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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 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.
Grinsted et al. offer real data and are to be taken seriously. Hurricane activity and strength has really been increasing in recent decades. Or has it? Looking at table 1 and figure 2a, it seems their whole result mostly hinges on one single event alone, although even without it the spikes have become denser on the time scale.
I have finally received the article by Mittnik et al. that has been loudly touted by all the yellow press for weeks. Unsurprisingly its real content has nothing whatsoever to do with anything claimed there. The word
“slaves” does occur once in the penultimate sentence, where it is dropped as an element of much later Roman familiae, that are said to display certain – not total – similarity to the situation found here. What the article is really about is how large-scale and large-area societies managed to uphold their social connections and about the differing mobility between (some) men and (some) women. We also see structured households with a servant class – something that no large household has been able to do without at all times. All this is quite boring from the point of view of the sensationalist yellow press and nothing there has anything whatever to do with the incipience of slavery in any accepted meaning of the word.
Graves et al. and Jenny et al. are two more examples that the anthropogenic influence on the local and global climate and environment is real and large. They also clearly demonstrate that solar subsidies for the wealthy, windmills, giving up straws in restaurants, and other purely symbolic actions can't and won't have any bearing on the problems.
Chan et al.'s complete model rests on the distribution of recent, i.e. current genomes alone. That does not, of course, make it wrong, but neither does it settle the question to the degree they try to imply.
I have heard about Golden Rice so often and for so long, that I had assumed it to have become a wide-spread staple long ago. Reading Wight’s review of Regis’ book has come as quite a shock.
Whenever you calculate a regression on a finite number of random data points, you will get a definite result and the slope will never be zero. In Cox et al. I fail to see anything more than that.
Peer review before publication is the best system we currently have, but it's still far from perfect. In this very blog strong criticism of negligent review takes up a lot of space. So it is not surprising that when trying to get rid of a contribution for entirely different reasons, a close look at the review for formal or substantial weaknesses is a promising line to follow.
As of today all the
“renewable” hype is about electricity generation alone. Electricity is only a fraction of fossil fuel consumption and yet hundreds of coal burning generators are being newly built. So where is all that extra, abundant, and cheap
“renewable” electricity to come from that is going to substitute all those non-electrical fuel uses?
I cannot accept the two examples given by Shaham et al. as intentional art and consider them use-wear from some rotational operation. As they clearly recognise themselves all those circular traces are centred around a pint of mechanical affordability. Their paragraph on Gestalt perception applies at least as much to recent archaeologists as to ancient Neanderthals.
“Klimaleugner” (climate denier) is a catch-all term taken right out of the handbook for witch hunts. What the reasonable criticism, deserving to be taken seriously, really is about, is the single-issue, monocausal, carbon-dioxide-religion. Three articles this week highlight different angles to challenge the prevailing doctrine.
Two articles this week, Zhou et al. and Branch & Wulfmeyer, stress the influence of land use on local climate. As so often nowadays neither offers any real data but only models treated as data. That said they look sound and Branch & Wulfmeyer offers an optimistic outlook for many of the world's marginal landscapes.
Johnson et al. and Derzsy fall into two parts [...] Facebook and others are neither social nor networks but commercial platforms. Their so-called content is the bait, whose only purpose is drawing in and engaging so-called users, i.e. the merchandise being sold to the platforms' customers. Nobody there is the least bit interested in content or in regulating it as long as it fulfils its purpose.
The theme of this blog is science, not politics and I apologize to any, who see this contribution as inappropriate, especially after I criticize others for blurring the line. However when a commentary concerns an article published in the premier science journal PNAS and all comments are directly based on quotations from that study, it must be allowed.
Li et al. report on not just a piece of early art but the very earliest so far, far away from Africa and associated with an earlier human species than sapiens. A finding need not be wrong just because it's unexpected, but we do require some proof. Granted, the photographs in figure 2 look striking, which is no doubt why they were included here. We're given neither a scale nor an indication just where they were taken from. The two pieces of supposed intentional artwork are both on bone splinters about the size of a postage stamp. Both were old and somewhat weathered at the time. For me a far more plausible and more parsimonious explanation would be testing those pieces for hardness and usability as a tool or equally plausible testing the sharpness of the blade. Anything more requires more proof than is offered here.
I’ve noticed a rising number of articles stating not only who actually wrote an article but also something like
“All authors read and approved the final manuscript”. It can't be my unread blog that wrought the change, so I'm not the only one continually pointing out the deficiency. Some things do change for the better, something pessimists like me are rarely prepared to acknowledge.
In Calvo-Agudo et al. the figures 1b left and 2b left seem incompatible to and contradicting each other. An easy to make and, incidentally, easy to correct error. (The line patterns in 2b are reversed.) But it's one more opportunity to ask my standard question: Have the six co-authors even read the article they all claim to have written? Do they all accept equal responsibility for the mistake? If not, why are they authors?
Sotoudeh et al. is one more in the disturbing chain of studies in effective top-down social engineering. Of course they chose an incontroversial object like smoking, but phantasies of removing
“bad apples” or inserting some
“shining stars” into the population to be corrected give the intentions away.
Academic freedom used to be held high and it was nearly impossible to remove a professor once appointed from his place. Revoking the status of an emeritus in his pension years was unthinkable, except of course under Stalin and others of his ilk. Next to North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Iran now the United Kingdom – not Germany, of whom I would have been unsurprised – has joined that exclusive club of totalitarian control and revoked an emeritus professorship.
On top of that the difference in figure 1c stays exactly the same from the first to the last decile. So any regression of that difference on the abscissal value, the divergence of maths versus reading ability, must yield near zero and can't carry any statistical weight whatsoever. All the figures above are in stark contrast to figure S1a and the claim to derive the latter from the former has to be a methodological nonsense. One might look closer into the details, but I have by now lost all inclination to do so.
Normally I would have written a lengthy comment on Delson and Harvati et al., but Wade has already comprehensively done so. She ends her comment with the quote
“The evidence is very weak”. And so it is.
Hausfather and Chan et al. offer another correction of historical climate data and as always the correction is towards and yields a better fit with the prevailing orthodoxy. If there is a change of measurement producing or eliminating a bias offset, what we expect is a step in the plotted data. What we do not expect is a change from one essentially smooth and approximately linear curve to another with a different slope yielding a continuously rising difference.
In their admixture analysis Feldman et al. could only find what they were looking for – in this case a Mesolithic European contribution they chose to call Greek. Looking at their figure 2a, the population those early Philistines cluster most closely with are the West Anatolians, confirming Zangger’s Luwian hypothesis (list of 2019-02-01).
Berger et al. confirm what I've said before: If you can rule out contamination by extraneous lead, then lead isotopes are the only available means of provenancing tin. That said I don't understand their conclusions. Their data too point to a source in Africa for the Uluburun and Hishuley tin. I've no idea where their 290 Ma come from and they don't tell us.
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.
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.
Schroeder et al. is one more example of an article with three authors and a long list of joy riders.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To my mind, all the arguments listed by Bennison-Chapman confirm, rather than, as claimed, contradict Schmandt-Besserat’s older theory.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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