You’re Not As Profound As You Think You Are

vague quote

I swear that if I see that video one more time of that dude talking about airplanes rusting on the ground and Martin Luther King not having a dream but the dream having him I am going to fucking scream.

For those who do not know what I’m talking about – the video is called ‘Everybody dies, but not everybody lives’ and it’s from American rapper Price EA who has a whole series of so-called motivational and inspirational videos and is better than everyone else.

Here is the video in question:

“What’s wrong, Hayley?” you might ask. “That’s pretty inspirational and true and-” shut the fuck up, dear reader. This is not inspirational – it is bossy and presumptive and actually pretty fucking rude.

Is it the sea and death by drowning?
Are those things the sea and death by drowning?

I want people to stop telling me how to live my life as though they have their shit completely sorted out and together.

Literally. Stop. Preaching. At. Me.

I don’t know about you (and I wouldn’t presume to either) but inspirational quotes and speeches that tell me what to do really wind me up.

‘We only regret the chances we didn’t take’ 

I’ve watched Disney’s The Lion King several times and there’s a lyric that says “There’s more to see than can ever be seen, More to do than can ever be done …” and it’s true. We are going to die having not done things that we wish we had but that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It’s just the circle of life, and it moves us all, Through despair and hope, Through-

-what I’m trying to say is that life shouldn’t be a list of accomplishments. Things you should do before you’re 30, 40, 50… fuck that. Existence isn’t about being like everyone else – we don’t all have the same dreams and if you don’t do what everyone else is doing that isn’t a failure. If you’re not happy that isn’t a failure. If you’re not a good christian or a moral atheist that isn’t a failure. Do you see the pattern emerging here?

Fuck off, hipster scum
Fuck off, hipster scum

Other people don’t get to hold the threat of feeling like a failure on your deathbed over you to “motivate” you into improving your life.

Nobody has their shit more together than anyone else. This is all a big lie. We’re all worried that we’re not reaching our potential but the fact is that none of us really know what our potential is supposed to be. We just do what we do and hope that it’s enough.

In the age of social media it’s easy to present ourselves as people who have our shit together. Look at my perfect fucking life, look at the smiles, at these wild flowers I carelessly threw into a glass jar because I’m so grounded with my place in the universe. But these personas we present aren’t really us. They’re the best versions of ourselves that we present to other people who then think “oh shit, I need to try harder.”

Everyone is a sheep but you, right?
What if I want to be bran flakes though?

Our Instagram feeds are our electric sheep. We’re all trying to keep up with the Smiths next door who themselves aren’t even who they appear to be while punishing ourselves by not being the people we present to the world.

I personally think life is about finding what you like and just doing it. Some days I want to travel and experience new things, other days I just want to sit and watch daytime television, or watch DVDs of my favourite movies while drinking whisky. Sometimes I just want to sit down and play Minecraft or read a book.

On occasion I’ve done the things I want to do and have felt this doubt that I should be doing more creeping into the back of my head and it pisses me off that other people have made me feel that way with their pseudo-inspirational lectures when they have no fucking right.

It also really irks me when celebrities tell us “be who you are, do what you want to do” as though they aren’t putting on a front themselves. As though their celebrity status makes them an authority. As though their fame wasn’t brought about by a chance encounter thousands of others failed to have.

And don’t get me started on companies who invade our space with their instructions which we’re supposed to be warmed by: “just do it”. No. No I will not.

I was an ugly baby, though.
I was an ugly baby, though.

I’ve grown up with advertisers telling me that we’re all beautiful and to not worry about beauty standards but there’s an irony in there somewhere because we’re not all beautiful and that’s okay because you don’t have to be beautiful. If a company tells you that you’re pretty while simultaneously trying to sell you something to disguise your naturally occurring appearance they don’t think you’re pretty.

Fuck them.

And fuck the people who tell me how to live without being asked for their opinion because this shit is not inspiring, it’s not empowering, it’s not lovely – it’s patronising and false and harmful.

Look – just do what the fuck you want, and if that means doing nothing, then so fucking be it.


Week In Summary: Plastic bags, Harry Potter, and LSD

brain on LSD

Not sure how to introduce this story so here goes nothing… ROBOT SPIDERS FIX AN AIRSHIP IN FLIGHT? WHAT IS THE FUTURE IN THIS IS THE PRESENT?

Last year here in the UK we had to start paying 5p to buy a carrier bag in many shops. In the six months that have followed this approx. 640 million plastic bags have been used by major retailers. In the previous year they used 7.64 billion bags. If this doesn’t blow your mind…

As these encouraging figures were shared with us I also learned of the Seabin. New Scientist report ‘Fitted to pontoons, the submerged bins use a pump to suck rubbish from the sea surface (see video). Once full, the bins can be emptied and the plastic waste recycled.’ They’re safe for fish too and collect everything from plastic and paper to fuel and detergent. Amazing. Read and watch more over on the NS website.

Check out this interesting video from Vox which explores research into how psychedelics could help treat addiction, anxiety and depression:

Now, don’t freak out or anything but frozen Anthrax just defrosted and started killing animals and hospitalising people. There’s a relatively new field of scientific research called resurrection ecology which emerged after the  discovery that certain bacteria, plants and animals will sometimes thaw out after long periods of suspended animation. This is what’s happening in Syberia right now and it’s pretty scary. Gizmodo has the details

“As a consequence of permafrost melting, the vectors of deadly infections of the 18th and 19th centuries may come back,” Russian scientists

Elsewhere, a US study found that when American students were asked about how important interfaith relations were everything seemed peachy on the surface… until you start to dig a bit deeper where you’ll find lots of disdain for atheists, Hindus, Muslims, and LDS/Mormons. Tsk…

A new Harry Potter book comes out at midnight tonight and Mashable have everything you need to know. I am so excited about this. I was a teenager who’d buy the books as soon as they were published and I can remember weeping my way through the last one so clearly.

Since then my literary tastes have taken on a much stronger sci-fi theme (I have a Hitchhikers Guide tattoo so maybe that’s already obvious?) and New Scientist has a cool list on six sci-fi novels we should all be reading. I would also like to recommend the Paradox Series by Rachel Bach and A Calculated Life by Anne Charnock.  

Lastly – Philae has gone to sleep, possibly for good. This makes me have sad feels. Goodnight, Philae and thanks.

Why not follow me on Twitter? You can also get the latest from me on Facebook here.

Atheist Nomads


I was recently interviewed for the Atheist Nomads podcast and it was a fun discussion. At one point I disagreed with the hosts that paranormal fiction such as The X-Files and Ghostbusters could influence the way in which people believed in things. I have written about this very topic on this blog before here if anyone should be interested to find out what studies into this have shown.

You can listen to the interview below. Be sure to check out the Atheist Nomads podcast and their other episodes here.

The BBC “Guide To Ghost-Hunting” Is Anti-Science


In the week that saw Ghostbusters 2016 launch on the bigscreen I’ve been contacted by many news outlets wanting to speak to me. As I have a proper job I haven’t been able to oblige but luckily for us all, BBC Three managed to get hold of ‘a range of the most experienced experts in the field’ to put together a guide called ‘How to be a real life ghost hunter’. I’d say that it was a useful piece of writing, only it isn’t. It’s terrible and made me laugh for all the wrong reasons.

According to them paranormal investigators are ‘focused primarily on collecting data and evidence of the paranormal’ which is utter nonsense. Ghost hunters use biased methodologies to do this, investigators actually investigate to discover the facts – two very different approaches. Only one of which is useful.

It all becomes clear when the article goes on the explain how they’ve been getting their advice from Tim Brown from the British ghost hunting team called PIGS. To begin with Brown sounds pretty rational and explains that ‘“99% of the time when we get called round to a house, it’s turns out to be something quite normal; a creaky home, changes in temperatures, etc.’ but then he lets himself down by presenting this photo as evidence.

pigs photo 1

Brown adds ‘“Sometimes you hear from people that they’ve got a funny smell, or they’ve heard voices, or they’ve seen someone walking around their house. So at that point we try and record some evidence or data of what’s happening in their home. So we can either explain it away as normal, or prove that it’s not normal, and make sure it gets fixed.’

All of this, and the rest of the article prove that people who call themselves paranormal investigators are not always investigators and do not have any idea of how to apply the scientific method to their work. They’re out to prove that ghosts are real and to capture evidence of ghosts when this simply isn’t possible. Anything that they capture will have a real-world explanation.

Brown says that his team work to capture data of the odd things that have been reported to them to see if they can then work them out or not but this is just a clever way of explaining why they look as though they’re just ghost hunters. They’re not really ghost hunters, they just look like ghost hunters because they’re gathering data. Data is a scientific word, don’t you know?

Here are some facts though – you do not need to experience the oddity for yourself to be able to explain it. Do you know how long it would take for some cases to get solved if everyone used this method? It also adds a huge bias to the research being undertaken because it means that the investigators a) think there is something to be experienced, and b) are more likely to interpret ordinary things as significant because they’re looking for something significant.

But hey… it makes you sound rational, right?

Data, Surveillance, Analysis, Peer Review  – these are all buzz words used by ghost hunters to assure others (and themselves, I would argue) that they’re legit.

When ghost hunters employ these approaches they often ignore the negative hits (when something doesn’t occur) and only focus on the positive hits (when something occurs) which means that their conclusions are based upon cherry picked data.

Further down the article John from Spirit Knights Paranormal Investigators explains how it’s important to respect who you’re speaking to. ‘It’s when people go in to antagonise them that it all goes wrong. People get scratched and thrown down stairs, all through handling it wrong’ he says, and the article states: Spirits were once people and we shouldn’t forget that.

It’s clear that Spirit Knights are a whole different kind of ghost hunting team because they don’t hide the fact that they employ spiritualist methods of spirit communication on their ghost hunts. It does mean that their advice isn’t useful, but then at least BBC Three got their science-to-nonsense balance sorted which is highly important to them, but unfortunately for them the science they portrayed is anything but scientific. Awkward…

There is something wholly strange about humans who act as though they’re white knights riding in to save the tormented souls of the dead. I would suggest it says a lot about the self-worth of those who act in this way.

I have seen Ghostbusters 2016 and I thought it was a fun film. We talk about it in Episode 12 of The Spooktator podcast. The thing that stood out to me the most though was the fact that in this alternative universe the Ghostbusters are all scientists who have respect for rational inquiry. In their world it becomes apparent that ghosts really do exist but in this world that isn’t the reality. So-called experts like Tim Brown chase their shadows and make themselves feel important by sounding science-y., they host paranormal tourism events while claiming to be impartial, and they use equipment that does nothing useful.

Ghost hunting teams often want to distance themselves from the Most Haunted-esque type of ghost hunting which seemed to boom in the early part of this century, but in truth they’re not completely divorced from those methodologies at all because they rely on them too much. If you totally disregard pseudo-science how are you going to show the world that you’re right even when you’re spectacularly wrong?


Week In Summary: #BlackLivesMatter, NASA, and Pokémon

black lives matter

Welcome to another curated list of interesting stuff that I’ve discovered online this week. It’s a bit longer than usual but a lot of stuff has happened that I think needs to feature, so without further ado…

Scenes of police violence unfolding in America were broadcast live to the world this week as a series of shootings of black men shocked the world. Many of us scrolled through our social media timelines and were met with the footage of Alton Sterling being murdered by a police officer. Later we watched Philando Castile die after being shot at point blank range by a police officer. Then came the videos of the attack on police officers at a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas which resulted in several officers being murdered and injured.

That this violence is a regular occurrence is one terrible thing, but that it now plays out to the world in real time is new, shocking and difficult to process.

I can remember the first time I heard that a man had been shot dead on the news – I was about three years old and I ran to tell my parents what had happened and I was surprised at how little my parents seemed to care. It was just an abstract thing then – something that happened to someone else somewhere that we never had to be confronted by – words spoken by a news anchor and nothing much more. Now it is all too real, in your face and there is no avoiding this brutality. Vice explores this in an excellent piece titled ‘The Week America Watched Death on Our Phones’.

Then came the news that the shooting in Dallas had been stopped by an armed police robot – news which prompts strange images in your mind before you grapple with the scary reality of the situation. Should police be this militarised? Gizmodo explores that very question and over on The Verge is a conversation about the ethics of the situation. Vice have a piece exploring the deadliest attacks on police officers in the last 100 years.


It seems that in the aftermath of these unfathomable tragedies people desperately search for anything that can justify what has happened. However it’s important to remember that there are no absolutes – not all cops are racists, not all black men who have criminal records are thugs and so on. Boingboing reminds us that we should reflect on how we respond to breaking news. It’s good to sit back and think before reacting because facts are not always what they seem.

GQ Magazine report on a fantastic take down of the crappy and entitled #AllLivesMatter response to #BlackLivesMatter.

These seem like grave times for humanity. Especially when you add to the mix the fact that Trump is so popular, that people are being subjected to racist abuse on a daily basis following the EU referendum here in England – why are right wing movements across Europe becoming more popular? New Scientist breaks it all down here and it’s scarily fascinating. 

all that’s needed for greater understanding between groups is contact – Thomas Pettigrew

In the week that saw NASAs Juno spacecraft begin its orbital mission around Jupiter many people in my timelines were not sure what all the fuss is about. Popsci have a great overview of the project, as well as previous observations of the planet too. In other NASA related news, technology used in space may be coming to Earth in the form of an exosuit for the human hand that would enable people to weild tools for longer without sacrificing dexterity.

Elsewhere, Belgian researchers have developed an extremely sensitive gas sensor and the good news is that it’s super portable and may have several different used. Chemists at UC Irvine recently devised a new method to break down plastic into its constituent elements, including diesel. This could be big news for the future of recycling!

Could a DVD player be more conscious than a human? George Johnson explores the latest ideas and thoughts around consciousness for the New York Times. Over at New Scientist Jeffrey Guhin puts forward the argument that a national ruled by “rationalism” would be terrible, and I’m in agreement.

Grist reports on a The Global Food Security Act which will see over $1 billion a year spent providing support to small farmers in developing countries. This will vastly increase their quality of life and see rise in education standards for children living in poverty. Nice one!

Did you know that Dry Shampoo might be damaging your hair? These 11 hair experts suggest that this might be the case. Excuse me while I throw mine out. I guess if something seems too good to be true, that’s for a reason.

I wanted to share this beautiful animated short which explores how modern technology has been influenced by the shapes and dimensions found all around us in nature. Technically not from this week but still worth a share, I think.

As Pokémon Go launches around the globe people are leaving their computer desks and taking to the streets in the hunt for Pokémon. Laughing Squid have all you need to know about the App. I personally walked three miles in the search of nearby Pokémon yesterday without even realising the app was making me exercise more, but many are wondering how long it will be until someone gets in trouble for trespassing or gets killed by a car because they’re so engrossed in the App. It has been reported that a teenager using the App to find Pokémon discovered a dead body. Eesh.

China have completed work on the world’s biggest radio telescope which will be used to study pulsars and can help in the search for radio signals from extraterrestrial civilisations, and more. Perhaps we can expect more discoveries such as the one made by astronomers at the University of California-Santa Cruz who have found evidence of water clouds outside of our solar system for the first time.

Finally, a Happy Pride to all of my readers, friends and family who are taking part or watching Bristol Pride this weekend. #LoveIsLove