Articles to 2017-05-21

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First the link to this week’s complete list as HTML and as PDF.


At first sight reading about human DNA from ancient sediments in Wade reminds me a lot of N-rays. So I pulled up and reread Langmuir’s (1953) famous article on pathological science. The first of his six rules is the one this reminded me of: “The maximum effect is produced by a causative agent of barely detectable intensity, and the magnitude of the effect is substantially independent of the intensity of the cause.” Tick. But the other five symptoms are missing and the authors seem to have been doing sensible cross checks, so with some caution I’ll accept those results.

They will not of course be of any help with mixed and disturbed stratigraphies, so Stringer’s hope for the Uluzzian may well be misguided.


Reading Taylor et al. on the spread of horses around 1200 BC I can’t help but wonder if the very first of the recurrent Mongol invasions might not have occurred near the time of the breakdown of the Bronze Age societies. It can’t have been the only or even main reason, but could it have added one more to the diverse triggers all coming together at nearly the same time?


Considering the pervasive significance of gender aspects on nearly all aspects of culture, is has always been disturbing to note how gender studies tend to be concerned with the female position and mostly conducted by women. This lacuna has now been filled by Lindsay & Boyle who lucidly expose not just male superiority but maleness as such as the social construct it clearly is.


In subjects like the medical sciences you often have to resort to partial inferences. You may have a correlation between e.g. cholesterol and heart disease and a drug successfully lowering cholesterol. What you do not have and what will take a long time to be established is proof about any efficacy of the drug on the illness it’s meant to treat. You then have to act on the best of your partial knowledge.

In their study of fluting on projectiles Thomas et al. have just added a further twist. Here they do have the complete and final outcome – in their experiment fluting did not reduce breakage at all. But because of two partial correlations, fluting moves damage to the base and basal damage tends to absorb more energy, they claim their hypothesis to be proven after all.

That said there may still be something in their proposed modelling results. Their experiment did not employ impact with its essentially unlimited force for low ductility material but slow static compression and they did not use knapped points with their textured surface but smooth machine milled ones. Both can substantially alter the outcome so their hypothesis may still be correct. But if so, their experiment did not show it.

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