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Barratt 2015

Alexandra Barratt, The risks of overdiagnosis. nature 527 (2015), Supplement, S104.

Screening mammograms catch some cancers that pose little threat. Alexandra Barratt explains why she may decide to skip the scans.

Blanton 2015

Richard Blanton & Lane Fargher, With moralizing gods, exclusion reigns. science 350 (2015), 393.

It is true that a moralizing religion may enhance generosity and reduce the likelihood of cheating, but most often these behaviors are expressed only among coreligionists. Meanwhile, it is exactly this kind of selectivity and bias that can inhibit cooperation when large social scale entails ethnic and religious diversity, as it typically does today and has in the past.

Dale 2015

James Dale, Cody J. Dey, Kaspar Delhey, Bart Kempenaers & Mihai Valcu, The effects of life history and sexual selection on male and female plumage colouration. nature 527 (2015), 367–370.

Classical sexual selection theory1–4 provides a well-supported conceptual framework for understanding the evolution and signalling function of male ornaments. It predicts that males obtain greater fitness benefits than females through multiple mating because sperm are cheaper to produce than eggs. Sexual selection should therefore lead to the evolution of male-biased secondary sexual characters. However, females of many species are also highly ornamented. The view that this is due to a correlated genetic response to selection on males1,8 was widely accepted as an explanation for female ornamentation for over 100 years5 and current theoretical9,10 and empirical11–13 evidence suggests that genetic constraints can limit sex-specific trait evolution. Alternatively, female ornamentation can be the outcome of direct selection for signalling needs. Since few studies have explored interspecific patterns of both male and female elaboration, our understanding of the evolution of animal ornamentation remains incomplete, especially over broad taxonomic scales. Here we use a new method to quantify plumage colour of all  6,000 species of passerine birds to determine the main evolutionary drivers of ornamental colouration in both sexes. We found that conspecific male and female colour elaboration are strongly correlated, suggesting that evolutionary changes in one sex are constrained by changes in the other sex. Both sexes are more ornamented in larger species and in species living in tropical environments. Ornamentation in females (but not males) is increased in cooperative breeders—species in which female–female competition for reproductive opportunities and other resources related to breeding may be high. Finally, strong sexual selection on males has antagonistic effects, causing an increase in male colouration but a considerably more pronounced reduction in female ornamentation. Our results indicate that although there may be genetic constraints to sexually independent colour evolution, both female and male ornamentation are strongly and often differentially related to morphological, social and life-history variables.

Dance 2015

Amber Dance, How online studies are transforming psychology research, News Feature. PNAS 112 (2015), 14399–14401.

The samples are large and diverse, but will this trend strengthen the field or merely introduce new sources of error? The benefits are clear: easily accessible, large, diverse subject pools that extend beyond psychology students seeking course credit. But researchers must guard against online pitfalls. Participation is inherently biased toward those who choose to take online surveys or tests, sometimes for money. Psychologists must take care to understand their respondents, and make inferences only for the categories of people represented. However, researchers have no way to confirm who their online subjects are, and they have to watch out for dishonest or distracted participants who might introduce misleading data.


Clines 2015

David J. A. Clines, The Holy and the Clean, An Excursion in Comparative Lexicography. unknown (2015), preprint, 1–18.

I began with observation of the reference to Bathsheba’s ‘sanctifying’ herself in 2 Sam. 11.4. I conclude from the evidence of the use of \cjRL{qd+s} in Classical Hebrew, from a study of its treatment in the history of Hebrew lexicography, and from a probe into the root qds in Semitic generally that in that verse the hithpael of \cjRL{qd+s} means, as it does elsewhere, ‘sanctify oneself’. Clearly, Bathsheba is washing herself in a ritual of purification, but the biblical author refers to that as an act of sanctification rather than of purification. Is such a use of \cjRL{qd+s} merely a looseness, or does it harbour some deeper significance? I would urge that a modern translation should retain ‘sanctifying’ or some such term, and leave it to readers to puzzle over why she should be said to doing that.

Another conclusion I draw from the present study is that it is essential to be aware of the more than 500-year history of Hebrew lexicography. More of what we read in the dictionaries on our desk than we might like to think has been created and conditioned during that long history, not all of it in line with our current standards of linguistic and lexicographical research.

And finally, my sampling of other Semitic lexica leaves me thinking that among the Semitic languages Hebrew, despite its lexicographical traditionalism, is perhaps not the worst served by its lexica.

Dever 1971

William G. Dever et al., Further Excavations at Gezer, 1967–1971. Biblical Archaeologist 34 (1971), 93–132.

William G. Dever, H. Darrell Lance, Reuben G. Bullard, Dan P. Cole, Anita M. Furshpan, John S. Holladay, Jr, Joe D. Seger & Robert B. Wright

Our eight seasons of excavation at Gezer have still left many questions unanswered. Nevertheless, we can now give at least a sketch of the history of one of the most important sites in Palestine. A preliminary correlation of the occupational phases in- the Various fields reveals that thrde are at least 26 strata on the mounds, more than the number of any other published site in Palestine – and in striking contrast to the mere eight strata discerned by Macalister!

Miletto 2015

Gianfranco Miletto, Von den Torot zur Torah. (unveröffentlicht 2015).

Wellhausen had already defended the thesis that the conception of the Pentateuch as Mosaic Law, on which the stereotyped representation of a monolithic Judaism depends, only goes back to the post-exilic period. Despite vehement discussions by the modern scholars, the thesis of Wellhausen was confirmed by the discoveries of Qumran. The idea of the Torah as divine law, its connection to Moses, and identification with the Pentateuch writings is the result of a long and troubled process concluded only in the Hellenistic age.

Johann Maier has underlined in many publications, what importance the political-social factors for the achievement of the Pentateuch as the basic constitutional document of Judaism had, both towards the authority of foreign governments, and within Judaism itself, in the age of the Second Temple. The present paper intends to delineate, mainly on the basis of Johann Maier’s studies, the historical course, starting from the Babylonian exile up to the end of the Second Temple period, that brought the identification of the Pentateuch with the Mosaic Law. Particularly, it puts in relief the role that the Alexandrine Jewish community had in completing a process that was already begun during the Babylonian exile.

Ussishkin 2014

David Ussishkin, Sennacherib’s Campaign to Judah, The Archaeological Perspective with an Emphasis on Lachish and Jerusalem. In: Isaac Kalimi & Seth Richardson (Hrsg.), Sennacherib at the Gates of Jerusalem, Story, History and Historiography. Culture and History of the Ancient Near East 71 (Leiden 2014), 75–103.

Summarizing the evidence from Lachish and Jerusalem, it appears that both cities were heavily fortif©¦ied and formed pivotal strongholds of a rebellious Judah. In each of them, Sennacherib settled his business in a diffferent fashion, and it can be assumed that he acted according to a preconceived plan. The analysis and interpretation of the archaeological data help us to reconstruct the overall intentions and plans of the Assyrian monarch.

The events at Lachish and Jerusalem can be explained in the following way. It seems that Sennacherib, given the choice, did not intend to conquer Jerusalem by force. It seems that he intended to bring the rebellion to an end, to crush Hezekiah’s military force, to reduce the kingdom of Judah to poverty, and to turn Hezekiah into a loyal Assyrian vassal. It was preferable to come to terms with the king of Judah and turn him into an Assyrian vassal than to conquer and destroy Jerusalem and annex Judah to Assyria as a province.


Praetorius 2015

S. K. Praetorius, A. C. Mix, M. H. Walczak, M. D. Wolhowe, J. A. Addison & F. G. Prahl, North Pacific deglacial hypoxic events linked to abrupt ocean warming. nature 527 (2015), 362–366.

Marine sediments from the North Pacific document two episodes of expansion and strengthening of the subsurface oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) accompanied by seafloor hypoxia during the last deglacial transition. The mechanisms driving this hypoxia remain under debate. We present a new high-resolution alkenone palaeotemperature reconstruction from the Gulf of Alaska that reveals two abrupt warming events of 4–5 degrees Celsius at the onset of the Bølling and Holocene intervals that coincide with sudden shifts to hypoxia at intermediate depths. The presence of diatomaceous laminations and hypoxia-tolerant benthic foraminiferal species, peaks in redox-sensitive trace metals12,13, and enhanced 15N/14N ratio of organic matter13, collectively suggest association with high export production. A decrease in 18O/16O values of benthic foraminifera accompanying the most severe deoxygenation event indicates subsurface warming of up to about 2 degrees Celsius. We infer that abrupt warming triggered expansion of the North Pacific OMZ through reduced oxygen solubility and increased marine productivity via physiological effects; following initiation of hypoxia, remobilization of iron from hypoxic sediments could have provided a positive feedback on ocean deoxygenation through increased nutrient utilization and carbon export. Such a biogeochemical amplification process implies high sensitivity of OMZ expansion to warming.

Projected future warming of the subpolar North Pacific will probably exceed the temperatures associated with past hypoxic events by the mid-twenty-first century30, at sustained rates comparable to those preceding the deglacial hypoxic events. If enhanced biological productivity amplifies future deoxygenation as our evidence suggests it has in the past, substantial expansion of subsurface hypoxia beyond that predicted solely from thermal solubility effects may occur. While severe hypoxia would be catastrophic in the near-term for marine ecosystems and fisheries18, the resulting reduction of carbon remineralization rates and enhanced burial of organic matter associated with hypoxia may also provide a long-term negative feedback on rising CO2 and greenhouse-driven warming, as may have occurred during the deglacial hypoxic events.


Ben-Dor Evian 2015

Shirly Ben-Dor Evian, “They were thr on land, others at sea…“, The Etymology of the Egyptian Term for “Sea-Peoples”. Semitica 57 (2015), 57–75.

To conclude, the affiliation of the “Sea-Peoples” with the thr warriors of the Late Bronze Age Levant dramatically changes our perception of the allegedly foreign nature of these populations. It is from the Levant itself, and not from the “sea” that some of the “Sea-Peoples” actually came.

Lemos 2006

Irene S. Lemos, The ‘Dark Age’ of Greece. In: Edward Bispham, Thomas Harrison & Brian Sparkes (Hrsg.), The Edinburgh Companion to Ancient Greece and Rome. (Edinburgh 2010), 87–91.

Compared with what came before it, and what came after, this period can no longer be considered ‘dark’, only different. It is clear that a number of features which in the past were thought to post-date the ‘Dark Age’ had already appeared during its course. One of the most important is that communication within and outside Greece had already revived, stimulating an improvement in living conditions, which brought with it changes in the social structures of early Greek communities.

It is at least misleading not to recognise that, during the so-called ‘Dark Age’, archaeology reveals the rise of the processes which led towards the formation of the city-states.


Cowen 2015

Ron Cowen, Space, Time, Entanglement. nature 527 (2015), 290–293.

Many physicists believe that entanglement is the essence of quantum weirdness — and some now suspect that it may also be the essence of space-time.

Janssen 2015

Michel Janssen & Jürgen Renn, Einstein was no lone genius. nature 527 (2015), 298–301.

Lesser-known and junior colleagues helped the great physicist to piece together his general theory of relativity, explain Michel Janssen and Jürgen Renn.

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