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I regularly read Nature, Science, PNAS, American Antiquity, Antiquity, Applied Energy, Archäologische Informationen, Archäologisches Korrespondenzblatt, Biblical Archaeology Review, Cambridge Archaeological Journal, Current Anthropology, Evolutionary Anthropology, Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections, Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, Journal of Anthropological Research, Journal of Archaeological Science, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, Journal of Human Evolution, Oxford Journal of Archaeology, (several of them on paper – my one big indulgence and luxury) and whatever tidbits I’m led to by finding them being mentioned somewhere. For those marked in bold my personal subscription grants me access to content I can’t get through the University of Cologne.
Whoever happens to share my particular interests can find a list here of all the highlights of the current week, together with abstracts and the personal comments I feel compelled to make.
With Kirscher et al. it seems that Böhme’s doubts on the African origin hypothesis, now mostly considered a well founded and proven theory, have to be taken seriously. Perhaps Deloison too deserves more credit than I have given her in the list of 2019-03-07.
There are calls for Bunch et al. to be withdrawn, maybe rightly so. But all the criticism I’ve seen so far were ad hominem attacks on the authors and nothing factual about its content.
Up to now I had found none of the early human finds in the Americas quite convincing. Callaway and of course Bennett et al. of last week are changing that. This one looks undeniably sound.
When a measurable value like the oxygen isotope ratio is determined by many discrete and different influences, it can only be used as a proxy for one of them, if and when all others are either held constant or reliably corrected for. At the height of the Ice Age with its huge amount of water trapped in glaciers the composition of the ultimate source, sea water, was noticeably different. That’s what marine isotope stages are based on. The airflow patterns too were dissimilar from today’s. None of that is considered or corrected for in Pederzani et al.
If China’s reactor as reported by Mallapaty actually succeeds, this will be the first working molten salt reactor ever and the Holy Grail of nuclear technology finally achieved.
Undoubtedly climate has warmed significantly compared to the last trough of the Little Ice Age before or around 1850 and there has been noticeable warming in the last four decades. Up to 20 % more intensive precipitation – the upper limit stated by Kreienkamp et al. – is not negligible and neither is an up to tenfold rise in frequency. But then the floods seen in July were not 20 % above recorded history in their effects but much more. How come?
Coe et al. is in a predatory journal from a disreputable publisher. I have asked Prof. Wiegleb if that article really is written by him but nor yet received an answer. That said, as far as I can tell it is methodically sound and plausible in its conclusion so I decided to include it here regardless.
In current climate warnings we’re frequently told about an imminent complete breakdown of the Atlantic turnover. By contrast what Yin et al. show for the onsets of the last ten ice ages is a surprisingly small but sharp downward step of about 20 %.
At first glance all the cases for symbolic behaviour in Neanderthals seem sparse and somewhat far fetched as for example Leder et al. of last week and this week’s Martí et al. But then the same is true for everything by H. sapiens or AMH before the explosion at the onset of the Upper Paleolithic. So whatever set that off, it probably was not related to species (alone).
This week I found nothing to comment on.
I’m not really surprised that Vaesen & Houkes got written and accepted – there’s a lot that does – but what did surprise me was so many others taking it seriously, commenting on it and even agreeing. At least 90 % of what a grown human knows or is able to do is learnt, not only copied from others but actively taught whether formally or not. What more do you need? Is there any human trait that’s less obvious and beyond doubt than this one?
There may well be a climatic rise in the frequency and severity of El Niño events and some of that may be manmade. But as Berenguer et al. demonstrate the dought impacts for Amazonian forests depend much less on the weather itself than on preceding anthropogenic degradation.
Contrary to what Gatti et al. and Denning claim in their titles, the Amazonian rain forest has been a net carbon source for many years. The effects of fire and deforestation strongly dwarf that of net biome exchange so that changes and even a sign reversal of the latter don’t amount to much.
It’s not Willyard’s main theme and only hinted at in several places, but her article again confirms the old British result about what determines school success or lack of it. The only variable of measurable predictive power is, whether parents deem schooling important or not.
One secondary aspect in LiCata is, do journalists conform to public taste and interest or is public preference formed by journalists? And if the latter, what is the impact of journalists typically being unably to pass a primary school test in either maths or science?
If and when governments want to force something on the people against their will, who do not want to endure or perform what’s expected of them, what is the best and most successful way to go about it? Schmelz & Bowles is one more in a long row of well funded studies to provide just this solution. Surprisingly they are more open about their real concerns than is customary when they explicitly state
“Our findings have broad policy applicability beyond COVID-19 to cases in which voluntary citizen compliance is essential because state capacities are limited.”
All too often the worst cases of scientific fraud are committed by the best known and most prestigious representatives. When science has become a career instead of a calling, going against the flow has become a risk to be avoided. Thompson as reported by Enserink is bound to be just one case of many. In the current flood of irreplicable, overstated, and fraudulent results the whole endeavour of science is in danger of going down the drain.
Cheddadi et al. is a welcome confirmation but their results are not as novel as they claim. In fact the overlap of winter and summer rain in the latitudes of today’s full desert has been taught at Cologne university for decades.
More or less everything Maxmen cites is valid and relevant to a certain degree. Nevertheless what following her boils down to, is throwing away all the progress diligently accomplished in the last 400 years. Refusing to ask a question for fear of not liking the answer throws us back to before science and before enlightenment.
The WHO study in NEJM is one more proof, this time an especially substantial one, of the importance of body contact for human infants. The fatal book
“Die deutsche Mutter und ihr erstes Kind” by Johanna Haarer (list of 2016-10-12) was no exception, just an especially stringent example for the international Zeitgeist of its time. The pernicious influence of this way of thinking is much more pervasive today than most are prepared to admit.
Undisputedly getting vaccinated is a good thing and doctors ought to recommend it to their patients. But this is not what Milkman et al. is about and besides being a red herring it’s a means for the attraction of funding and enrolling a large reputable organization into collecting a large amount of otherwise unattainable high quality data. The real purpose is optimizing government lead mind control of the populace.
If you want something done well, do it yourself. I think Pearson is wrong, where she bemoans the proliferation of reviews. When there are only 11 studies in all, it’s far easier to evaluate them yourself, even if you’re prone to miss one or two, than scour all the worldwide literature for reviews already done, read them, understand their methods, and find out if and how they’re relevant to your own current question. You may then publish your results in a small way for a targeted audience of your known peers adding to the proliferation. I find it helpful to read something by somebody I know and trust and can reach when there are questions left open.
Even though I only know hom from his writing David Ussishkin is by far the best teacher of sound archaeological method I ever encountered. His current critique of the Lachish Gate Shrine is a case in point.
Bazant & Bush derive a simple safety guideline for mitigating airborne transmission that would impose an upper bound on the product of the number of occupants and their time spent in a room.
I have strong doubts whether Yan et al. is at all meaningful. Early on in the epidemic, more than 400 days ago, people panicked and tended to over react. By now they have become used to the situation and have heard reported case numbers every day for over a year. In general people are innumerate and number blind, magnitudes and trends are not obvious, and meaningful diagrams have been and are still universally withheld. Where once voluntary caution prevailed now even mandatory measures are widely circumvented. Results from a year ago have no useful meaning today.
Castro & Singer suffers from the same statistical fallacy as Goldstein, whom they cite, and Rommel et al. (list of 2021-03-30). They very strongly over estimate the number of years lost to Covid in the oldest age groups. Factoring that into their result, vaccinating the younger populations yields the highest benefit.
Currently it seems that the question of where and when modern humans mixed with Neanderthals and how that admixture spread with and among them is getting less clear and more complicated all the time. Hopefully the rising number of data, currently Gibbons, Hajdinjak et al., and Prüfer et al., will make a clear picture emerge.
The Eemian war shorter than our exceptionally long interglacial. Still according to Crump et al. Greenland was warmer and less Ice covered than today. There is no doubt about anthropogenic climate change and ecological deterioration being a fact, but carbon dioxide is not the only and probably not even among the largest contributors here.
Contrary to the simplified diagram in Challen et al. (list of 2021-03-12) Davies et al. show a higher mortality for B.1.1.7. from day one. So it is definitely more virulent after all.
Looking at the size of family gatherings round a revered grandparent in non-shrinking parts of society and at Meadows et al.’s population reconstruction, the three settlements at Vráble may well have been each inhabited by a single extended family.
If I read the diagram in Altmann et al. correctly, neither the lower immune reaction in older people nor the different spike proteins in the B.1.1.7 variant suffice to invalidate the current Biontech vaccine – but a combination of both might. On the other hand McCarthy et al. give us hope that while the current generation of vaccines may need to be updated those changes might be limited and permanent without the need of recurrent new formulations as for influenza.
And again with Ramo et al. and Zhang & Wei we have two examples for important cases of anthropogenic climate change, both nothing whatever to do with carbon emission from fossil fuel burning. Indeed in the case of Ramo et al. it can be convincingly argued, that increased use of fossil fuels might go a long way to mitigate the problem at least in the short and medium term.
Anthropogenic climate change is a fact and in the main it tends to be hugely detrimental. Thaler et al. provide just one more pertinent example. The main problem with the devout single issue carbon religion is, that they detract from the real problems and thus make things much worse. Biofuels are not mentioned in Thaler et al. but they are a well known and proven driver for intensification and resultant soil degradation.
Brauner et al. is the final published version of the preprint from the list of 2021-01-11. Comparing the two, their former conclusion about mask wearing has vanished without a trace. Granted, I had myself expressed doubt about that part of their results, but still, a change like that ought to have been mentioned and explained. As it stands now, the newly total accord with political orthodoxy smells a bit too Orwellian for my taste.
Koenig et al. seem to offer the first really promising treatment for those infected by CoV2 and those already suffering the symptoms of Covid. If it turns out to really avoid the development of resistance this will be a huge step forward and possibly the long-sought solution.
Stating that knowledge of the command line is conducive to efficient computer use for scientists seems like telling them that reading, writing and basic algebra might be good to know. But then seeing how many even in science, not just the humanities, are stuck to the GUI and the mouse Perkel might have a point after all in restating the obvious.
If confirmed Bova et al. and Hertzberg will change and invalidate not only the climate reconstructions for the Holocene but many (most) others as well. While their central tenet looks sound, a comparison of their figures 3a and b makes me wait for further comment.
A master’s thesis before graduation is supposed to teach you to pursue responsible science independently and mine taught me just the point in Piller amongst other things. [...] More even then Feynman that taught me never to rely on secondary sources alone for anything relevant to my main points.
Barsbai et al.’s result is not nearly as strong as Hill & Boyd claim, but still impressive. Of the 15 traits they compare between humans and other animals, ten are insignificant, three (storage, range, and density) are trivial, but two (paternal care and polygyny) are relevant and unexpected. As Hill & Boyd rightly stress, this is not to deny the importance of culture but rather to delineate just where it is most important and where culture studies may prove futile.
That emphatically does not mean this is an unimportant or useless study, quite the opposite. But why does no one ever have the honesty openly to say
“it was a sensible idea and well worth the effort to look, but in the outcome we did not find anything”?
Voosen’s comparison is quite a bit off. 1.5 TW roughly equals the electric output of his 1500 nuclear power plants. The total heat generated is more than three times that so we’re looking at nearer the 400 plants in actual operation.
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