London Bridge City's Summer By the River] [London Bridge City Pier - is not wheelchair accessible. Last boat to Canary Wharf, Greenwich and Woolwich: 22:44 weekdays and 23:02 weekends. Last boat to Westminster, Battersea Power Station and Putney: 22:04 weekdays and 21:59 weekends.]


London Eye pier (Waterloo)
Bar Elba in Waterloo is screening loads of films on its rooftop and London Eye pier isn't far away (granted trains /buses are closer!).

[Bar Elba] [Film screenings PDF] [London Eye pier - is wheelchair accessible, last boats from London Eye pier: 22:29 weekdays, 22:11 weekends but on weekends it's a ~10m walk across Hungerford Bridge [route] to get to Embankment Pier for a last boat to Greenwich at 22:50]


Millbank Pier
Luna Cinema is screening three films (Romeo + Juliet, Sister Act and Moulin Rouge!) at Victoria Tower Gardens in Westminster (8.45pm 3-5 August) and the venue is closest to (and on the same side of the river as) Millbank Pier, but note that ferries can get you to the cinema but not back again as the last boat leaves before the film begins. 

[Luna Cinema] [Millbank Pier - is wheelchair accessible, last boats from Millbank Pier to Embankment, Tower and Bankside (for Tate Modern): 17:20 weekdays, 20:45 weekends, last boat to Battersea Power Station or Putney: 16:28 weekdays, 20:20 weekends]

North Greenwich Pier
Pop Up Screens is showing Grease, Back to the Future and 500 Days of Summer this weekend (Fri, Sat, Sun / 23, 24, 25 July) at Greenwich Peninsula.

[Pop Up Screens] [North Greenwich Pier - is wheelchair accessible, last boat towards Woolwich: 23:19 weekdays, 23:37 weekends, last boat to Canary Wharf, central London and Putney: 21:30 weekdays, 21:26 weekends]


Putney Pier
Pop Up Screens is showing Rocket Man, A Star is Born and The Greatest Showman in Bishop's Park Fulham on the 3-5 September, and 10 Things I Hate About You, Dirty Dancing and The Goonies in the same place from 24-26 September. Putney Pier is on the opposite side of the river, cross Putney Bridge. 

[Pop Up Screens] [Putney Pier - is wheelchair accessible. Last boat to London and Canary Wharf: 21:00 weekdays. First boat arrives there at 17:08 so the ferries can get you there but not home, for these screenings.]


St George Wharf (Vauxhall)
Summer Screen Vauxhall has some free (need to reserve a ticket) screenings, every Tuesday, from 27 July to 17 August: Emperor’s New Groove, Mamma Mia!, Paddington 2 and Black Panther - all start at 7pm and take place at Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens which is not too far [route] from St George Wharf, Vauxhall.

[Summer Screen Vauxhall] [St George Wharf - is wheelchair accessible. Last boat to central London, Canary Wharf and Greenwich: 22:44 weekdays, 23:02 weekends. Last boat to Battersea Power Station and Putney: 20:18 weekdays, 22:22 weekends] 


Tower Bridge piers
St Kat's Floating Film Festival is screening Rocketman (today 22 July, 7pm), Jojo Rabbit (23 July 7pm), Aladdin Live Action and Misbehaviour (both on 24 July, 2pm and 7pm) and The Lion King - live action (2019) on 25 July at 2pm. The screening pontoon is near Cote, by Tower Bridge.

Last week I saw an earlier screening of Jojo Rabbit at St Kat's, on a floating pontoon at the St Katharine Docks marina. I took a ferry there and back again which was perhaps overdoing it a little for water-based entertainment. There are two piers, Thames Clippers has a more frequent service stopping at Tower Millennium Pier - if you arrive after the riverside passage through the Tower of London has closed use the grey route here, otherwise the blue is fine. Tower Bridge Quay is closer and served by Thames River Services but boats are less frequent and stop early.

[St Kat's Floating Film Festival] [Tower Millennium Pier (Thames Clippers) - is wheelchair accessible] [Tower Bridge Quay (Thames River Services) - accessibility not listed, serves Westminster, Embankment, Tower Bridge Quay and Greenwich (Cutty Sark) piers]


Wandsworth Riverside Quarter Pier
Luna Cinema is showing Some Like it Hot, Bohemian Rhapsody and The Princess Bride but note that while you'll be able to arrive using the Thames Clippers you're unlikely to be able to get the last boat home (9.10pm) to London / Canary Wharf. The films all start at 7.30pm and the one with the shortest run time is The Princess Bride (at 1hr 38).

[Luna Cinema] [Wandsworth Pier - is not Wheelchair accessible, but nearby Putney Pier is, and is on same side of the river. The pier is only open in the morning and evening, first boat arrives at 17:03. Last boat to London and Canary Wharf: 21:10]


Westminster Pier
Luna Cinema is showing Knives Out, The Dark Knight, The Greatest Showman and Notting Hill at 9pm from (29 July to 1 August) at Westminster Abbey, nearest pier is Westminster but you won't be able to take a boat home as they stop too early.

[Luna Cinema] [Westminster Pier - is wheelchair accessible. Last boat towards Tower, Canary Wharf and Greenwich: 22:25 weekdays, 22:45 weekends. Last boat to Battersea Power Station, Millbank (for Tate Britain) and Putney: 22:20 weekdays, 22:15 weekends]


Woolwich Pier
St George's Garrison Church is a ~20 minute long walk (uphill, route) from Woolwich Pier, and is showing Coco on 14 August and Dunkirk on 3 September, both free (but need a ticket for August, not for the September screening).

[St George's Garrison Church] [Woolwich Pier - is wheelchair accessible. Woolwich is a terminus pier (on weekdays it's open in the morning and evening - first boat arrives at 17:22). Last boat to Greenwich, Canary Wharf and central London: 21:20 weekdays, 21:00 weekends]

Sunday, 18 July 2021

What was this video, at the Science or Natural History Museum?

I'm trying to remember / find info about a short video that was part of an exhibition at either the Science Museum or the Natural History Museum in London. It would have been somewhere between 1985 and 1995 I think. It had a woman dressed and painted as an alien (she had deeley bopper type things on her head) and she spoke a piece to the camera, addressing the viewer in her alien language, aka incomprehensible gibberish.

Moments later she repeated the exercise but this time she accompanied the piece with gestures, pointing to things and of course suddenly the spoken text made perfect sense. The viewer now knew her name, how to greet people and how to count to three (she had 3 deeley boppers and pointed to each 'one', 'two', 'three' in her language). 

I don't remember spotting the phrase "comprehensible input" in the video or accompanying text but that must have been what the exhibit was about, something I realised later when watching an interesting video about the topic as it applies to language acquisition (subconsciously, naturally) as opposed to learning (conscious effort / rote learning). 

Small children learn language by surmising meaning from sentences - in general they're not taught explicitly that X represents or means Y or how tenses work. Their brains can work out the underlying relationships between words, tenses and meanings from the information they're given, reinforced by repetition and variety.

Anyone who has no idea what a 'cow' is could work it out from someone pointing at some and saying "Look, cows".  

I think the alien was called 'Mim' and that she called her deeley boppers something like flumes or flunes but I can't remember anything else. She might have used 'Borag Thungg!' as 'hello' - but at the time I didn't know that that phrase came from Tharg the Mighty and it's possible I'm mis-remembering that.

Anyone know what I'm talking about?


Friday, 9 July 2021

Some of my favourite posts - a sort of retrospective post.

Occasionally I have what I think of as quite a good idea or at least an enjoyable notion so I've gathered up some of those posts, tagged them as 'brilliant wheezes' and have listed my favourites below. 

This blog has been running for twelve years now and most posts are 'hyperlocal' to a particular thought or event (eg a conference I've been to or something in the news), others are a bit more timeless... I hope you enjoy them :)

I've also been blogging long enough to know that shortly after publication of this post I'll start getting enthusiastic spam emails from people who hope that I can add a link to their really useful (and totally relevant) post on breathing difficulties ;)

The Imaginary Paddington 2 Science Festival (30 March 2021)
- there's plenty of science in the Paddington films.

Combining Careers - the interdisciplinary game / activity (30 June 2020)
- loved this idea of making a game of trying to think up possible careers based on picking any two subjects. I was very pleased to discover hairdressing archaeology, where someone works out the topology of complicated hairstyles of yore.

Art and medicine: visual literacy and things faithfully (though unwittingly) recorded in art and spotted later by medically trained people (3 January 2020)
- one of the most enjoyable posts I've ever written, on a topic that utterly fascinates me

Wondering if birds have perfect pitch (7 May 2017)

The Imaginary Maritime Science Festival - what would you have in your perfect science festival? (3 April 2017)

How to get tickets for something that might be sold out (1 October 2016)

The world is divided into people who listen to song lyrics and people who don't (17 November 2013)