April Pieces Of My Mind #1

  • "If I blow my top -- will you let it go to your head?" W.F. Gibbons
  • Hit jackpot on the car radio riding with Jrette and her buddy today. First some Tuvan throat singing. Then a fat version of the Marseillaise with orchestra, choir and a solo soprano who sounded like Piaf. It's important that you outweird young people regularly to prepare them for life.
  • My soft tissue now has a distinctly later radiocarbon date than the dentine in my front teeth.
  • Over half a thousand people congratulated me on my birthday. Made me feel cherished, like through Facebook and in other ways I'm a small but appreciated part of many people's lives. That feeling was a precious birthday gift!
  • Movie: Conan, the Barbarian (1982). Baroque and mind-blowing but also draggy and deeply silly. Grade: OK.
  • Somebody just reported an apparent Viking Period hoard find to me rather than to the authorities, because this person hasn't had great experiences with them in the past. They were super grateful when I offered to talk to the County Archaeologist. I really think the National Heritage Board should make me a Finds Liaison Officer. Though I'd prefer to be called a Finds Czar.
  • ZZ Top have sounded ancient since they were 20. With the addition of the beards they began to look ancient too. But when their rock-solidly ancient-sounding hit "Gimme All Your Lovin'" was released in early 1983, all three band members were still only 33.
  • "Science is under siege. Trump and company plan to defund NASA's Earth Science budget as a shot over the bow in their broader war against Observable Reality." /Roy Zimmerman
  • The terrorist attack in central Stockholm that should really worry us took place in 2010. April 7 taught us nothing we didn't know before.
  • Dawnstone occurs in various video games including Dragon Age and WoW. I wonder if this is a sly reference to eoliths.
  • I've spent the afternoon cycling, geocaching and napping.
Me and some of my best friends on our way to the Kaknäs Tower. Tor the Philosopher, David the Physio, me, my wife, Paddy the Coder, Roland the Gas Man, Carolina the Patent Engineer. Me and some of my best friends on our way to the Kaknäs Tower. Tor the Philosopher, David the Physio, me, my wife, Paddy the Coder, Roland the Gas Man, Carolina the Patent Engineer.
Coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara. Their scent means spring to me. Coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara. Their scent means spring to me.
I'm applying for an extra grant to make sure everyone on my next excavation wears these. I'm applying for an extra grant to make sure everyone on my next excavation wears these.

More like this

During my grad school years there was a commercial radio station in the area that played a rather eclectic mix of music: mostly rock, but a fair amount of folk, and occasionally something from way out in left field: a bluegrass cover of Pink Floyd or a composition by Philip Glass. Alas, the station was sold, and the new owners decided that what the market needed was yet another "adult contemporary" (i.e., bland soft rock) station.

These days, the only way I could get a similar result (not the same, of course) is with my entire music library in shuffle mode. Boundaries between genres are much higher now than they were in my youth, at least in terms of US commercial radio. Satellite radio is even worse: e.g., if you are a fan of the Grateful Dead there is a station that plays nothing but Grateful Dead music. Do you have an iPod or similar device in that car, or was that from an actual radio station?

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 10 Apr 2017 #permalink

The throat singing was Swedish State Broadcasting's world music channel, P2 Världen. Not sure what station the Marseillaise was on.

@Eric, we had a brilliant commercial rock station in Stockholm circa 1992-1995 that was almost, but not quite, like that. They had English speaking DJ:s who really knew their stuff and clearly loved the music they were playing, and I credit this station with really awakening my curiosity for popular music. Then it went down over a weekend and reappeared on Monday with Swedish speaking ass-hats and basically a lobotomised version of the latest heavy rotation list, which they apparently proceeded to flog for the remaining years of the station's existence. I wouldn't really know though, since it took me all of 15 minutes to realise that This Bad Thing was not going to cut it.

I then depended on CDs and later the Internet for the next phase of my musical education. All for the best, I suppose...

However, my outweird/autowonderful/educational radio station of choice since about 2012 is BBC Radio 6 Music. It's digital in the UK and streamable everywhere and it's just a perfect mix of alternative pop, rock, dance and whatever music, with knowledgeable and genuinely sympathetic DJ:s (Iggy Pop has the Friday evening slot, fer chrissakes!). Alas, modern metal and throat singing are not on the menu - but then nor is anything by the likes of Ed Sheeran or Adele, ever!

I see absolutely no reason to ever switch, or to accept having to listen to the drivel that seemingly every other popular music station, including the Swedish state ones, seem to consider fit for human consumption.

It really does weird my poor 26 yo colleague out, though - big time! So usually I listen to it at a responsible volume in my comfy headphones...

/rant over :p

I, too, have had to get my musical education in other ways. The last newly released album I bought because of songs I heard on the radio was Peter Gabriel's Us in 1992 or 1993. Since then, I have bought some older stuff that I have heard on the radio, or more frequently found newer albums by word of mouth.

Lately I've gotten into artists who do classical/pop fusion, such as David Garrett (violin) and the Piano Guys (piano and cello). I have leads on a couple of others in this genre I'd like to check out a bit more before diving in.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 10 Apr 2017 #permalink

If the internet is telling me true (questionable) the place to get really eceletic musics is on the oldies station. You know, oldies like Smells Like Teen Spirit, or Under the Bridge Downtown, or Waterfalls.

If you only sort music by ">X many years from today" you'll get quite the collection.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 10 Apr 2017 #permalink

Outweirding my daughter proved impossible. When she was 6 years old I bought her a CD of Australian Aboriginal songs (i.e. real Aboriginal songs, not Aboriginal people singing modern songs). Totally unfazed, she learned to sing them all phonetically, and sang along with gusto with the CD blasting on the car stereo, and with my wife hanging her head out the side window to try to get away from the noise. She had no idea what she was singing about.

Next you need to watch the 1984 sequel Conan the Destroyer, voted one of the ten worst films ever made. I still watch it regularly.

The French footwear and textile company 'Aigle' was started by an American guy called Hiram Hutchinson, who obtained a licence in 1850 for Charles Goodyear's vulcanisation process. He then migrated to France and began the company in Paris, making 'up market' Wellington rubber boots (i.e. ones that actually fit), then as a natural extension he branched out into making raincoats. They are still in business, and now make a wide range of fine quality outdoor wear. I would never survive winter without them. And they still make the original rubber boots.

By Aspidistra (not verified) on 10 Apr 2017 #permalink

Forgot to mention, one of the major attractions of Conan the Destroyer is an absolutely rampant Grace Jones, with tail attached. The tail definitely adds a certain je ne sais quoi. Not to be missed.

By Aspidistra (not verified) on 10 Apr 2017 #permalink

@JustaTech: There is a classic rock station I listen to when I am driving around the area in my car--that's about the only time I ever listen to radio anymore. Last Friday I had to drive somewhere a little over an hour away, and I had the radio on. The station played a song by the Red Hot Chili Peppers from 1992, which was after I finished my undergraduate degree. I had no memory of ever having heard that song before.

The first time I ever heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was about two decades after the song was released. It's often touted as a seminal song, but I fail to see the reason for it--maybe I am showing my age, or maybe my youthful exposure to classical music spoiled me. I expect a bit more musical complexity than two bars repeated ad nauseam--"Her Majesty" manages to pack more musical complexity into 23 seconds. And the only intelligible lyrics are, "Here we are now/Entertain us". Yo, Kurt: You and your mates are the band--you should be entertaining us.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 10 Apr 2017 #permalink


I'm flagging this up for one reason - this:

'I no longer hold to a “big bang” theory of the origin of modern humanity due to a behavioral revolution triggered by a rapid suite of genetic changes.' (I had to correct one of Razib's typos in that.)

In other words, there was no 'cultural explosion' among modern humans 50,000 years ago. It didn't happen.

I hate to say I told you so, but, well, this has been evident to me for quite a long time now, and I have not been shy about saying so.

By Aspidistra (not verified) on 11 Apr 2017 #permalink

...and when considering the long isolation of the Khoi'san people in Southern Africa, there cannot have been a relatively recent suite of genetic Changes, considering that the 'San are just like us.

By Bir gerJohansson (not verified) on 12 Apr 2017 #permalink

Birger - Yes. There is evidence that Africans also interbred with archaic (unkown) humans, so we are not anything 'special' in that sense.

Plus the San developed the bow and arrow, which was supposed to be one of the great inventions of the 'cultural explosion'.

The Tibetans got adaptation to living at high altitude by interbreeding with archaic humans - possibly via another intermediate population. Andeans also have high altitude adaptation, but not as strongly as Tibetans - when they get old, they start suffering from altitude sickness.

The groups that clearly have high altitude adaptation, who have not (yet) been studied in any depth are the Ethiopian and Kenyan Highlanders - they win all of the middle and long distance running races, now that they have access to things like coaches, modern training methods and actual running shoes. And they train, hard, at high altitude, where a lot of people would get sick just walking around.

The suspicion is that the Ethiopian and Kenyan Highlanders also got adaptation to high altitude by interbreeding with archaic populations who had already become well adapted to living at high altitude.

But getting back to your original point, although the San were very genetically divergent from the rest of humanity, they never came anywhere close to speciation - they obviously interbreed with out-groups with no difficulty at all. And they don't look particularly different - you look at a San person, and automatically see that person as an anatomically modern human, and not that different to everyone else. They have a few little things like epicanthic eye folds, or so do, but they don't have a monopoly on those - most East Asians have them.

By Aspidistra (not verified) on 12 Apr 2017 #permalink

Ornamental hybrid? Could work.

By Aspidistra (not verified) on 14 Apr 2017 #permalink

Breaking news: North Korea appears to have attempted a missile launch at the US fleet in the vicinity, but the launch failed. Kim Jong Un, like Marvin, is probably wondering what happened to his Earth-shattering kaboom.

I learned of the launch attempt from this blog post. At the end is the video of R.E.M.'s hit "It's the End of the World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine)", which, I noticed for the first time, includes Donald Trump among the many people name checked. The song was written in 1982, IIRC.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 15 Apr 2017 #permalink

There is now no one alive who was born in the 19th Century.

Well, it's an arbitrary unit of time anyway, just a convenient one.

By Aspidistra (not verified) on 15 Apr 2017 #permalink



There was no mention of this in the Australian mainstream media. None.

So, get this - white leftist feminists in Australia got public speaking engagements by Ayaan Hirsi Ali shut down by making threats of violent repercussions if her speaking engagements went ahead - on the grounds that she would be repressing the rights of non-white Muslim females, and being Islamophobic. And no one in the mainstream media thought it was relevant to mention it - or perhaps they were just too afraid of violent repercussions against them if they did.

Or perhaps the whole thing is just so fucked up that they couldn't figure out what to say.

By Aspidistra (not verified) on 17 Apr 2017 #permalink

A question about morphology: voice depends -among other things- on the shape of cartilage structures in the throat. In theory, DNA differences might create slight differences here, leading to audible differences between ethnic gropups.
But I can think of no selective pressure that could cause such differences.
-Are the rather distinct voices of many black American women in TV and film the result of selective, stereotypical casting?

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 18 Apr 2017 #permalink

Voicebox morphology would be determined by genetic drift if its details weren't under selective pressure, allowing for considerable differences between isolated populations.

My guess about the African American women you mention is that ways of speaking are strongly dictated by (sub-) culture.

Watched the 2016 film Arrival - pass with distinction.

I wonder if gospel singing counts as selective pressure.

Are the rather distinct voices of many black American women in TV and film the result of selective, stereotypical casting?

I am sure that is a large part of it. Many Americans have trouble accepting black people as successful--that was one of the factors in Trump's election. I'll admit that I don't know very many American black women--I live in a part of the country where they are rare--but most of the ones I know do not speak like that. Of course, my sample isn't representative--the black people I encounter tend to be highly educated.

Accents in general are a product of environment. Americans who are children of immigrants, or themselves immigrated as small children, usually speak English with a standard American accent, regardless of the country of origin. In the southern US, you will even find Asian-Americans who speak with a southern drawl; Henry Cho, a comedian, is probably the most famous example (he was born and raised in Knoxville, TN).

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 18 Apr 2017 #permalink

No one has sensibly answered Birger's question, which was specifically worded to make it clear he was not talking about accents, but some other vocal quality dictated by the morphology of the throat tissues.

Birger, if I can turn your question around and ask "Are people who are chosen to appear on TV and in films, chosen at least partly because of their vocal qualities?" then the answer is obviously yes. And if I can turn it another way and ask "Are there noticeable group differences between the voices of black women and white women in America?" the answer is also obviously yes. The reasons for those differences are less obvious - I would say they are partly because there is a distinct and deliberate vocal sub-culture among African American women, and partly because there are group differences in voice 'quality' for want of a more precise term. But it is very difficult to unravel the differences, at least in part because, on average, African Americans are of 20% European ancestry, and many much more so, so we are not able to directly compare two unadmixed populations - African (in this case mostly West African) and modern European.

But there is a clear reason why black women were over-represented in 1950s and 1960s popular music - and I believe that was partly due to their superior singing abilities, and partly due to the tradition of gospel singing, particularly in Southern Baptist churches, which was an environment in which notably good black female singers were able to stand out and come to the attention of record producers who were looking for singers with 'special' voices. This is the way that Aretha Franklin was 'discovered' along with many other notable black female singers from that era.

So selection has played a part, but it was not natural selection - at least not since modern humans left Africa >50,000 years ago. Drift is only significant where you are talking about small, geographically isolated populations.

Science reporting has now hit rock bottom.

Nothing wrong with the face reconstruction. That's a beautiful and interesting face. The line that has got me holding my head in my hands and moaning is this one: "she was likely part of the first group of people to move into Southeast Asia approximately 13,600 years ago."

Whoever wrote that can only be at best semi-literate. I mean, seriously, people, that is one of the most bloody stupid things I have seen in print on an ostensibly 'science news' site in a very long time.

I give up in despair. We are surrounded by idiots and morons.

Incidentally, I stand to be publicly pilloried for my comment at #35 because in the modern era of identity politics, 'noticing group differences' qualifies as much as 'racism' as 'not noticing group differences'. The fact that I regard it as a 'good difference' (i.e. that I tend to find black American women's spoken and sung voices more aurally pleasing than the voices of some other groups) won't save me - because I committed the sin of *noticing*.

And besides, I didn't manage to squeeze a reference to Trump anywhere into my comment, and that automatically qualifies it for a bad mark.

Of course, Birger has committed exactly the same sin at #29 - he has *noticed* a group difference. But he can think of no plausible natural selection mechanism for why black women's voices should be more audibly pleasing than the more shrill, screechy voices of modern American white women, and so he asks if this is the result of 'stereotyping', i.e. careful selection of black women who have notably more audibly pleasing voices. Because his ideology, inherited from Lewontin, Steven Jay Gould and that crowd, who have all done their best to persuade him that there *are* no group differences, tells him that there ought not to be physical group differences (despite the fact that there are some very obvious visual differences - which we are not meant to notice, or are meant to notice, depending on the context).

And, obligingly, Eric comes bombing in and says yes, it's all to do with black disadvantage and accent, when Birger made it clear at #29 that he was not talking about accent at all. So, case closed.

So - yes, Birger, there are group differences - audible group differences, and these are not just the result of stereotyping. If you doubt it, name for me one, just one, really good female contemporary Chinese singer.

And if your response to that question is "Not fair - I am not sufficiently exposed to the culture to know whether there are any or not", then I will answer for you, because I am hugely exposed to the culture, and I can tell you - there aren't any. None. Not one. My own very musical daughter would give you the same answer.

The reality is that my daughter loves music, and she spends a lot of time searching for, researching and listening to black American female singers - for one simple reason: they are just better. Despite all of the potential confounding factors, there is a clear group difference, at least as far as she is concerned.

And my daughter was born with perfect pitch - ask her to sing a middle C for you without first hearing it played on any instrument, and she can do it for you, and I would trust her musical sense waaay over anyone here, and in fact over any other individual I know.

Birger@29 - There are two differences you are not factoring in, and they are: (1) founder effects, and (2) interbreeding.

The group of modern humans who migrated out of Africa >50,000 years ago was only small. So founder effects (traits pertaining to a few of the individuals in that group that were not common) were likely to make a significant difference.

Second, people who migrated out of Africa subsequently interbred with at least two different groups of archaic humans. At least in the case of Neanderthals, it is known that they had the necessary physiognomy for speech - whether they used language or not, we don't know, but they had the 'hardware' necessary for speech. But if they did use speech, it seems it was likely to be high pitched screeching, from the nature of the hardware that they had. That might have had some effect on the vocalisations of the admixed groups.

People who stayed in Africa also interbred with archaic humans - we don't know which groups of archaic humans, but not Neanderthals.

So, right there, you have two reasons for group differences between people descended within subSaharan Africa (I'm referring mostly to Bantu here, not early divergers like the San and M'buti) and people who migrated out of Africa. And unless there was selection pressure against those differences (and it's hard to think of any) then those differences would not just go away - they would stay there.

In comment 29, I was actually not thinking about singing -that was in @ 33, in response to Martin- but about the voices when speaking in conversation. This would, of course be influenced by local custom.

From the earliest films I can remember, it seems that black actresses often have spoken with deeper voices. But once I start listning for the "effect", various biases will set in, I do not know if what I perceive is different from objecticve statistical fact.
( I have to choose words carefully, least someone thinks I attach value judgements to voice characteristics. I am not)

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 19 Apr 2017 #permalink

On second thoughts, people of African descent would tend to have a greater spread for *any* set of characteristics that is not subject to selection pressure. Much longer time for genetic drift.

And one would tend to notice the outliers, especially if they are more common than in the ethnic majority group. maybe it is this simple.
I blame my sluggish thought processes on poor sleep.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 19 Apr 2017 #permalink

Vocal pitch influenced by local custom? I would have thought it was a fundamental vocal quality.

My perception is that their voices (we're talking about populations, so this is obviously a generalisation - comparing means of distributions) tend to be deeper, smoother and more melodious.

I'm just cuing up the 2016 movie Hidden Figures to watch it, so I'll let you know. But I already know the outcome from watching the trailer - I could listen to those voices all night and never get sick of them, unless the banality of the dialog gets me down. But given the movie subject, that seems unlikely.

No, I think maybe you are not really understanding what is meant by the genetic diversity in Africa. Xosa are going to be genetically close to other Xosa, not all distant. Himba are going to be genetically close to other Himba. But Himba are likely to be pretty distant genetically from Xosa.

Another example of the usefulness of isotope studies: "Under-studied boreal habitat key for North America's ducks" https://phys.org/news/2017-04-under-studied-boreal-habitat-key-north.ht…
If you find artefacts of bone, you should also be able to see the geographic origin of the animals, and if that is far from the find location, it will indicate trade, or human migration.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 19 Apr 2017 #permalink

"deeper, smoother and more melodious."

Thank you for showing I am not imagining things.

BTW, when is typhoon/hurricane season starting? Do you get a long reprieve?

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 19 Apr 2017 #permalink

And those are just two groups descended from Bantu.

It makes me lament the deplorable state of genomics in Africa - the most diverse continent on earth, and hardly anyone has bothered to scratch the surface.

Sure, they're all chasing after the San, because the San diverged early and so are 'interesting' and publishable. But the genetic variation throughout Africa is hugely more than a simple division between San and Others.

The late Henry Harpending, anthropologist, spent his career studying the Herero people. While he was still alive, I asked him what the difference was between the Herero and the Himba, and he responded that he thought maybe the Himba were just poor Herero. He didn't actually know. Actually, they are pretty closely related genetically, but culturally very different - they even have different colour perceptions, apparently due to linguistic differences for colours - but he didn't bloody know that. I knew it, because I was interested enough to research it and find out - but he actually didn't care enough to find out.

It's enough to make you weep.

Birger@46 - we're just coming out of our long reprieve. Typhoons are very rare during the colder winter months because they are generated by high sea surface temperature.

The typhoon 'season' is generally regarded as May to September. Peak month is usually August.

Personally, I don't regard it as a reprieve - I hate colder temperatures, and will take warmer weather and the occasional typhoon in preference any time. It's not like they're a weekly event - although we did have one summer when they actually were a weekly event for a month or so, which got a bit trying. But that is very unusual.

In summer, the sea surface temperature in HK regularly hits 28 C, which is pretty warm. That's like - if the air temperature is around 23-24 and you are feeling a bit too cool, you can get into the sea to warm up.

I loved it in Saipan - there the air temperature stays around a constant 26 and the sea surface temperature around a constant 28. So you go for a swim to get warm, not cool down. But wearing your shoes, of course, because of the highly venomous cone shells. Swimming with shoes on takes the fun out of it, somehow.

I once sat next to an American guy on a plane and he started chatting to me in friendly fashion. He asked me what was the nicest place I had ever been. I responded honestly "Saipan". Big mistake - his father had been a US Marine who died on the beach at Saipan during WWII. Of course, I apologised profusely, but the damage was done - the rest of the flight was spent in frosty silence. He took a real hate to me after that. It was so uncomfortable that I would have moved seats if I could have.

"Lately I’ve gotten into artists who do classical/pop fusion, such as David Garrett (violin)"

While he does this well (I even like his version of "Smooth Criminal", 90 per cent of his concerts are traditional "classical violinist" concerts with the standard (Classical and Romantic) repertoire. Though I am sure he has way more groupies than most, even more than Nigel Kennedy. Probably the only classical violinist who was once asked in an interview "How does it feel when people always reduce you to just your good looks?"

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 19 Apr 2017 #permalink

Axolotl@48: I was under the impression that Western Pacific typhoon season lasts through November, as North Atlantic hurricane season does (the latter does not start until June). However, it may be true that typhoons are climatologically unlikely to strike Hong Kong after September. They just go other places: the Philippines or Vietnam, or recurve out to sea.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 19 Apr 2017 #permalink

As for Birger's question about voices, I understood him to be talking about speaking, not singing. A big part of that comes down to not just culture but sub-culture. Witness the dozens of regional accents in England, and similar variation in countries such as France, Germany, and Vietnam, as well as the different national versions of Spanish.

For historical reasons, prior to World War II the overwhelming majority of black Americans lived in the rural South. After the war, some of them migrated to cities to take factory jobs, but even there they were segregated into ghettos. As recently as the late 1960s many US municipalities prohibited non-whites from being within their borders after sunset--some of those laws may still be on the books, although they are now considered unenforceable.

When you don't live among a certain kind of people it becomes easy to stereotype those people, whether they live in the next neighborhood over or on some other continent. As a result, stereotyping of minority groups is very much alive and well in the US. The segregation of blacks into certain neighborhoods leads to an expectation that they will talk a certain way, and TV and movie producers, who usually cater to such expectations, cast accordingly.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 19 Apr 2017 #permalink

Eric@51 - That's crudely basically correct; they recurve up towards Shanghai. Thank you for being gracious enough to allow for the fact that I might know something about the weather in the region that I have lived in for decades.

Eric@52 - No, black American women have their own language sub-culture, that they have cultivated. They are not as disempowered as you and a lot of other American whites who don't know any black women as friends think that they are.

Watched 2016 film Hidden Figures - Inspirational. Plus it brought back a lot of early childhood memories.

There are a couple of reasons to be careful with climatological norms, however. One is dealing with events that are rare to begin with. I don't know about historical records of typhoons hitting Hong Kong/Guangdong, but if a November typhoon there is a once-every-fifty-years event, it's possible that you have never seen one in your three or four decades there. My parents lived in Miami from 1974 to 1991, a period during which no hurricanes hit the city (the previous one had been Betsy in 1965). That was a streak of good fortune that ended the next year with Hurricane Andrew. The historical frequency is somewhere between once every few years and once a decade. That can go the other way, too: before the state highway going south from my town was recently reconstructed, it supposedly took a once-every-hundred-years flood to cover it with water. That has happened four times since I have been in the area (about 20 years).

The other thing is that with climate change, what used to be normal may not be normal anymore. Winters where I live are warmer and snowier than they used to be. We also now routinely get high fire danger in early spring, between when the snow melts and the plants green up--that used to be rare around here. The latter effect was a major contributor to the Fort MacMurray fire last year. Similarly, it could happen that typhoons that in earlier years would have hit Vietnam will in the future track further north, hitting Hainan or Guangdong. Already we are seeing North Atlantic hurricanes in places where they used to be rare, such as the Azores.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 19 Apr 2017 #permalink

Birger@55: Perchance was this study funded by one Peter Thiel? He's a billionaire and a libertarian jerk (pardon the redundancy) in Silicon Valley who is into searching for rejuvenation therapies that work. Not for the general public, mind you, but for himself and his billionaire libertarian jerk buddies. He's not quite as blatant about it as Elizabeth Báthory is alleged to have been, but close.

Thiel is also the guy who has advocated creating independent artificial islands/ships. I'd be in favor of him attempting to implement this plan, as long as he was on the first one to launch.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 19 Apr 2017 #permalink

Re 55. so this is how Monty Burns stays alive!

By birgerjohansson (not verified) on 19 Apr 2017 #permalink

Eric@54 - Your didactic patronising towards me on this subject, while phrased in grossly over-simplified terms, appears to know no bounds, while you continue to be oblivious to the fact that *I am currently actively engaged in working on these very problems at a professional level* - that is at least in part due to the fact that I will not discuss them with you due to concerns about client confidentiality, among other things.

So I am just going to leave it that in future I intend to just ignore everything you say on this subject. Birger asked me a perfectly polite and reasonable question, which I answered politely and reasonably, and I will continue to do so in his regard, while ignoring you.

Meanwhile, on films, I should note for completeness and other readers' reference that I have watched the following 2016 films, which I saw fit not to mention at the time because I didn't think any of them were really worth it:

"Rogue One" - I'm no Starwars fanboy (I was hugely impressed and entertained by the very first Starwars film, but have become increasingly bored by the subsequent stream of inferior follow-ups), but this one was an enjoyable enough stand-alone adventure. But I don't see why they had to kill off the heroic girl main character at the end - she deserved a lot better than that. Um - pass, I guess, but be aware that the heroic girl dies at the end; and she deserved a much better fate than that. Felicity Jones does an excellent job as the movie hero. Negative marks for including Donnie Yen in the cast. If you live in HK, it is just a diet of Donnie Yen all the time, and he really is nowhere near deserving of that kind of status. Plus his face just irritates the living shit out of me, equally as much as his inability to act.

"Hacksaw Ridge" - eminently forgettable standard Mel Gibson fare, with the usual gross excesses of gore. I am no Gibson fan, and this did nothing to change that. It came across as curiously low-budget, I guess because it was. The fact that it was apparently a sort of true story doesn't change much.

"Passengers" - sci fi date-rape movie. If you can see past the nauseating main fact, that the 'hero' wakes the female lead prematurely out of cryo-sleep just so he has an attractive female to fuck, thereby dooming her to die pointlessly in space with no one but him for company, I guess the film is enjoyable enough for space travel fans. Personally, the whole selfish manipulative date-rape premise really turned me off.

"Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" - one for American patriots and good ol' boys, I guess. I have no idea. I really couldn't see the point. Any point. The film did have one bright spot for me, though - Vin Diesel dies. I get sick of watching movies in which Vin Diesel doesn't die. Well, in this one he does, and it improves the film hugely.

Of the above, I would probably suggest watching "Rogue One" just for plain entertainment value if you like that sort of thing, while trying to ignore Donnie Yen, and forget the rest.

"Hidden Figures" beats the crap out of all of the above, plus it awakens you to the terrifying realisation that the calculations for all of the first space flights were done on programmable calculators, without the benefit of modern computers - with the exception of John Glenn's 3 orbits of the earth, which used an early IBM mainframe, but had to be supplemented by hand calculations.

"Arrival" is really in a class of its own - I think maybe not everyone will like it, or even get it. But it's worth trying, I think.

Good rundown! Reinforces my preconceptions about Passengers and Hidden Figures. I too enjoyed Arrival.

"“Arrival” is really in a class of its own – I think maybe not everyone will like it, or even get it. But it’s worth trying, I think."

It has a plot element which I cannot criticize here without spoilers...
-- -- -- -- -- --

This is why space is NOT full of advanced civilizations. The anthropic principle.
"The Earth's finely balanced oceans may be a consequence of the anthropic principle"
Oceans galore: new study suggests most habitable planets may lack dry land https://phys.org/news/2017-04-oceans-galore-habitable-planets-lack.html

By birgerjohansson (not verified) on 20 Apr 2017 #permalink

“Arrival” is really in a class of its own – I think maybe not everyone will like it, or even get it. But it’s worth trying, I think.

Saw this in the RSS feed and thought that you were talking about the ABBA album. :-)

(As opposed to Abba: The Album.)

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 20 Apr 2017 #permalink