December Pieces Of My Mind #1

  • OK so Google Inbox is excellent and I use it all the time. Takes so much of the stress out of e-mail. But I wonder, when are we getting Google Imbolc?
  • Hehe. This Swedish author intends to talk about the actions of the Medieval aristocracy, instead puts “their acting”. And his language reviewer does nothing about it.
  • Story germ: we discover the existence of alien visitors when one is found as a piece of mangled, semi-decomposed roadkill on a major highway.
  • Google Maps knew that I was near Vienna. Then it got confused and teleported me to St. Pölten.
  • Yay Rausing Foundation! Now we’ll see what the bones can tell us about life at Skällvik Castle.
  • No. Please no. This guy enters a discussion about funding for the humanities, calls them “by their nature ontological”, ends sentence with two periods. I can’t take this shit.
  • Movie: Arrival. Linguist is in charge of talking to aliens at first contact. Grade: OK. Because my Swedish friends think that “Pass” means “Bypass this film, do not watch it.”
  • Time and time again, prominent representatives of the Swedish Racist Party reveal themselves as cynical, stupid, ignorant criminals who have no particular interest in the well-being of their constituents. Still they got 13% of the parliamentary vote last time. 13% of the Swedish people are almost certainly not cynical criminals. But it’s really hard to discuss the Swedish Racist Party without implying that their voters are in fact stupid and ignorant, or at least desperate. This however is counterproductive: it makes these voters even more keen to vote against the majority who thinks they’re not very bright.
  • Fritiof Nilsson Piraten just broke Google. Not one hit for gåsgalantin.
  • Cosmopolitan experience at the dentist’s office. The staff I met were ladies from three different foreign countries. No caries.
  • “You’re just my type / You’ve got a pulse and you are breathing” /Saint Motel

Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki

Stucco artist  Axel Notini advertised his skills on the facade of his Stockholm home in 1883.

Stucco artist Axel Notini advertised his skills on the facade of his Stockholm home in 1883.

Comments

  1. #1 birgerjohansson
    December 11, 2016

    Biology, meet philology: First application of phylogenetic Evolutionary framework to color naming http://phys.org/news/2016-12-biology-philology-application-phylogenetic-evolutionary.html
    — —
    Voters just want to give the finger to the establishment parties….unfortunately that results in people like the Donald.

  2. #2 birgerjohansson
    December 11, 2016

    Linguist is in charge of talking to aliens at first contact.
    Stanislaw Lem’s His Master’s Voice was about SETI and understanding a message.
    He was always pessimistic about the chances for meaningful communication.

  3. #3 birgerjohansson
    December 11, 2016

    “UK completely unprepared for snow for 10,438th winter running”

  4. #4 John Massey
    December 11, 2016

    Speaking of Imbolc, I see that the last surviving native speaker of the Manx language died in 1974. But efforts are being made to revive the language. Why? Surely the world needs fewer languages, not more. Language is a living thing. If a language is not self-sustaining, isn’t that a strong hint that people do not want to use it and that it should be allowed to die gracefully?

    It strikes me as a bit like retrospectively ‘recreating’ lost culture by making it up, like the people who claim to be Taino. One of my favourite culture creation stories happened when some enterprising white person in the southern Australian city of Adelaide decided to advertise to give lessons in how to play the didgeridoo to little girls. The local ‘white Aboriginal’ people (i.e. people of almost wholly European ancestry who claim Aboriginal ‘identity’ and the authority to retrospectively recreate artificial culture) reacted with outrage, claiming that it was ‘taboo’ for females to play the didgeridoo. But, in fact, the didgeridoo was only ever ‘native’ to northern Australia, so some journalist with a functioning brain and a bit of initiative went to northern Australia and talked to a whole lot of ‘real Aboriginal’ people (i.e. culturally intact people of 100% Aboriginal ancestry), and those people said “Nonsense. That’s rubbish. Women play the didgeridoo all the time. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Those white Abos down south don’t know what they are talking about.”

    My former English boss used to mock his countrymen, how they react with shock and horror whenever it snows and the country grinds to a halt, as if it has never snowed in England before.

  5. #5 janne
    Okinawa
    December 11, 2016

    I have no problem believing that 15 or 20 percent of any large population is a racist, self-serving asshole with delusions of adequacy. But perhaps I’m getting old and cynical.

  6. #6 John Massey
    December 11, 2016

    By deduction, 15-20% of any large population must involve more than one arsehole.

  7. #7 John Massey
    December 11, 2016

    http://peterturchin.com/cliodynamica/fall-rome-happen/

    That might seem like a non sequitur, but it’s not. Note in particular: “Growing political instability is first and foremost a result of elite overproduction leading to excessive intra-elite competition and conflict. This main driver is supplemented by mass mobilization of non-elites resulting from popular immiseration and by failing fiscal health of the state.”

    Peter Turchin is useful because he measures things in history, and you can deduce useful stuff by measuring things, rather than just talking about them qualitatively.

    A person who is opposed to immigration might not necessarily be a racist. Of course, he might be, but his opposition to immigration might not stem from racism. Arguably, China is the most xenophobic country in the world, much more so even than Japan, considering that out of a population of 1.4 billion, only about 1,400 non-Chinese have ever been granted Chinese citizenship, and that the Chinese authorities make no distinction between genetic race and nationality. And yet Chinese readily intermarry with non-Chinese – the highest category of ‘out-marriage’ in America comprises East Asians married to Whites; far higher than South Asians married to Whites. Guangzhou now has its own ‘African quarter’, populated by families of African men married to Chinese women. That doesn’t sound very racist.

    Opposition to immigration derives principally from the impression people have (whether true or not) that there is an over-supply of labour and that essential consumer goods are in short supply and too expensive. It is true that in an ageing population, an over-supply of labour can quickly flip into a catastrophic under-supply, but that is tomorrow, not today.

    In any case, in Turchin’s analysis, that is not the main driver of political instability and voters wanting to give the finger to the established elite; elite over-production and inter-elite rivalry is. Although having a lot of people at the bottom of the socio-economic heap who are unhappy with their lot must certainly contribute. They don’t need to be cynical criminals, they just need to be unhappy.

    In Sweden’s case, I would guess that it is the relatively good state of things in Sweden compared to much of the developed world that explains why the % of the voters wanting to give the finger is only 13%, and not 49 or 51%.

  8. #8 John Massey
    December 11, 2016

    In fact, I think you could mount a reasonable argument that opposition to mass immigration spawns racism, as much as the other way round.

    Anglo-Irish Australians don’t hate Chinese just because they are Chinese. Go into any suburban Chinese restaurant on a Friday night, and you will find the place packed with Anglos all sucking down their preferred version of cheap bastardised Chinese cuisine.

    Anglo-Irish Australians hate Chinese because of a deep seated fear that Chinese will flood the country; and now, with the economic rise of China, that they will actually buy the country. That hatred was spawned during the 19th Century gold rushes, when illegal immigrant Chinese miners did flood into Australia, and it has stayed there ever since. ‘Teach the children…’ and all that.

    I don’t see the deep seated hatred of Chinese among American Whites that I see in Australian Whites. Eric might tell me I am wrong on that, but the American numbers on inter-marriage between East Asians and Whites suggest otherwise.

  9. #9 John Massey
    December 11, 2016

    Although it is possible, and even probable, that East Asian/White inter-marriage in America is confined to high SES people with higher education; so in effect, instead of preserving ‘racial purity’, they are preserving financial wealth and high social status.

    Except that, in America, ‘East Asian’ includes the Hmong, who are generally a low SES group lacking upward mobility. I don’t know how many of them marry out – the stats are not broken down that far.

  10. #10 Sean M
    December 11, 2016

    John: Most historians would like to measure more things, and in fact the only data in Turchin’s post is a single chart pulled out of a book like “The Cambridge Economic History of the Greco-Roman World.” But before the 18th century measuring things is really hard, and historians who deal with the sources (not just someone’s massaged summary) tend to be sensitive at how unreliable their numbers are. Measuring silver in ice cores and numbers of shipwrecks does not explain why minting and shipping rose and fell, and its really hard to prove things like an “elite overproduction” theory with no census data!

  11. #11 John Massey
    December 11, 2016

    Turchin writes his Blog episodically, so you don’t get to see what he is using as evidence in a single post. After all, he writes books, and wants you to buy the books. Or you can go back through all of his Blog posts searching for it, but that could get pretty tedious.

    Talking about something I know about, ice cores tell about more than just minting of silver coins. They tell how much metal smelting was happening and which metals, which is a measure of the quantity of material goods being produced, and at least a hint at what kinds of goods. Shipwrecks have holds containing material goods. I don’t know what he is using as evidence for population numbers and land ownership, but have learned to respect Turchin’s work enough to trust that he would be basing these claims on something, rather than just making them up. He is a serious, ethical scholar, not a charlatan or crackpot. (Well, he does indulge in belief in the benefits of a ‘Palaeolithic diet’, but then so do a lot of otherwise rational people, and if it works for him, it’s a pretty harmless bit of crackpottery – if he was an Aboriginal Australian, he would be right.)

    Sean, all I’m saying is suggesting you don’t judge Turchin’s work on the basis of one Blog post. His episodic style of serial posting can be a bit of an irritant, I know, and others have complained about it at times, but there is a lot more to him than that.

    Also, I’m not saying I think he is right. I don’t know enough history in depth to know one way or another. But I do think his theory is food for thought. It would have a lot of explanatory power in relation to political events this Century.

  12. #12 Sean M
    December 11, 2016

    John, I agree that Turchin has some interesting ideas and I would like to read one of his books one day. I saw him cited in Bryn Mawr Classical Review, which is the biggest online venue for reviewing monographs in classics and ancient history. But there is a whole movement of quantitative studies within ancient history and archaeology, and as far as I know Turchin draws on their summaries of the evidence rather than engaging closely with the messy originals. That is fine (somebody has to tell stories about the big picture), but some things are always lost in translation.

    My approach in blogging is to give a short list of “further reading” at the bottom which will let people find a more formal version.

  13. #13 John Massey
    December 11, 2016

    In truth, I would like to believe that Turchin is wrong. His prediction for America is particularly gloomy – that if people think Trump being elected is bad, they haven’t seen anything yet and things will get progressively worse on into the 2020s.

    I would like to think he is wrong, but have a horrible feeling he’s not.

  14. #14 John Massey
    December 11, 2016

    Sean, well, yes – like I say, he is trying to whet people’s appetites so they will buy his books, and no doubt read and cite all of his published papers as well.

    But in fairness, we should note that he is not an historian by training. He has a first degree in Biology and a PhD in Zoology, and I don’t doubt what you say about him drawing on other people’s summaries. Also in fairness, we should note that at least some of his theories have been strongly challenged – he would say “and refuted”, but then he would say that, wouldn’t he?

  15. #15 John Massey
    December 11, 2016

    Sean – if it’s OK, you might steer me to your Blog some time. I would like to take a look; that is, if you have a current one. If you don’t want to put it on here, you can email it via Martin, who knows how to reach me.

  16. #16 Sean M
    December 11, 2016

    John: My latest post (on something in ancient history where it looks at first glance like we can lay them out and make an independent jugement) is at https://bookandsword.com/2016/12/10/scythed-chariots/

  17. #17 Sean M
    December 11, 2016

    Sorry, that should be “lay the sources out.”

  18. #18 John Massey
    December 12, 2016

    Sean, that’s a good read.

  19. #19 Kaleberg
    December 12, 2016

    Turchin’s theories of political cycles in the Roman era have their successors. Apparently, European material historians have long recognized a similar two hundred year cycle in Europe dating back to at least the 1100s. There is usually a period of political and price stability, often lasting about a century, then a period of political instability and inflation. I read an American popularization describing this theory which explained that this kind of analysis was familiar in Europe, but not well known to American scholars.

    There is a general sense that the cycles are population driven, though other factors come into play.

  20. #20 John Massey
    Hong Kong
    December 12, 2016

    Turchin analysed data for the USA going back over a hundred years or more – as far back as he could get reliable data for.

    What his analysis showed was that during periods of high immigration, GDP rose, the rich got richer, but the rest of the population got poorer. During periods of low immigration, GDP fell, the rich got poorer, but the rest of the population got higher wages.

    This should not be surprising. A similar thing happened in Europe after the Black Death, which resulted in massive depopulation. Before the Plague, the population was at the Malthusian limit, and farm labourers were very poorly paid, impoverished and malnourished, with a lot of food scarcity. After the plague, farm labour was so hard to get that they had much more bargaining power, and were able to command much higher wages. That situation persisted until the population rose again. No doubt in the aftermath of the Plague, total productivity would have been very much lower, but individually, low SES people who survived the plague became very much better off.

  21. #21 John Massey
    December 12, 2016

    Sean, as you are obviously into chariots, here’s a challenge for you.

    The Shang Dynasty in China was mythical, right up until it wasn’t. Now, rather a lot is known about the Shang, including that they used chariots in warfare. The question is, where did they get the chariots from? There appears to be no evidence that cultures in China which pre-existed the Shang had anything like chariots.

    No evidence of scythed chariots though – at least, not that I have ever found any reference to. The chariots seem to have been more like wheeled carts/mobile fighting platforms.

    I guess I should mention the other unknown about the Shang (although this could surely be determined, because they have human remains from Shang tombs) – what people were they? The remains in tombs might or might not help, I guess, because the ruling elite might have been different from the people they ruled, and they followed the practice of burying elite people by entombing a number of other people with them. Interestingly enough, the Shang also practised human sacrifice, but then lots of people have done that during various periods.

  22. #22 Bir gerJohansson
    December 12, 2016
  23. #23 Sean M
    December 12, 2016

    Thanks for the kind words John. I hope that the difficulties in your offline life clear up.

    I have some things on Near Eastern and Iranian chariots in my thesis, but I really don’t have time to get into Chinese and Central Asian archaeology right now. I have read “The Horse, the Wheel, and Language” and would like to read “The Indo-European Controversy: Facts and Fallacies in Historical Linguistics” but I have a dissertation to write and learning to read site reports in Chinese or Russian would be a step too far!

  24. #24 BirgerJohansson
    December 12, 2016

    Swedes and Brits unearth lost ancient city in western Thessaly, Greece http://www.thelocal.se/20161212/swedish-archaeologists-unearth-lost-ancient-city-in-greece

    — — — — —
    It is my understanding that the steppes functioned more or less as an east-west highway for horse peoples,

    Can regional fashions in horse-related equipment etc. be discerned despite the rapid dissemination of innovations?
    If so, how much of the changes are likely caused by cultural transfer, and how much is actually caused by migrations?

    I understand the answer to the last question is almost impossible, but unless they practised cremation, DNA should offer clues.

  25. #25 JustaTech
    December 12, 2016

    I thought Arrival was pretty brilliant. I also cried pretty hard at a couple of points, but that’s because I had read the short story it’s based on many years ago and it really stuck with me.
    “Story of your life” by Ted Chiang

  26. #26 John Massey
    December 13, 2016

    Birger@24 – You are being onmiscient again. The Shang were very enthusiastic traders with people to the west who, among other things, mined a lot of jade, which the Shang apparently greatly valued.

    Fu Hao’s tomb, which collapsed (destroying her skeleton in the process, unfortunately) but had not been robbed, contained, among an impressive array of weaponry, a lot of very precious jade objects.

    So my guess is that the Shang obtained chariots by cultural exchange, possibly with people who were West Eurasians who had made it that far east across the steppe.

    That is assuming the Shang elite were not themselves West Eurasians. Shang society appears to be have been at least somewhat cosmopolitan.

  27. #27 BirgerJohansson
    December 13, 2016

    Epiphany http://satwcomic.com/epiphany

    -We should repeat that custom with American dollar bills.

  28. #28 BirgerJohansson
    December 13, 2016

    Simulations suggest life on planet Proxima b might be possible if it has a thick atmosphere or strong magnetic field http://phys.org/news/2016-12-simulations-life-planet-proxima-thick.html

  29. #29 JustaTech
    December 13, 2016

    Birger @27: Uh, if you do I know a few people who will want to have a conversation with you. And not a nice one.
    (In case you didn’t know, the Secret Service is in charge of the US treasury and all anti-counterfeiting stuff.)

  30. #30 John Massey
    December 14, 2016

    JT is right, Birger. We should confine ourselves to counterfeiting old silver dollars and trading them to the Indians for land.
    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/92/7c/2a/927c2a31d288b39155b254e79fe6b16d.jpg

  31. #31 John Massey
    December 14, 2016

    If you thought that serious young Yakama woman more than 100 years ago was beaufitul, all dressed up in her best stuff for the photographer (and I certainly think she was beautiful, despite her notably asymmetrical mouth, which is more of a heart-touching flaw than a disfigurement), have a look at this modern Yakama cutie.

    http://c8.alamy.com/comp/EX1047/native-american-girl-at-yakama-nation-treaty-day-commemoration-yakama-EX1047.jpg

    I didn’t realise there are still that many Native Americans in north-west America (as opposed to Canada, where they are still very visible in Vancouver) that still look obviously like Native Americans.

    I had to look up where Toppenish, WA is on Google Maps – it’s east south east of Seattle. And yes, it has a casino. But evidently the ideal female physical adornment has progressed beyond wearing an old worn silver dollar around the neck as a prized necklace. Toppenish is within the Yakama Reservation, has a Native American population of 7.9%, and is notably poor, with 30% of the population living below the poverty line.

  32. #32 John Massey
    December 14, 2016

    Today’s mind blowing factoid: The first global warming models were constructed by the Swede Svante Arrhenius, who was also a eugenicist.

    It seems we have to settle for deeply flawed heroes, e.g. Gandhi was a racist paedophile.

  33. #33 John Massey
    December 14, 2016

    Bit of a worry – reportedly: “In the last TIMSS, only around 15% (sic!) of Swedish and Finnish 8th graders were able to do basic fractions.”

    Swedes are not that dumb, and Finns are certainly not – they are the most intelligent population in Europe. It suggests that there is something seriously wrong with the Swedish and Finnish schooling systems.

    I remember learning fractions in primary school – I had them well and truly hammered by the time I had reached 6th Grade. And that was after having to miss out on the first half of 1st Grade due to a post-war shortage of schools.

    Memory is a strange thing. I was tested by a neurologist yesterday, who demonstrated that numbness in my fingers of both hands is coming from nerve constrictions in my elbows. Both the ulnar and median nerves pass through the elbow, and both affect different areas of the hand. The thing is, I remember exactly when I first noticed numbness, in the little finger of the left hand, and I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I noticed it. That was in 2005, and I was driving my car home after playing a tennis match (the car was a 2.8 litre Audi A6, if you want to know, and easily the best car I have ever owned, although certainly not the easiest to drive). It took a while for the memory to surface, after the orthopaedic surgeon asked me the question – the memory took a few days to come flooding back to me, but now I remember it with absolute certainty and precision.

    Needless to say this condition is really f*cking up my attempts to play Flamenco guitar, never mind buttoning up the buttons on my shirt sleeves, so I’m hoping minor surgery on the elbows to relieve pressure on the constricted nerves might improve the condition.

  34. #34 Martin R
    December 14, 2016

    Regarding school quality, Finland is held up as a shining example in contrast to slipping Sweden. In the global 2015 Pisa rankings of 15-y-os, Finland was #6 for reading English and #12 for maths. Sweden was #36 and #38.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/business-26249042

  35. #35 John Massey
    December 14, 2016

    China disappointed in the 2015 PISA results. Those TIMMS results were a surprise to me – Finland is always hailed as the European star in the PISA results, although they continue to lag places like Singapore and Hong Kong (which arguably have artificially highly intelligent populations for historical reasons), plus South Korea and Japan. But then, for those who believe in such a thing as general intelligence as measurable by IQ tests, Finland has the highest mean IQ of any country in Europe.

    But like I said, Swedes are not notably dumb among European countries – they are above the average. Are there obvious flaws in the Swedish schooling system? Because just based on intelligence of the Swedish population, they should be doing a lot better than they currently are.

    Meanwhile, TOT, this is kind of interesting:
    http://arstechnica.com/features/2016/12/theres-a-1000-year-old-lost-city-beneath-the-st-louis-suburbs/

  36. #36 Martin R
    December 14, 2016

    “Are there obvious flaws in the Swedish schooling system?” was what everybody here asked when we started to drop in Pisa. I don’t know what the consensus answer is. But I do know that Swedish school teachers are poorly paid, that the demand for teacher college seats is low, and that the entry qualifications for teacher college are concomitantly low. It may simply be a question of Sweden recruiting the wrong people for teacher college.

  37. #37 John Massey
    December 14, 2016

    Shanghai also has an arguably somewhat artificially highly intelligent population – high educational achievers are drawn to Shanghai from other parts of China. Not all Chinese regional populations have the mean IQ that Shanghai has.

    If you add in Beijing, Jiangsu and Guangdong, the Chinese results become less impressive.

    Anatoly Karlin’s comment on the TIMMS: “Overperformance in TIMSS relative to PISA can arguably be used as a proxy for schooling quality, since it’s more dependent on academic/curricular skills than on raw intelligence.” That suggests that Finland’s performance in the PISA is more down to just intelligence, and that the Finnish schooling system is, in reality, no better than the Swedish schooling system when measured by outcome measures like the TIMMS.

    I quote Karlin because (1) he’s smart and observant, and (2) he does his homework on the numbers in an objective manner.

  38. #38 John Massey
    December 14, 2016

    Speaking of ethnic minority stars, this 10 year old Spanish Gypsy has star quality written all over her:
    https://www.facebook.com/aireflamenco/videos/10154024455095598/

    The tragedy for her is that Flamenco is such a minority sport, and infinitely more people would rather watch the (to me utterly repulsive) Miley Cyrus.

  39. #39 John Massey
    December 14, 2016

    Martin@36 – You could be describing the Australian schooling system, in which teachers are poorly paid, and which has an overall surplus of teachers, but such a severe shortage of qualified secondary science teachers that many schools have to resort to employing Physical Education teachers (of which there is an over-abundance) to teach secondary science. I guess the ‘logic’ is that the PE teachers at least have a first degree in Sports Science, but it’s no substitute for a good tertiary grounding in Physics, Chemistry or Biology.

    You would not expect, I think, that such a system would turn out a lot of well educated school leavers keen to pursue higher qualifications and a career in STEM, and that is indeed the outcome in Australia. They are running out of ideas for attracting suitably bright and well educated school leavers into Science, Mathematics and Engineering. It doesn’t help that STEM careers in Australia are paid notably badly. Like, why would anyone bother? So it becomes a circular problem – you have a shortage of competent Science and Maths graduates to provide a supply of teachers in those subjects.

    I myself learned Mathematics from (1) a religious loony, who subsequently got out of teaching to become a missionary, and (2) a string of crappy PE teachers. The religious loony was actually a good Mathematics teacher, and he kept the religion out of the classroom – I’m not dissing him. But by age 15 I had realised that the other Mathematics and Science teachers were all crap, and if I was going to do any good in the public examinations, it was going to have to be by imposing a discipline of self-learning on myself from books. I did have an exceptionally good English teacher, but he was a stand-out among an otherwise very unimpressive bunch – and I went to a high priced private secondary school for rich kids, by dint of having the luck to win a scholarship. I would have been even worse off at a government school.

    Contrast with Hong Kong, where there is a shortage of qualified teachers in all disciplines, and where secondary school teachers in particular are well remunerated.

    In Hong Kong, being a secondary school teacher is actually something of a prestigious profession, particularly if someone can get a secure position in one of the international schools or English language foundation schools, where the pay is particularly good. Hong Kong parents all want their kids taught in English; that is, they want them to learn Chinese language as a subject, but want the rest of the curriculum including English language taught by teachers who are competent to teach in English.

    But the entry requirements are pretty tough – a candidate needs a recognised teaching qualification (and the list of recognised qualifications is pretty restrictive) on top of a good first university degree in the requisite subject(s), plus at minimum two years of good teaching experience. (So it becomes a chicken and egg problem – how do you get to be employed to get the requisite two years post-qualification teaching experience to qualify to be employed as a teacher? It seems most candidates have to resort to working for a while as ‘relief teachers’, or to teaching in much less well paid positions in lower ranking schools like the government or Buddhist schools. The Buddhists, unlike the fabulously wealthy Catholics, have no money, so their schools are the worst, because they pay the least.)

    So yeah – if you want to turn out well educated students, you at least need to recruit competent, well educated teachers to teach them. I just thank my lucky stars that I woke up to the need to take control of my own education while I was still young enough for it to work for me. Hard work, though, gratuitously giving yourself extra homework and self-study every night. In Hong Kong, parents resort to paying tutors to give the extra work. That is another way someone can acquire teaching experience, of course – by offering their services as a tutor for a long enough time to clock up the requisite hours.

  40. #40 BirgerJohansson
    December 14, 2016

    Swedes wildly overestimate Muslim population http://www.thelocal.se/20161214/swedes-wildly-overestimate-muslim-population-survey

    In regard to poor math results in school: 4.7% is actually less than 17%!

  41. #41 BirgerJohansson
    December 14, 2016

    The oldest women artists: Forensic technique reveals sex of prehistoric hand stencil made 35 000 years ago http://phys.org/news/2016-12-forensic-technique-reveals-sex-prehistoric.html

    — — — — — —
    Maybe this is a way to reach out to those who deny climate change:
    Environmental messages that promote a return to a positive past found to be more effective in convincing conservatives http://phys.org/news/2016-12-environmental-messages-positive-effective-convincing.html

  42. #42 John Massey
    December 15, 2016

    Birger@40 – I’m always fascinated by these wild overestimates, and public misconceptions about demographics.

    One of my favourites – I doubt any single Australian person would guess, without knowing the answer, that the fastest growing religion in Australia is Hinduism. If I were a gambling man, I would bet real money that anyone asked that question in Australia would say Islam. Nope, not true.

    Another favourite: People always overestimate the % of ‘non-paternity events’, i.e. the % of people born as a result of cuckolding. Most people guess that the % is around 10%, whereas in reality it is closer to 1%, and that holds for the historical past as well. It is 10% in cases where a man asks for a paternity test because he suspects he might not be the real father of a child attributed to him, but that is because he generally already has grounds to be suspicious; but still then it is only 10%. There is nothing the media-watching public love more than a good scandal but, unexcitingly for many, women are much more faithful than people appear to believe, or appear to want to believe.

    Gallup reports the observation of “Americans’ historical tendency to overestimate the prevalence of other subgroups in the U.S. population”, e.g. white people always overestimate the % of African Americans.

    Another classic is the gross overestimation in America of the proportion of the population that is gay or lesbian – wildly overestimated:
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/183383/americans-greatly-overestimate-percent-gay-lesbian.aspx

    This seems partly the result of prominence given to various groups in the mainstream media, partly as a consequence of the public visibility of activists for minority groups, people’s fear of minority groups, fear-mongering by extremist politicians, and just partly down to the general public’s awful grasp of demographics.

    My all time favourite was when 20 years ago the Australian white-supremacist politician Pauline Hanson used her maiden speech in Parliament to warn that “Australia is being flooded by Asians.” The current Asian population of Australia? 4%. That’s some flood.

    People who look different or behave differently attract visual attention in public, and so their numbers tend to be overestimated.

    What does interest me from that Gallup piece is that 60% of the American public now support gay marriage. I suspect the % in Australia would be similar. And yet, the Governments are not doing the will of the people; they continue to resist making gay marriage legal. I have never understood why – what are they afraid of? Legal gay marriage would be a threat to nothing and nobody.

  43. #43 John Massey
    December 15, 2016

    Meanwhile, Birger@41, I’m curious to know why missing digits are so common in Palaeolithic art. Were they overrepresented, or did a lot of people lose fingers back then, and if so, how? Using stone tools, maybe – holding something while chopping it with a stone hand axe has to be a bit risky.

  44. #44 John Massey
    December 15, 2016

    http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2054492/americas-f-35-fighter-jet-vs-chinas-j-20-which-better

    The general take on the J20 by people who were at that air show is that IT’S AWFULLY LOUD!!!!! Plus the observation that it loses altitude on the turns (which you can see on the video in that article, if it will play in your region), which suggests it is seriously under-powered. Maybe the Chinese are keeping it a secret because they know its performance is actually lousy. Up to now, the Chinese have been dependent on Russian engines in their military aircraft, but the J20 is claimed to be powered by Chinese designed engines. Apparently it takes a long time and a lot of money and knowledge to develop a good aircraft engine, and that footage seems to suggest that the Chinese have yet to achieve that.

  45. #45 John Massey
    December 15, 2016

    Lucy was a tiny wee thing. But she might have had a much bigger brother.

    http://johnhawks.net/weblog/fossils/afarensis/laetoli-footprints-masao-2016.html

  46. #46 John Massey
    December 15, 2016

    This article really bothers me:
    https://theconversation.com/euthanasia-and-palliative-sedation-are-distinct-concepts-intent-matters-70277

    First, let me make my position clear – I am in favour of euthanasia or assisted suicide for terminally ill patients who are suffering prolonged unbearable pain and who wish to end their own lives. I see nothing wrong with it, and everything in favour of it.

    Second, bioethicists generally, with a few notable exceptions, really irritate me. And the author of this article really really irritates me, because his argument is motivated by religious belief, *but he does not declare that in the article*. How do I know that his argument is motivated by religious belief? Because his name is Xavier, and because he is a research associate at the University of Notre Dame, which is a privately funded Catholic university. So, Xavier is a Catholic, and Catholics are among the most strongly opposed groups to euthanasia. To them, it is a sin; a terrible sin – it is the taking of life, which is murder. They are the folks who, when you are in prolonged unbearable pain, deny you the pain medication and tell you to put your faith in Jesus. Well, I’ve got news for them – Jesus hasn’t been around for getting close to 2,000 years, but a big enough intravenous injection of pethidine works like magic.

    Xavier writes: “We do ourselves a disservice to pretend euthanasia is anything other than this.” Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he? Actually, keeping the water muddy around the so-called double effect helps enormously, because it enables compassionate doctors to help patients ‘through the door’, as it were, by dispensing pain medication which also just happens to kill the patient painlessly, without being charged with murder. I know from personal experience that some doctors do this all the time. I also know that, if pressed on the question, they will flatly deny that they do it. They have to. They need to be covered by the muddy water. If asked, I will deny my knowledge of these doctors.

    Xavier wants to see those doctors in the dock facing a murder trial. Because he knows that is what Jesus wants. He is certain of it, and he cares more about that than he cares about people suffering.

  47. #47 John Massey
    December 15, 2016

    Meanwhile, more on those good looking Pacific northwest Indians:
    http://eurogenes.blogspot.hk/2016/12/population-structure-in-late.html

  48. #48 BirgerJohansson
    December 15, 2016

    John, in rural areas, missing digits were quite common in our grandparents’ time, but I do not know if any reliable statistical data exist.
    Without antibiotics, when something got septic, you cut it off or risked death. One “treatment” was to let maggots devour the septic tissue, as they are quite selective.
    — — — — — — — — —
    Raw foodies: Europe’s earliest humans did not use fire http://phys.org/news/2016-12-raw-foodies-europe-earliest-humans.html

    Actually, fire was widely used much earlier, but the use was discontinued after the rise to power by a certain Donald Ugg. He regarded fire as being “the tool for weak effete liberal elites”, a view widely disseminated by his ally Zog Murdoch. Afterwards most erectus people starved to death (including Zog and Murdoch).

  49. #49 John Massey
    December 16, 2016

    Yes, I had forgotten about infection of wounds. Which I shouldn’t, considering how many courses of antibiotics I have had to take to kill infection of wounds caused by me crashing on my bicycle. Without antibiotics, I would have had both legs and one arm amputated by now. No, probably not – after amputation of the first leg, continuing to ride my bicycle would have been difficult, although given the stubbornness of my nature, I would no doubt have tried. But the third crash would have taken the other leg, so I would have been reduced to trying to sprint around one-armed in a racing wheelchair, and finding I could only go in circles – a bit like the black knight in Monty Python, progressively losing limbs.

    When young, I did farm work to help a farmer who had caught his hands in a grain auger, with the loss of most of his fingers. His hand prints on a cave wall would have caused a bit of head-scratching. I steered well clear of the offending grain auger when in the barn. Farm equipment is notoriously poorly designed for safety.

    A slightly different thought – no one knows how old leprosy is. I guess it’s possible the Cro Magnons had it.

  50. #50 BirgerJohansson
    December 16, 2016

    “I’m saying people have gotten things wrong throughout the 5,500-year history of our planet.” This was said by a Trump advisor… (Anthony Scaramucci is a lawyer, Wall Street investor, and now advisor to President Elect Donald Trump) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFza0DV5rdo

  51. #51 BirgerJohansson
    December 16, 2016

    National security advisor Flynn Tries to Disappear Fake News Tweet Down the Memory Hole http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches/2016/12/15/flynn-tries-disappear-fake-news-tweet-memory-hole/
    He assumed Hillary Clinton’s involvement in sex crimes with minors must be true because the internet is always right. Next up: Iran forms alliance with the Klingons to destroy the West.

    -An interesting fact is, once any bogus news are exposed, the Trumpians wrongly attribute the origin of fake news to Washington Post, because they consider it an evil librul newspaper. Their own news are by definition never fake.

  52. #52 BirgerJohansson
    December 16, 2016

    Equal fight http://satwcomic.com/equal-fight
    Svalbard’s just like “sure, whatever, okay”

  53. #53 BirgerJohansson
    December 16, 2016

    Swedish curmudgeon makes Oscar shortlist http://www.thelocal.se/20161216/swedish-curmudgeon-makes-oscar-shortlist-ove

    Also, from the Daily Mash:
    “Actually Europe will pay £50 billion to us, says Brexiter”
    “ Prime Minister May orders large consignment of Dalmatians”
    “A&E waiting times would improve if you weren’t such idiots”gv, say experts

  54. #54 John Massey
    December 17, 2016

    I used to work with a very large Dalmatian. People from the Dinaric Alps are among the tallest in the world. He had a short fuse, was easily provoked, and had no sense of humour at all. So of course I used to deliberately wind him up all the time. I managed to get him so enraged on one occasion that he threatened to pick me up and throw me out of the window.

    I worked with another guy, an Australian who had previously worked in the north west, where he was on good terms with the local Aboriginal people. One of them, a man suffering from leprosy, had made a didgeridoo and had given it to him. He kept the didgeridoo in his office. Whenever people went to his office to see him about something, humans being the creatures that they are, they would see the didgeridoo, pick it up, put it to their mouths and attempt to play it. He would let them do that for a while, then tell them it was made by a leper, then fall around laughing at their reactions – scrubbing the mouths on their sleeves, rushing to the bathroom to wash their mouths, etc.

    Australia is full of ‘fun’ people like that. HK Chinese are boringly well behaved in comparison. And very difficult to wind up.

  55. #55 John Massey
    December 17, 2016

    I like Alicia Vikander. I liked her in Ex Machina (a film I liked, but which appears not to have met with Martin’s approval), and I liked her in Jason Bourne, which I watched recently; I didn’t mention the Bourne remake because it is ridiculous, stupid and a waste of time, aside from Vikander’s performance.

  56. #56 John Massey
    December 17, 2016

    The steppe pastoralists who invaded Europe during the late Neolithic-Early Bronze Age might have carried a secret biological weapon with them – our old friend(?) Yersinia pestis.
    http://eurogenes.blogspot.hk/2016/12/more-on-stone-age-plague.html

    That would help explain large scale population turnover. I actually suggested this to Gregory Cochran several months ago, but he dismissed it out of hand. He might have to reconsider, in which case I am certain he will not remember me suggesting it.

  57. #57 birgerjohansson
    December 18, 2016

    A distraction from the Trump horror show:

    Keats http://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/truth-is-beauty

  58. #58 birgerjohansson
    December 19, 2016

    Wow. Some kind of alt-right/Trumpist guy got angry at a critic and posted this image with some kind of…messages? http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2016/12/18/i-accused-someone-of-making-a-non-sequitur/comment-page-1/#comment-1055024
    ”Feminists = Oxygen Breathing = Hitler”
    I give up. This is too deep for me to comprehend.

  59. #59 Eric Lund
    December 19, 2016

    Catching up on this thread after spending a week at a conference.

    John asked upthread about American attitudes toward Chinese people. I’m probably not the best person to ask, since I live in a university town, and Asian immigrants (including but not limited to Chinese) are generally welcome here. There are also some immigrant communities in neighboring towns (Lao and Indonesian). There is some intermarriage between white Americans and all of these Asian groups, and while much of it is high SES people (particularly where one partner is Chinese), not all of it is–being refugees, the Indonesians around here tend to be of lower SES.

    But as I say, I live in a university town bubble. I know that Chinese, and other Asians, face discrimination elsewhere. A recently graduated student from our group now works for a NASA contractor in Maryland, but she cannot have an office on base because of her nationality–she cannot be on base without an escort. This is a problem when almost all of her co-workers have offices on base. The justification for this situation is fears of espionage–not entirely baseless because there certainly are Chinese spies in the US, but probably overblown in her case.

    Certainly, some Asian people are more fearful after this election. During the conference I talked with my friend “Hiroko” (I have changed her nationality as well as her name), a legal immigrant (she has a green card) who works as a scientist at a different institution. She and her husband (who is from the same country; they were already married when they came to the US) have an American-born daughter. Hiroko isn’t afraid of African-Americans–they aren’t trying to throw her out of the country. She is afraid of the white man who recently replaced the African-American janitor in the building where she works, because she is aware that uneducated white people are particularly likely to have voted for Trump.

  60. #60 Eric Lund
    December 19, 2016

    But I do know that Swedish school teachers are poorly paid, that the demand for teacher college seats is low, and that the entry qualifications for teacher college are concomitantly low.

    Same is true in the US. You get what you pay for.

    I was fortunate to have some good teachers when I was in school. Being in a well-off suburban area helped. It probably also helped that up until around the time I started school, teaching was one of the few professions open to women in the US, and many of those teachers remained in the profession while I was in school. That artificially inflated the quality of the talent pool. Once other professional avenues became available, the smart women who previously would have taken teaching positions chose more lucrative (and less stressful) career paths instead.

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