Chris Worfolk's Blog


Higgs Day 2017

July 4th, 2017 | Science

Happy Higgs Day! It is hard to believe that it has been real for five years now. How has your life immeasurably changed by the discovery of the Higgs boson?

What Google autocomplete tells us about humanity

July 3rd, 2017 | Thoughts

If you want to find out what people are interested in, one of the worst ways to do that is to ask them. Why? Because humans respond to incentives and there is very little incentive to tell your interviewer the truth.

We humans are biased by what we think the questioner wants to hear, but what we are willing to admit, or the self-image we want to portray. For example, few people would admit to voting for UKIP or liking Justin Bieber. And we all exercise far more, eat junk food far less, and enjoy a lot more sex than reality would agree with.

Reported vs observed data

This is a major problem in psychology.

However, there is a way around it. We just have to look at times when people are incentivised to tell the truth.

There is a whole book about this for online dating. In Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking), OkCupid founder Christian Rudder points out that although people say they are not racist when it comes to rating people of a different race as equally attractive, our self-reported beliefs come unstuck.

Another example is Google Search. People are searching for the information they want, so they are unlikely to hide it. Google then anoymises this data and makes it available via autocomplete. You start by putting in “President Donald” and Google, having noticed that everyone else is searching for “President Donald Trump”. offers to complete the search term for you.

Which means you can also work backwards. If you put in the first half of a question, Google will give you the most popular options for the rest.

Should I…

Pop culture wins out here. Most people are looking for the famous song by The Clash. Once we get pasted that we move to people struggling with relationships and dating, and finally onto the big questions i life, such as switching careers or hair styles.

Visiting the doctors

If we add “go to the doctor” onto the end of that, people are worrying about two things: colds and mental health. Colds and flu makes sense: it is the most common thing to get, so there are lots of people worrying about it. Anal bleeding, for example, is less ambiguous about a doctor’s visit being required (it is) and not many people get it. Bad flu, on the other hand, occurs a lot.

Mental health is something that comes up a lot, too.

What should I do if…

Here people are worrying about health and dogs. Getting pregnant is the big question, then two entires on dogs and mental health crops up again.

How long until…

This is all about the holidays: people are already counting down the days until Christmas. Of course, if they had a tracker app like I do, they would already know it is 175. No mention of Jesus coming back, which I was surprised about. How long until I get home: I am not sure if this is some kind of Google maps query; I imagine it is as Google offers that functionality.

Is it true that…

This one is just bizarre. Is cats and cucumbers really the most fact-checked question on the internet? Good to see people are doing their research, though.

Films about…

Mental health and dogs both make a re-appearance here. What is even more interesting is if you go into privacy mode and look at the top ten…

Here mental health dominates, taking spots one and three. People are also interested in drugs, dogs, aliens, 9/11, and somewhere down the bottom is love, space and religion.

Films about self…

Taking the search a step further and adding the word “self”, the topic of self harm comes up a lot. People are interested in self-esteem and self-love, but no self-improvement on the list.

Conclusion

People are frequently concerned with their mental health and the health of their dogs. Everything else can go hang. And they’re really not sure whether 9/11 was an inside job or not.

What we can learn from this? Nothing. It’s a couple of data points pulled out in a non-scientific way. But at least now you know that it is only 175 days until Christmas.

This is how programmers REALLY spend their time

June 29th, 2017 | Programming

Many people imagine that software engineers spend most of their time writing code. Even in a perfect world, that would not be the case. A properly planned and designed system is always going to beat out a rushed and poorly designed one. But regardless, we are not in such a world. In reality, our time looks like this.

How well can you play golf after unlimited steak?

June 28th, 2017 | Life

In April, my parents retired. Typically, you think of this as the period of your life when you have lots of free time. But that does not last long. Soon you have filled it up with so much stuff that you have no idea how you ever managed to fit a job in.

Which is why, two months later, we were still trying to find a weekend when we could all go out for a surprise trip to Fazenda to celebrate my dad’s birthday.

It had to a lunch time as they don’t allow children after 6 pm. That sucks because it is way better on an evening. However, the experience child-wise was kick ass. The high chair was already set out when we arrived and Venla got her own plastic plate, cutlery set and breaker. Hats off to them they have it down: and it’s free for under 5s!

Afterwards, we headed over to the Golf Bar and played some golf.

It’s a lot of fun. It does feel like real golf: the clubs feel a bit light but other than that you are really hitting a ball with real clubs. It’s £40 per hour which is a little steep, but not too bad when split between a group of you.

Venla’s first trip to the beach

June 27th, 2017 | Life

In May, we took Venla for her first trip to the beach.

She enjoyed herself. There were lots of new things to put in her mouth. Including pebbles. And sand. She ate lots of sand. In fact, the only thing that didn’t go in the mouth was the one thing you are supposed to eat: seaweed.

Flamborough often has it’s own weather system and it held out well for us: it was warm and sunny for most of the trip.

West Yorkshire Humanists 2017 AGM

June 26th, 2017 | Humanism

Earlier this month saw the 2017 AGM of West Yorkshire Humanists. It was a changing of the guard as Moz, our chair for almost the past decade, stepped down to let the younger dynamic young go-getters take over.

Laurence and Chris H were elected as joint chairs.

We then followed this with a group discussion on “should Humanism be political”. It seemed very apt given the same day was the General Election. Finally, we headed over to The George for some drinks.

Kerny’s first birthday

June 25th, 2017 | Life, Photos

Earlier this month, Kerny turned one. We celebrated with a picnic at Tetley Green.

Your monthly Venla fix

June 24th, 2017 | Family & Parenting, Photos

Missing out on the latest Venla pictures? You probably need to follow me on Instagram. For those of you who are not down with the kids, here are some photos…

Venla learnt to wave last month. SHe’s enjoying it.

In May, we went back to Leeds SOUP to report on the progress at Anxiety Leeds. Venla screamed her head off last time, so this time I took her up to the front to give the talk with me. She seemed much happier in the limelight.

We went for a walk along the canal and let Venla sit in the grass. She was not sure about it at first but got used to it after a while.

You know Oreo’s? The biscuit that nobody likes because once you take the cream away from them they are just this really dry, flavourless biscuit? Well, turns out they are incredibly chocolatey in the right hands. This was shortly before Venla sent my cocktail glass smashing to the ground.

International Day Against Homophobia

June 23rd, 2017 | Life

Last month, we had a bake sale at Sky to support International Day Against Homophobia. The crowning jewel of the sale was this…

…which was self-described by the bake-sale team as “the gayest cake in the world”. It was also delicious.

Baby food pouches compared

June 22nd, 2017 | Video

Baby food pouches come with a variety of ingredients and flavours listed on the front. But there are often not as accurate a one might hope. With these pouches, for example, it turns out that a significant percentage of each of them is apples.

Not just a little bit of apple. In the case of the Heinz baby pouch, most of it is apples. But Ella’s Kitchen does make the grade. Their banana baby pouch is made of just one thing: bananas. How crazy is that? Apparently, far more crazy than it should be.

Watch the video. You get to hear the amusing baby screams.

But, if you’re at work, here are the stats:

Company Flavour Ingredients
Cow & Gate Banana, mango and coconut 30% apple
Heinz Strawberry, raspberry, banana 89% apple
Ella’s Kitchen Banana 100% banana