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I regularly read Nature, Science, PNAS, American Antiquity, Antiquity, Applied Energy, Archäologische Informationen, Archäologisches Korrespondenzblatt, Biblical Archaeologal 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, (many 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 better access than that through the University of Cologne.

Whoever happens to share my particular interests can find a list of all the highlights of the current week, together with abstracts and the personal comments I feel compelled to make, here.

For the time being the archive of older entries also resides in my now defunct old blog which offers a search option.

(19-06-23) Articles to 2019-06-23

In fig. 2 of Ramos et al. there are two graphs in different colours with no indication whatever, neither in the labels nor the caption, of which is which. In Nordhaus’ fig. 5 the caption describes three different curves, but only two are shown. These are the kind of errors I expect from first year students in essays written in the last night before the deadline for handing them in. Finding them in a reputed journal leaves me with no other conclusion, but that nobody at all has read, much less tried to understand, them before publication.

(19-06-16) Articles to 2019-06-16

In Yeung et al. direct but older measurements are falsified by models based on other models using measured differences of the same size as their measurement error. The achieved result is plausible and probably correct, but this is one more example of science changing from experiment-based empiricism to a scholastic deriving of ideas from ideas. If this trend continues, we're bound to lose the ground on which we stand. I view this tendency with great apprehension.

(19-06-09) Articles to 2019-06-09

Schroeder et al. is one more example of an article with three authors and a long list of joy riders.

(19-05-26) Articles to 2019-05-26

Patrick McCray's last sentence carries enormous weight in an environment where “facts” are pronounced from on high, any criticism of methods is seen as lèse-majesté, and pleading to authority is rife. McCray totally fails to mention R. P. Feynman, T. H. Huxley, or any allusion to the fact that C. P. Snow too saw the ignorance of the other side's way of thinking to be entirely one-sided. Pride in ignorance and derision of critical thinking are rife again – it's time to refer back to the basics.

(19-05-21) Articles to 2019-05-21

Kunene et al. and Huan et al. report on the solar powered production not of universally useable high-grade electricity but of hydrocarbon feedstocks at an energetic efficiency of 2.3 % and a product selectivity of less than 60 %. The only practical purpose I can see is the grabbing up of ideologically motivated subsidies.

(19-05-13) Articles to 2019-05-13

In road vehicle engines there has long been a tendency to raise the compression ratio above the knock limit to improve part load efficiency and to suppress knock by retarding ignition and over-enrichment at full load. It is time to go back to old ideas and revitalize knock suppression by water.

(19-05-03) Articles to 2019-05-03

Keellings & Hernández Ayala's claims from their abstract and conclusion are not upheld by their data. It is not only unsurprising but the whole point of one hundred year events that you only find them once in a period of only sixty years. Totally random events have to happen some time and some place. It is a quite common fallacy, mostly found in epidemiology, to pick that place and time after the event and conclude there to be something special about them. In the same vein it tells us nothing, that Hurricane Maria only came right at the end of the observation period, as it was this that triggered the whole study in the first place.

(19-04-28) Articles to 2019-04-28

To my mind, all the arguments listed by Bennison-Chapman confirm, rather than, as claimed, contradict Schmandt-Besserat’s older theory.

(19-04-21) Articles to 2019-04-21

For quite some time now I have been predicting that the willful squandering of precious natural gas in large electrical power units would inevitably lead to a renaissance of coal gasification. This was and is totally obvious and in China it is now happening at a large and quickly growing scale. Undoubtedly Wang et al.'s is an admirable achievement but as they're nearing the thermodynamic limit any further improvements, if any, will be negligible. So where is the carbon reduction from gas power plants now compared to highly efficient modern coal burning ones, when the same gas is then generated from coal – and only the highest quality coal at that – at a loss of at least one third? With the need to move on to lower grade coal that stark reality will become ever more evident. Green fanaticism – not to be confused with meaningful conservation policy for the environment and limited resources – is and always has been purely religious in nature and a satanic religion at that.

(19-04-14) Articles to 2019-04-14

Many doctoral dissertations especially in the sciences aggregate the results of several master theses the author supervised. If all these graduate students are undeclared authors, isn't that fraud and plagiarism? Olalde, Lalueza-Fox, Reich et al. clearly state: “Authors contributions: [Some people] performed or supervised laboratory work. [Others] assembled archaeological material. [Yet more] analyzed data. I.O., C.L.-F., and D.R. wrote the manuscript.” To me this means the article has exactly three authors and many other contributors deserving a mention in the acknowledgements. Are all of these “authors” willing to take the blame if irregularities were to turn up? Or do they just want all the glory and none of the responsibility?

(19-04-07) Articles to 2019-04-07

Sass & Finkelstein securely place their new-found shard and its writing at the transition to Megiddo's phase VA-IVB, thereby refining the development of writing in terms of the relative pottery chronology. They then go on to ascribe that phase to an absolute date and a historical dynasty. That part is not a well accepted fact, as they imply, but rather the object of ongoing contention. This is all the more disappointing, as it's usually Finkelstein himself who most strongly points out the pitfalls of this circular reasoning.

(19-03-28) Articles to 2019-03-28

Reardon tells us a lot about current law adherence, when there is a public outcry about an executive order, that does nothing but reiterate the long existing law. While it may be quite true, that this order “is intended to protect conservative voices”, it is an unfortunate and undeniable fact of life, that criminal and violent hordes attacking speakers and venues near exclusively emanate from one side of the political spectrum.

(19-03-22) Articles to 2019-03-22

Williams et al. very strongly reminds us of Lelieveld et al. of last week. Yes, they do find some correlations in isolated, selected subgroups, if they search hard enough for them. Whether these slight presumed effects are at all noticeable within the natural spread and noise we're not told, but the summary statistics cited suggest otherwise.

(19-03-14) Articles to 2019-03-14

It is a long time since I last saw a published study as nonsensical as Lelieveld et al., no wonder the yellow press lapped it up.

Please compare it to the methodologically very similar study by Engemann et al., that offers a real, plausible, and credible result.

(19-03-07) Articles to 2019-03-07

The literature on paleoclimate abounds with temperature curves looking exactly similar to the ice core isotopes they were generated from. This has always bothered me. Oxygen isotope ratios depend on total ice mass, sea surface temperature when evaporating, temperature and precipitation during transport, and the temperature when falling as snow, with all these effects possessing similar orders of magnitude. I had expected modelers at least to try correcting for known confounders. Reading Sime et al. confirms my suspicion that this seems rarely to be the case in practice. If so this has wide reaching consequences and throws many well accepted conclusions into doubt.

(19-03-03) Articles to 2019-03-03

Models are not data. Models may and do help in elucidating measurements but treating them as such themselves is bound to lead to widely wrong conclusions, especially when using them to extrapolate beyond the range of data they were fitted to. Rhein and Lozier et al. offer a case in point – not that I expect anyone to take notice.

(19-02-18) Articles to 2019-02-18

I’m horrified by Parsons et al.'s suggestion. The nuclear reactors coming up to their planned retirement now were built around 1980 and designed at least a decade earlier. I have always been and continue to be a dedicated proponent of nuclear energy, but I want to see new reactors representing all the significant advances made in a full five decades of development. Of course I understand the political motivation behind the suggestion. All plans for new plants are bound to face fierce opposition while the existing ones have been silently standing there for decades without any smells or fumes and providing jobs and income for their communities. But their pressure vessels have already sustained four decades of neutron embrittlement which is long known to be far more severe then originally envisioned when planning their lifetime. Of course none of them is unsafe in an absolute sense, but neither are they as safe as expected for a plant being issued a new lease for operation in 2020.

(19-02-07) Articles to 2019-02-07

Seroussi, Edwards et al., and Golledge et al. again demonstrate the limits of modeling and the fallacy of treating models as data. Seroussi and Edwards et al. even state as much explicitly.

(19-02-01) Articles to 2019-02-01

As a rule I dislike luminescence dating and tend not to trust it much. But all the figures in Jacobs et al.'s supplementary material show high quality data clustering inside the supposed error band, very much more so than is typical for the genre.

(19-01-26) Articles to 2019-01-26

Lefranc & Denaire have unfortunately allowed themselves to be strongly influenced by Rück’s vicious anti Lüning and Zimmermann polemics. Their results do in fact fully confirm the old Hofplatz model while adding an Alsatian gridded arrangement of the farmstead sites. This grid is seemingly absent in the northern Rhineland, but the general model of house successions is the same.

(19-01-20) Articles to 2019-01-20

Seeing Flohr et al. and also Rose et al. below, it seems that current methods of funding force scientific teams into making overblown and unrealistic claims to the detriment of all. At least the more honest ones among them leave enough clear hints in their publications for the diligent reader to get at the truth. But with academic pursuit and science having changed from a calling into a trade and career, it is the less diligent ones who make up the bulk of the readership.

(19-01-12) Articles to 2019-01-12

Jens Lüning has always maintained his conviction, that the first LBK farmers settling in Central Europe had of course used their cattle to move the massive logs used to build their impressive houses and to impress their indigenous neighbours. His hypothesis has never met wider acceptance but Gaastra et al. finally seem to vindicate him.

(19-01-04) Articles to 2019-01-04

OSL-dating is a technique, where you draw a two-sigma-band around your result and find half or more of your plotted data points falling outside of it. I need more than the single find at Guanyindong Cave reported by Hu et al. before accepting the demand to rewrite all our text books.

(19-01-02) Articles to 2019-01-02

I’m not really surprised that articles like Klein & O'Brien get written, but when they pass peer review and end up in PNAS, some eminent practitioners of the subjects must have mistaken them for valid science.

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