June Pieces Of My Mind #3

  • This is the time of year when our yard becomes an extra room in our house. Where a man might sit around butt naked except for a straw hat, reading. I mean he really could. If he wanted to. You'll notice I'm not appending a selfie.
  • Anybody into Ariel Pink? Seems to be a true original. His 2014 song "Dayzed Inn Daydreams" has the weirdest Motown interlude in the middle.
  • I never understood, growing up, that democracy means that you run a constant risk of being governed by assholes on the strength of votes by the ignorant, hateful and scared.
  • Wife's workout app tells her "keep your abs tight". I keep hearing "ass".
  • Confused to learn that the Scottish National Party is not right-wing racist/populist.
  • Somebody on Twitter offers a list of "10 Podcasts That Will Make You Feel Smarter". I don't even know where to begin explaining how lame this is. Whether justified or not, me and all my friends already consider ourselves pretty smart. We don't need to "feel smarter". In the end I just unfollowed the person.
  • Sitting outdoors in the South American hammock swing at ten in the evening, listening to birdsong and bumblebees, reading a book. Swedish summer!
  • Starting a big dig like this feels a bit like launching a spacecraft. Luckily there is a bit more room for improvisation, changed plans and resupplying on an excavation than there is on a rocket after take-off.
  • Academia has done its best in the past few months to make me feel useless and expendable. Heading a fieldwork team of 20 who show every sign of enjoying working with me does a lot to compensate.
  • Student turns me on to early 80s Dio. I try to find him on Deezer. The service suggests that I may be looking for Céline Dion.
  • This is the third time my team inadvertently finds a Stone Age site while excavating a post-AD-1 site in Östergötland. Sättuna, Landsjö, Ulvåsa!
Peonies in our garden Peonies in our garden

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We just started getting temps above 30° this week. Which means it's no longer fun to sit outside; it's just too hot, even in the evenings.

"Student turns me on to early 80s Dio."

Non-trivial connection: I recently saw the new reincarnation of Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow. Of course, Dio became famous as the singer of this band. The new singer respects the tradition without copying him verbatim.

Dio had, however, been singing professionally for something like 13 years before he debuted with Rainbow. He used to sing doo-wop. Really.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 04 Jul 2016 #permalink

"Sitting outdoors in the South American hammock swing at ten in the evening" ..... ..will require those things that kill mosquitos automatically, otherwise your veins will get drained (at least up here in the north).

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 05 Jul 2016 #permalink

Birger@5: Same is true where I live, with the added bonus that some of the mosquitoes carry nasty things like West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis. No Zika yet, although it's a matter of time. Also no tropical nasties like malaria or dengue fever, but global warming might change that.

There are also ticks that carry Lyme disease, so you want to wear long pants and long sleeves if you are hiking in the woods around here. Yes, that's uncomfortable when it gets above 30 degrees.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 05 Jul 2016 #permalink

Somebody on Twitter offers a list of “10 Podcasts That Will Make You Feel Smarter”. I don’t even know where to begin explaining how lame this is.

Given the 140 character limit, I assume what this twit tweeted was a link to such a list. Of course there are lots of ways such a list could go wrong. There could be a political agenda (hidden or overt) in the list, one that you don't necessarily agree with. Or it could feature charlatans like Deepak Chopra. Or it could be people who sound like a stupid person's idea of smart people but aren't really that smart (many Anglophone pundits are in this category). There are probably other failure modes I haven't listed.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 05 Jul 2016 #permalink

Birgerjohansson @4: Yeah... there's a reason we don't sing any of the middle verses any more.

Of similar awkwardness is the Maryland State Song, to the tune of Oh Christmas Tree (O Tannenbaum) which basically says "We hate you President Lincoln, so very, very much, we wanted to fight for the South!"

By JustaTech (not verified) on 05 Jul 2016 #permalink

#4 - Razib Khan once gave his reasons for why he thinks it would have been better if the War of Independence had never been fought, and I read recently where someone else had listed the same or some very similar reasons. They both concluded that independence would ultimately have been granted peacefully anyway, slavery would have been abolished much earlier, and Native Americans would have been treated better (which translated as 'they would have been left alone a lot more').

By John Massey (not verified) on 05 Jul 2016 #permalink

I was somewhat surprised when I first learned as a child that high latitude regions are plagued by mosquitoes - I had confused the prevalence of tropical diseases with the presence or absence of disease-carrying insects.

It turns out that the geographical trend is that, as you travel from high latitude to low latitude, the numbers of insects become smaller, but the size of individual insects increases. I have rarely had problems with mosquitoes in Hong Kong (although we do have occasional small outbreaks of dengue and Japanese encephalitis), but when I have, the things have been the size of Avro Lancaster bombers.

By John Massey (not verified) on 05 Jul 2016 #permalink

As for 'high' temperatures, you northerners are a bunch of wimps. My Tai Chi teacher and I regularly practise outdoors wearing long pants, in shade temperatures of 33-34 degrees and relative humidity upwards of 90%. And she's a girl.

When I was learning how to play tennis properly, it was necessary for me to drill ground strokes a lot, to 'groove' the right way to hit the ball (or get the correct movements fixed in my 'muscle memory' - a term I dislike but which is universally understood), and I would rally groundstrokes repeatedly with my coach non-stop for 3 hours in the middle of the day, which involved endless short sprints, in the middle of Hong Kong's hot humid tropical summer. Sure, I would lose a hell of a lot of sweat (I reckoned on needing to change my T-shirt every 30 minutes because it would be completely saturated, so for a 3 hour practice, I would take 7 spare T-shirts), but that was never a problem, as long as I replaced the fluids and electrolytes. The one time I felt like I was suffering from heat stroke, I just sat in the shade and drank one icy cold can of Coca Cola, and in 10 minutes I was good to go again. That's not to underestimate heat stroke, which can be a genuine killer here if people don't understand it and don't keep rehydrating or replacing electrolytes, and especially if (like one Northern Irish doubles partner I had who I got rid of as soon as I could) whose idea of a good time was to drink 3 pints of 5% beer before he went onto the court to play. This resulted in him blacking out on the court so often that I decided he really had to go. He never learned.

I don't normally advocate that people should drink Coca Cola, at least not often, but if you are suffering the effects of heat stroke and exhaustion, once ice cold can of the stuff could save your life.

But when it comes to cold weather, I'm the one who is a wimp. I am fully acclimatised to high heat and humidity, and I just can't take the cold. And by 'cold' I'm talking, like, 12 degrees; not Swedish or New England cold, and certainly not Canadian cold. The one time I went to Edmonton, in the middle of summer, I felt like I was going to freeze to death. I can't imagine what their winters must be like, and I can't understand how people can stand to live there.

By John Massey (not verified) on 05 Jul 2016 #permalink

Found it. Here it is:


People might well quibble with "constitutional monarchy is the best system of government known to man." In the past I would have been bitterly opposed to this; however, I have come around to believing that a constitutional monarchy affords constitutional protection which cannot be entrusted to any popularly elected individual. The one time that Queen Elizabeth's appointed representative in Australia, the Governor General, did meddle in national politics in 1975, it caused a constitutional crisis. The person concerned retired in ignominy, and is now universally reviled, so much so that he had to leave Australia and now lives in anonymity in England, where I am told that he now frequents certain bars to be avoided and drowns his dishonour in the demon drink, while bemoaning his fate to any unwary drinker willing to listen to him.

By John Massey (not verified) on 06 Jul 2016 #permalink

"now lives in anonymity in England" - or I should say he did. He has been dead since 1991, which most public commentators regard as a good thing.

By John Massey (not verified) on 06 Jul 2016 #permalink

John@11: I used to be much more heat tolerant when I lived in Miami--the conditions that you describe prevail there for about half the year. That included marching band practice in the afternoon heat.

I also used to be a wimp about cold weather. That was before my first trip to Fairbanks, which was in January. At one point I was outside (for only a minute or two, of course) in -50 degree weather. Around -30 any remaining water vapor in the atmosphere freezes out, resulting in ice fog. The site where I was working was about 50 km out of town, and it was our practice to travel in convoys in case one of our vehicles broke down, which happened often at -40 or below. The rental car companies are very understanding about that--next time you're in town you tell them you had to abandon the car at Mile 26 Steese Highway (or wherever it happened), and they will close out that contract and rent you another car.

Cold is easier to deal with than heat. You can always put on another layer of clothing. It doesn't work so well in the other direction.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 06 Jul 2016 #permalink

Another factor in tolerance for extreme temperatures (whether hot or cold) is the ability to get away from them temporarily.

Hong Kong, like most tropical and subtropical cities, makes extensive use of air conditioning. Most if not all buildings built in the last 30 (if not 50) years have central air conditioning (low-end housing might be an exception). That's also true of Miami, which would be only a fraction of its size without air conditioning. Many such places have so little need for heating that many buildings go without. This is also true of much of Japan and Korea, which do see enough cold weather to justify having a heating system installed, but in practice tend to make do with space heaters. So people in these cities can usually escape the heat but have to deal with the cold when it comes.

The opposite is true in both northern New England and Scandinavia. I was fortunate when I visited Uppsala to have been booked into what was then the only air conditioned hotel in town--for most of the time I was there, afternoon highs were above 30 degrees, occasionally reaching 35, which is extreme for Sweden. Martin, Birger, and Janne almost certainly don't have central air conditioning in their houses. Neither do I, and neither do most of my neighbors--those that have air conditioners tend to have window units which are installed for the season and then removed in winter. (The building where I work is air conditioned, but that's more for the benefit of the computers than the occupants--we even have a special computer room that has to be air conditioned year round because those computers dissipate so much heat.) What we do have is effective central heating systems. So as long as we have electricity (this is sometimes an issue as the company that maintains the distribution system has avoided the expense of putting the lines underground, as is routinely done elsewhere), we have a place to go to get out of the cold, but we have to deal with the heat..

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 06 Jul 2016 #permalink

No - commercial and office buildings in HK have central air-conditioning (and buildings younger than about 30 years have reverse cycle air-conditioning, which means they can be kept decently warm in winter - but note that means most big public hospitals do not have central heating, so in winter they turn into giant refrigerators because they keep the air-conditioning chillers on, having missed the news that most viruses thrive in temperatures lower than 28), but very few residential buildings do. Almost none.

In residential buildings, people install their own wall mounted air-conditioners (the exterior walls are built with ducts that enable you to do this) in the rooms they want to be able to make cool. So, for example, we have no air-conditioning in the kitchen. (No one does.) We have an air-conditioner in the living room, but hardly ever use it. My wife is very heat and cold resistant - it's not unusual to see her wearing a cardigan on a day when it is 34 degrees with high humidity, and likewise in the coldest weather, when I am shivering in my long underwear and several layers of outer clothing, she makes do with a sweater, although as a concession to the cold she might put on a pair of socks. In summer, most people will run an air-conditioner in the bedroom when they are sleeping, although for the first 3 years I lived in HK I made do OK with just an electric fan. The air-conditioner will dry out the air, which is at least as important as cooling it.

What most residential apartments do need in HK is dehumidifiers - simple little free-standing machines that use cooling coils to condense water out of the air. If you don't have those, at the end of winter when the first pulses of the warm, moisture laden south-west monsoon gust through and hit the cold walls of buildings, the water in the air condenses out onto the interior walls and runs down the walls. If you have never experienced this, trust me, it's truly disgusting - your flat turns into a swamp; photographic equipment and anything else with good quality glass lenses that is not kept in a dehumidified container is destroyed (fungus grows on the lenses), and all leather goods like shoes, belts, etc. suddenly sprout a growth of green hair. Warm and damp is bearable. Cool and soggy is just disgusting.

Coming from the almost desert-like dryness of south-west Australia, I just didn't understand this at all when I first came to HK. I got through my first summer with no air-conditioning and just an electric fan blowing on me so I could sleep at night, which was uncomfortable but not impossibly so. I shivered miserably through my first winter, with no effective heating. Then spring hit, and water started running down the walls. I was astonished. My reaction was to throw open all of the windows to 'let the walls dry out.' Of course, all that achieved was to let in more warm moisture-laden air, so the water running down the walls in my living room and bedroom got worse. Getting into bed at night was like trying to wriggle into a large jam sandwich - a very damp, cold jam sandwich. It was vile.

Totally at a loss to know what to do, I went to work and asked the British guys in the office: "What do you do when there's water running down the walls of your flat?" They all smirked condescendingly, the way that British guys do, and said "You turn on your dehumidifiers." I had no idea what a dehumidifier was - you need a dehumidifier in Western Australia like you need a hole in your head. I searched everywhere in my flat for something that could possibly be a dehumidifier. Nope, nothing looked remotely like something like that. I didn't know that you need to go out to an electrical goods store and buy one. Actually several, you need at least one for every single room, running almost constantly through spring, with all of the windows shut tight, until the walls of the building warm up enough so that the water in the air stops condensing on them.

With the exception of four glorious years when my wife and I lived in a centrally air-conditioned and heated building, we have needed multiple dehumidifiers in every flat we have lived in. Then we finally moved to where we live now, right next to a sizeable river that runs SW-NE, so when the south-west monsoon hits at the end of winter, it blows straight down-river and into our place. I was expecting this place to be one of the dampest, being right on the bank of the river and all. No, wrong again - it turns out to be the driest. It is so dry that we no longer have any need of dehumidifiers, and have disposed of them all by recycling them among our extended family. Go figure, as our Yankee cousins say. If anyone can explain this conundrum to me, I'm all ears, because I'm damned if I understand why this flat should be so dry, when all of the others have been so damp. I still keep my good photographic equipment and binoculars in a dehumidified cabinet, just as a precaution, having once suffered the pain of seeing a brilliant set of camera lenses totally destroyed, but that's all. Mould growing on shoes? No, doesn't happen here. And I don't know why.

By John Massey (not verified) on 06 Jul 2016 #permalink

I think I just broke the record for comment verbosity.

Meanwhile, for anyone interested in the origins of modern Europeans, and particularly how this played out in the Neolithic and Bronze Age, the investigation is now largely complete. The remaining unknowns are the identity of two 'ghost populations' who contributed to the ancestry of modern Europeans, but which no longer exist as they were: the 'Ancient North Eurasians' who ranged over a huge distance of the Siberian steppe, right across northern Eurasia (who were partly ancestral to both modern Europeans and Amerindians, which explains the partial genetic relatedness between modern Europeans, particularly northern Europeans, and Native Americans), and the 'Basal Eurasians'. The Basal Eurasians are particularly puzzling because they had no Neanderthal admixture, absolutely none, so they clearly split from other people who had migrated out of sub-Saharan Africa (OOA) before 50,000 years ago, prior to any mixing events between OOA and Neanderthals and Denisovans, and remained isolated from all other people until about 10,000 years ago. No one knows where this isolated group of Basal Eurasians lived (the best guess at this point is a strip of north African coastline (think 'Morocco') that was sufficiently fertile in climate terms over that period of time to support a human population, but isolated on all sides by impassable deserts) but they subsequently did re-establish contact with other OOA groups after those other groups mixed with Neanderthals, to the extent that the Basal Eurasians disappeared as a distinct racial or ethnic group.

So modern Europeans are the product of a complex series of mixing events during the past 10,000 years, characterised more by successive invasions and population replacements (largely, but pre-existing populations were swallowed up into the genetic mix to some degree) than by cultural diffusion. No people in Europe 10,000 or more years ago would have looked like modern Europeans look now.

The best summary is here, including some of the comments:


For Helbig's benefit, this is not a load of crack-pottery; it is the synthesis of the latest knowledge on modern human origins by some of the best geneticists around, with one or two linguists chipping in on the comments.

By John Massey (not verified) on 07 Jul 2016 #permalink

John, "The remaining unknowns are the identity of two ‘ghost populations’" -- please explain. What sort of information that we are currently missing would constitute knowing their identity?

So it is not the case that modern Chinese have more Neanderthal ancestry than Europeans because they had more than one mixing event; it is the case that the Neanderthal ancestry in Europeans was diluted by mixing with Basal Eurasians, which did not occur among the ancestors of modern Chinese, who had already split off at that point.

But now that the origins of modern Europeans have been elucidated, and the origins of modern South Asians somewhat so, as well as the humans who populated the Americas, attention is turning to the origins of modern Chinese and other East Asians, which should prove equally interesting (and no doubt equally complex).

By John Massey (not verified) on 07 Jul 2016 #permalink

Super typhoon Nepartak: flights cancelled as Taiwan braces for storm https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/07/super-typhoon-nepartak-fl…
500 mm? that is 80% of what we get in a year.
I have heard that something called a reliability rating is being tested in some Chinese social media, and is under consideration of being introduced for all of China.
While superficially looking like a good tool for avoiding dating jerks, it would be open for misuse. have you Heard anything about it?

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 07 Jul 2016 #permalink

"My Tai Chi teacher and I regularly practise outdoors wearing long pants, in shade temperatures of 33-34 degrees and relative humidity upwards of 90%."

Reminds me of a brilliant sketch on the Carol Burnett show, Young Fool, a parody of Kung Fu (a popular 1970s television show), with Harvey Korman as the master and Jim Nabors (of Gomer Pyle fame) as the student. In one scene, the punchline is "Why?". It is certainly worth trying to find.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 07 Jul 2016 #permalink

I really do think that the NVIC should change its name to the Orwellian-Named NVIC, or ONNIVC, because that is a more accurate description of it.

Possibly someone has discovered a building technique which solves the moisture problem. I'm not sufficiently knowledgeable to venture a guess as to what that might be. But I have seen many instances of construction design that is appropriate for one region being used in a different region where that construction technique is a bad idea. Things like unreinforced masonry in earthquake-prone areas, or stick-built houses with overhanging roofs in hurricane country. My mother's condominium has an example: heating elements put in the ceiling rather than near the floor, which is apparently common in coastal California (which doesn't need heating that much), but makes no sense in a climate like Seattle where heating degree days outnumber cooling degree days. I could see how a building technique that works in cooler or less humid climates could be naively applied in a place like Hong Kong and run into difficulties with humidity.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 07 Jul 2016 #permalink

Copy-paste fail at #23. I meant to quote from John's magnum opus at 17 here, not the line above which is from Orac's post today.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 07 Jul 2016 #permalink

Birger @ 20 - No, nothing.

Eric @ 23 - The only thing I can think of that would work would be to have heating elements in the walls of residential buildings, or else for all residential buildings to have central air-conditioning/heating. It's not a structural thing, it's just the result of warm, very humid air hitting walls that are cold from months of winter temperatures. You can avoid the problem by turning on wall mounted air conditioners instead of using dehumidifiers, but this happens while the weather is still relatively very cool, and the last thing you want is to make your place cooler at that point; plus it's a less energy-efficient way to do it.

Martin @ 25 - The two 'populations' are implied to have once existed from genetic evidence, but no remains of either of these two groups have ever been found, and nothing is known about their material culture; they have only ever been identified as part-ancestral to other people, both ancient and modern. In the case of Basal Eurasians, it is not even known where they might have lived, given the astounding finding that they had no Neanderthal ancestry, but were sufficiently genetically distant from sub-Saharan Africans to have been a group that left and existed outside of sSA for long enough to become genetically distinctive. Most modern Europeans carry evidence of some ancestry from both of these groups. Northern Europeans show more evidence of ANE ancestry than southern Europeans, and Sardinians have no ANE ancestry at all. Native Americans also show evidence of ANE ancestry - they appear to be a mix between ANE and some Chinese-like population.

By John Massey (not verified) on 07 Jul 2016 #permalink

Martin @ 25 - Addendum - What the Basal Eurasian group seems to suggest is a group of anatomically modern humans who made an early exit from sub-Saharan Africa (possibly as early as 100-130,000 years ago), but then remained genetically isolated somewhere for at least 10s of 1,000s of years, without any apparent contact or mixing with Neanderthals, before coming into contact with and mixing with other groups who exited Africa later (around 50-60,000 years ago) and had picked up Neanderthal ancestry by mixing in the Middle East, where there is evidence that both Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans co-existed over the same time interval, but before the split that resulted in the modern genetic distance between Europeans and Chinese, which IIRC has been estimated to have occurred about 30,000 years ago.

Someone has just suggested that Basal Eurasian looks like it might have peaked in Mesolithic Iran. But there are so many data now that have been released very recently that all sorts of possibilities and theories are popping out, too fast to keep track.

There is also some evidence to suggest Basal Eurasian back-migration into eastern Africa.

ANE are implied to have been a group of steppe hunter-gatherers who existed at very low population density over a very wide range of northern Eurasia, a vast range, but they have only ever been identified genetically as part-ancestral to other ancient humans (and modern humans, obviously). They are not identified as ancestral to modern Chinese, but are identified as part-ancestral to Native Americans. People with part-ANE ancestry only invaded northern Europe in the late Bronze Age (but when they did, they had the wheel and domesticated horses, so they were militarily dominant), and never got to Sardinia. Something Birger was asking about a while back - it seems possible that people of the Jomon culture in Japan might have been ANE-like.

By John Massey (not verified) on 08 Jul 2016 #permalink

Birger @ 20 - Addendum - Read "all of China" here with a grain of salt. It can't apply to contiguous parts of China which are autonomous legal jurisdictions like Hong Kong and Macau. People in Hong Kong use Facebook and Twitter, which are banned in the Mainland. People in the Mainland use Weibo - I don't know any Hong Kongers who actually regularly use Weibo to communicate with each other. People in Hong Kong use the free messaging service WhatsApp; people in the Mainland use WeChat (except my wife uses WeChat to talk to her friends in the Mainland - WeChat has become huge in the Mainland but is almost non-existent in Hong Kong). So - "social media" and "all of China" strictly don't map the same identical space. I can only think that in this context, "all of China" means all of Mainland China, but excluding Hong Kong and Macau (and Taiwan, of course).

By John Massey (not verified) on 08 Jul 2016 #permalink

Martin @ 25 - Further Addendum - Another way for me to try to explain what I mean: if you look at the Principal Component Analysis plot that is reproduced at the head of the post by Razib Khan that I referenced, there are lots of coloured dots with lots of different labels (a confusing array of labels). Each of those dots represents the remains of an ancient human whose DNA has been tested and analysed, and identified as belonging to one notional group or another which is in some way identifiable by archaeological means (agriculturalists, horticulturalists, hunter-gatherers, animal herders; each with some form of identifiable material culture and possibly diet) over some geographical range.

But there is no dot there labelled as Ancient Northern Eurasian or Basal Eurasian. Those two 'ghost' populations have only ever been identified as part-ancestral groups to other identified populations. No one has a clue about the geographic range of Basal Eurasians (although now a lot of people are frantically guessing, but Basal European ancestry is so ubiquitous among Europeans, Middle Easterners and South Asians that finding the Ur-Heimat of such a population might prove impossible). The geographic range of Ancient North Eurasians is inferred from the range over which ancient human remains have been found who had partial ANE ancestry - it stretches all the way from Ireland to eastern Siberia and into the Americas. The date of the remains and the proportion of ANE ancestry can be pretty accurately estimated, of course, so the range of this putative ANE population can be estimated.

But the remains of no ANE or Basal Eurasian person have ever been found - i.e. there has been no genetic match which has identified an individual as solely ANE or Basal Eurasian.

By John Massey (not verified) on 08 Jul 2016 #permalink

Erratum - "Basal European" above should be "Basal Eurasian", of course. Freudian slip.

By John Massey (not verified) on 08 Jul 2016 #permalink

Phew! Thanks Martin. It's not easy getting one's head around all of this, made more difficult by (1) the need to think about population movements in 4 dimensions, time being the critical 4th dimension, and (2) the movement of uniparental markers, with genetic evidence that at some times in prehistory, males of recognisable groups were moving in one direction while females of the same groups were moving in the opposite direction - plus the usual scenario, still played out in modern times, where groups of invading males killed or drove off all of the males in territory they invaded while keeping the females for various purposes: rape, marriage, slavery, human sacrifice, etc. This is a common pattern seen throughout pre-history and history.

Speaking of females moving, I desperately wish that this evil, hateful, stupid woman would just vanish; evaporate; disappear into the hellhole she belongs in. What drives her to continue to seek a career as a politician I have no idea, but she is verging on moronic, and unbelievably ignorant. Her parents were English migrants to Australia, so she is in no position to claim anything about "mainstream Australians", any more than the child of any other migrants from anywhere else. The point to get is that by "mainstream Australians" she means Anglos - white skinned people whose mother tongue is English; i.e. people like her. She excludes from her definition of "mainstream Australians" Aboriginal people (yes, the ones who were there first, by about 48,000 years), Asians (any Asians, which covers of lot of geography) and of course Muslims. I don't hate many people, but I seriously wish this woman would drop dead. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-10/timeline-rise-of-pauline-hanson-o…

Contrast with the lovable Emily Wurramara. Have to love Emily's teeth. OK, the nominal Muslim woman in the video is a deliberate plant in order to make a statement, but I don't have any objection to Emily putting out videos like this, as the gentlest of push-backs against the hatefulness of Hanson and her mindless, bigoted supporters. Explanation of some of the comments - in Aboriginal parlance "deadly" is popular slang for something very good, trending towards great, and usually reserved for musical performances, although it can extend to other cultural performances. So the hierarchy goes good, very good, deadly. This usage of 'deadly' has remained in vogue for a very long time now - several decades, but its usage is almost exclusively confined to Aboriginal people. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_PUJ2S4uww

By John Massey (not verified) on 10 Jul 2016 #permalink

Israel find may help solve mystery of biblical Philistines http://phys.org/news/2016-07-israel-mystery-biblical-philistines.html
While waiting for DNA analysis, my comment is that these (formerly aegean?) people semmed to have a stable foothold in Caanan up until Babylonian conq uest, which yet again undermines the narrative of David -as king of a united jewish kingdom- driving them back to Gaza.

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 10 Jul 2016 #permalink

("semmed" should be "seemed")
-- -- --
Police violence compared with community violence. http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/files/2016/07/policeviolence.jpeg
Now look at the rate of police killing suspects in New York, Denver, Detroit and Philadelpia: Hardly small towns with small crime rates, yet with surprisingly few shot dead by the police. And places like Bakersfield and Oklahoma City seem to be full of trigger-happy cops.

And London, England is not exactly crime-free, but the unarmed coppers there somehow survive.

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 10 Jul 2016 #permalink

"This video contains content from BBC Worldwide, who (sic) has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds."

*sigh* So BBC Worldwide is not actually world wide, then.

I was subscribing to a VPN which enabled me to get around these blocks, but quit it after Netflix started detecting and blocking VPNs.

By John Massey (not verified) on 11 Jul 2016 #permalink

Birger @ 38 - It's informative to look at the map. The mangrove die off has occurred all the way along the 700 km southern coastline of the Gulf of Carpentaria. The whole lot. It is shocking to see.

By John Massey (not verified) on 11 Jul 2016 #permalink

these (formerly aegean?) people semmed to have a stable foothold in Caanan up until Babylonian conquest

And possibly even after that. The place name Palestine is derived from Philistine.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 11 Jul 2016 #permalink

Near where my family lived in Florida some mangroves were preserved in various parks. They are an important species in shoreline ecology in places with climates like that. Apparently a combination of record high sea surface temperatures and two consecutive years of The Wet not being very wet did for these mangroves.

7000 ha over a 700 km stretch of coast implies an average width of 100 m. That's a lot of trees, and a long distance for a shoreline to retreat in such a short time due to anything other than an earthquake.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 11 Jul 2016 #permalink

"The place name Palestine is derived from Philistine." But not the people. They were wiped out by the Babylonians. Modern day Palestinians derive nothing genetically from the Philistines.

By John Massey (not verified) on 11 Jul 2016 #permalink

"a long distance for a shoreline to retreat in such a short time due to anything other than an earthquake" or a tsunami. One of the major problems in Aceh in the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami (aside from the huge death toll) was the difficulty of re-establishing land ownership, when a lot of the land no longer existed.

But nothing has been learned in Aceh, in relation to the well being of distant future generations. They have re-established it in the same place, despite the certainty that within about 650 years it will receive another equally devastating tsunami.

By John Massey (not verified) on 11 Jul 2016 #permalink

But I have difficulty feeling too much empathy for the Acehnese, considering they hold public floggings and stonings. And no doubt mutilation of female children, as they do in other parts of Indonesia.

By John Massey (not verified) on 11 Jul 2016 #permalink

They have re-established it in the same place, despite the certainty that within about 650 years it will receive another equally devastating tsunami.

This is an issue that is going to come up repeatedly in the next hundred years or so, as rising sea levels inundate heavily populated chunks of what is now dry land. There might not be anywhere for the affected people to move to.

It's a matter of time before Miami will have to be abandoned, and it could happen during my lifetime. The city is built on bedrock of porous limestone, so building a seawall won't work--the water will come up through the limestone instead. Several other major cities--New York, Amsterdam, Karachi, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, to name a few examples--are likely to have similar issues with rising sea levels. Entire countries, mostly small islands in the Pacific, are likely to disappear. Most of Bangladesh consists of the Ganges/Brahmaputra delta and will end up underwater as well.

Along the eastern coast of Japan's Tohoku region, there are signs that basically say, "Do not build closer to the shore than this." They recall a tsunami that happened some 1200 years earlier. Of course lots of people did build close to the shore there, especially in the 20th century as land became scarce. The signs turned out to be fairly accurate: widespread devastation shoreward of the signs, only minor damage further inland.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 11 Jul 2016 #permalink

Historically, the Japanese have suffered more tsunami than anyone else; hence they were the first people to understand tsunami caused by offshore earthquakes, which is why the phenomenon has a Japanese name. The Chinese have superb earthquake records going back 2,000 years, but they never understood tsunami, in the sense that they never made the connection between very damaging waves carrying huge amounts of kinetic energy and the occurrence of large offshore earthquakes, despite some Chinese coastal cities having suffered large loss of life and damage from being struck by tsunami.

Due to their very painful experience with tsunami, the Japanese developed a fair number of novel ways to prepare future generations for the recurrence of tsunami, recognising that they are cyclic, and to protect coastal communities from them. This makes the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster all the more difficult to understand - if only they had built the emergency power generators at a higher elevation (which they could have, without too much difficulty or additional cost), they would have kicked in and kept the cooling system operating, which would have prevented the meltdown, instead of being knocked out by the waves. Of course, thousands of people would still have perished in the tsunami, but the nuclear disaster would have been averted.

Very damaging tsunami can be caused by other things, of course: large submarine landslides, and large coastal cliff rockfalls into the sea (as in one notable case in a Norwegian fjord).


(Pay-walled, unfortunately.)

Within the last approx. 10,000 years, modern humans have been hugely mobile over large distances; not to mention much earlier very distant migrations. Jet age, shmet age.

By John Massey (not verified) on 11 Jul 2016 #permalink

Hong Kong has some risk from tsunami, but it is less critical than risk from storm surge associated with typhoons (hurricanes, tropical cyclones, whatever - they are all the same thing) - the two greatest natural disasters to occur in Hong Kong, one in I think 1918 and another in 1937, were both caused by storm surge, and both killed at least 10,000 people. Of course, with global sea level rise, that is additive in simple terms of areas of inundation.

Being disaster-minded, having worked in the disaster prevention/mitigation business for decades, when it came to choosing a home to buy for us to live in, I made sure that it will be above flood level for high tide + maximum likely storm surge level, plus I factored in sea level rise for the next 100 years (just in case my daughter chooses to remain living in the family home once me and my wife have popped off + I have taught her the basic rules of how to avoid buying property that is or will become subject to risk from natural hazards, if I can include anthropogenically caused sea level rise as a 'natural hazard'). Of course, being high and dry in such an event doesn't help too much if the major infrastructure has been knocked out, such that post-event recovery is seriously hampered (the way it has been after the Nepal earthquake).

Not everywhere is going to experience the same sea level rise, e.g. Taiwan, which is an emergent landform, i.e. becoming higher in elevation relative to sea level with time due to tectonic plate movement; a bit in effect like the Scandinavian rebound since the end of the Last Glacial Maximum due to melting of ice.

Interesting paper, which is open-access; mildly politically incorrect, due to Chinese authorship, on facial variation among Europeans, Chinese and Uygurs, who are an ancient admixed population between West Eurasians and East Eurasians. Genes are discrete, not blending, so modern Uygurs carry some European-looking features and some East Asian-looking features, with a lot of within-population variation of the phenotypic mix. On a global PCA plot, my half-Chinese daughter plots with Uygurs, and can pass as a Uygur in real life (and has done so successfully) (and can also pass for Turkish, as she discovered recently; Turkic peoples all being similarly an ancient East-West admixed population, as are the Hazara of northern Pakistan and numerous other Central Asian peoples (Turkic refers to a language group, but it serves as a reasonable proxy for genetic ancestry.)

And an interesting Blog post by the Polish blogger David (who playfully calls himself Davidski) on Ancient North Eurasian ancestry in Han Chinese - the basic mental picture I had was of pre-Han Chinese moving north meeting ANE moving south from eastern Siberia and mixing at the boundary, but it looks a lot more complex than that.

To repeat, because it bears repeating: genes are discreet, not blending, so these occasional moral panics that break out among white supremacist types that 'blondes are disappearing' or 'red hair is disappearing' or 'blue eyes are disappearing' are all nonsense; just as the idea that panmixia will happen and everyone in the world will end up coffee-coloured is also nonsense. This can't happen.

By John Massey (not verified) on 12 Jul 2016 #permalink

...Except in that episode of South Park, where the mixed future inhabitants of the Earth migrate to present-day South Park through a wormhole.
(The solution in the episode to preventing future overpopulation is pretty damn gross)
-- -- -- --
BTW why the hell did the Japanese rebuild Tokyo in the same place after the big eartquake? And they had another opportunity after USAF burned the place down (killing more people than in Hiroshima).

By birgerjohansson (not verified) on 12 Jul 2016 #permalink

Birger @ 49 - Same reason the Chinese rebuilt Tangshan on the site of the city that was totally destroyed by an earthquake in 1976 - the area was resource-rich (both in minerals and very fertile agricultural land) and fairly close to Beijing, and they figured it was better to rebuild the city on the same spot but to make the buildings earthquake resistant, than to shift it far enough away, which would be economically less desirable.

My strong dislike of all politicians and my contempt for politics derives from my time being involved in prediction and prevention/mitigation of natural disasters. If you ever need to inform politicians about risks from natural disasters, what you find is that they don't want you to tell them. If you insist on telling them, they behave as though they didn't hear you. Disaster mitigation requires allocation of resources - public money is required for education, health care, policing, etc. and it is politically unpopular to allocate sufficient resources to the prevention or mitigation or preparation for what are essentially low probability events, even events that have the potential to kill large numbers of people and devastate economies.

So politicians (and I'm talking about both appointed and democratically elected politicians, and they are all tarred with the same brush) universally prefer 'not to know' about the risks (1) in the hope that the risks will not materialise during their term in office, and (2) so they can turn accusingly on the technical people who have the best knowledge of the risks and demand to know "why you didn't tell me", i.e. so they have scapegoats and can play the blame game, while being lily-white and blameless themselves.

Ask anyone who has ever been involved in any kind of disaster mitigation work, whether it is fire fighters, earthquake experts, landslide experts, tsunami experts, flooding experts, and whatever else, and they will all tell you the same thing.

I well remember, in the late 1980s, we had a visit from a guy who worked for the US Army Corps of Engineers - a classic stereotype, chomping on a big fat cigar the whole time he was delivering his presentation to us, and talking in a real southern drawl, but he was a good guy, very bright and on top of his subject. Basically, what he told us is that one day, there would be a big enough storm to overtop or breach the levees protecting the city of New Orleans, and that New Orleans would fill up like a bath tub, with no way to drain the water out again. And he was predicting that this would happen because the government was not allocating enough resources to maintaining and strengthening the levees. He said this event was a certainty, it was just a matter of when.

Sure enough, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit, and New Orleans filled up with water like a bathtub, with no way to drain the water away, and the disaster response and recovery were awful.

Ask me why I detest all politicians. That's basically why. Ultimately, they all put their own careers ahead of the safety of the populations they claim to serve, and when disaster strikes, they are the first ones to turn, point fingers, play the blame game, stridently demand to know whose fault it was, and to see someone punished for it as a scape goat. Before the event, the very same people will mightily resist being told about risks - they will do anything to wriggle out of being told. Knowledge of community risks from relatively low frequency high magnitude events is something they definitely do not want. All of them, no matter of what political stripe they are.

They make me sick.

By John Massey (not verified) on 12 Jul 2016 #permalink

BTW, that Chinese paper on prediction of facial features from DNA holds out the prospect that geneticists will be able to reconstruct the facial appearance of ancient people, from even partial remains. They can already predict skin tone, hair and eye colour, but now they will be able to predict facial appearance as well.

It's kind of an exciting prospect, in terms of popular appeal: being able to construct 3D faces of ancient people. If they get the data, there are people who are really good at doing facial reconstruction to be able to do this.

By John Massey (not verified) on 12 Jul 2016 #permalink

why the hell did the Japanese rebuild Tokyo in the same place after the big eartquake?

There isn't anywhere in Japan that has substantially less seismic risk. There's a reason why the Pacific Rim (from Indonesia up the Asian coast to the Bering Sea and down the American coast all the way to Chile) is known as the Ring of Fire.

Parts of China do have less seismic risk than the coastal plain, but they tend to be in the northern interior, which doesn't have the resources to support so many large cities--there is a reason so few people live west of Urumqi.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 12 Jul 2016 #permalink

Eric @ 52 - Not strictly true. Seismic risk varies a lot in Japan. Tokyo is built in one of the areas of highest seismic risk, so Birger's question was perfectly valid - it's in about the worst place in Japan that it could be.

You can see what I mean by referring to the map on this page: http://www.j-shis.bosai.go.jp/en/shm

By John Massey (not verified) on 12 Jul 2016 #permalink

I think I understand what that map is trying to say, but Tokyo isn't the only major Japanese city at high seismic risk. I can pick out the approximate locations of Nagoya, Chiba, and Sendai on that map, and all of them are only slightly better than the Tokyo Bay region. I don't know offhand which city or cities are on the next bay to the west of Tokyo, but that's also a bad spot. And I don't see many good harbors on the northern/western coast of Honshu, where the risk is much lower.

A better question would be why they moved the capital from Kyoto to Edo in 1868. Granted that Kyoto is inland, but so is Beijing.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 12 Jul 2016 #permalink

As for New Orleans, keep in mind that the levees have two purposes: (1) to keep the Mississippi River out of New Orleans and (2) to keep the Mississippi River in New Orleans. Point (1) is, of course, flood control--the city is below sea level (mostly due to subsidence of the land, which is no longer being replenished by river sediment deposited in the delta). Point (2) is that, left to its own devices, the Mississippi River would cut a much shorter path along the Atchafalaya River to the Gulf of Mexico, with an outlet more than 100 km to the west. The reason that is a problem is that New Orleans is where a lot of cargo that is moved along the Mississippi and major tributaries by barge is transferred to ocean-going ships. Among that cargo is a few percent of the world's food supply. That's why New Orleans was rebuilt after Katrina. The Atchafalaya would bypass not only New Orleans but Baton Rouge, the most plausible alternative location for this transshipment port.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 12 Jul 2016 #permalink

Martin, I recall some time back a commenter talking about stone carvings of boats and trying to insist that they were depicted as having outriggers, and you disagreeing.

This would seal it, wouldn't it?:

No idea what those projections were for, but they weren't outriggers.

By John Massey (not verified) on 13 Jul 2016 #permalink

It's a pity that the 2015 paper by Allentoft et al. "101 ancient Eurasian genomes" was published in Nature and is therefore pay-walled. It's an important one for archaeologists. A fair bit can be gleaned from the figures, though.

The abstract: "The Bronze Age of Eurasia (around 3000–1000 BC) was a period of major cultural changes. However, there is debate about whether these changes resulted from the circulation of ideas or from human migrations, potentially also facilitating the spread of languages and certain phenotypic traits. We investigated this by using new, improved methods to sequence low-coverage genomes from 101 ancient humans from across Eurasia. We show that the Bronze Age was a highly dynamic period involving large-scale population migrations and replacements, responsible for shaping major parts of present-day demographic structure in both Europe and Asia. Our findings are consistent with the hypothesized spread of Indo-European languages during the Early Bronze Age. We also demonstrate that light skin pigmentation in Europeans was already present at high frequency in the Bronze Age, but not lactose tolerance, indicating a more recent onset of positive selection on lactose tolerance than previously thought."

By John Massey (not verified) on 13 Jul 2016 #permalink

Is anyone going to watch the 2016 film "Electra Woman & Dyna Girl"? I see the part of Electra Woman is played by one Grace Helbig. Is this a sinister hidden message? I think we should be told.

By John Massey (not verified) on 13 Jul 2016 #permalink