Articles to 2018-05-14

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


Everybody, Israel included, seems to assume that the Saudi-Arabians are our friends while the Iranians are all evil. Al Kaida was wholly Saudi Arabian and all the centres of European radicalism, where the recruiting for Daesh comes from, are Saudi sponsored. The Persian culture on the other hand has always been one of the most liberal among all its neighbours in an unbroken continuity for nearly three thousand years. By making ourselves the external enemy we help the widely unloved mullah regime to stay in power. Their stance towards ancient culture and its monuments as reported by Lawler is just one example of the contrast between the two.


Maxwell et al. have not quite proved their point. The most often suggested driver is not climate change as such, i.e. from one state to another, but bouts of climate variability with large and fast fluctuations. Within the resolution of their proxy these oscillating periods may well show up as a time of medium dust flow on average.


I have yet to see a sillier and more confusing way of presenting data than the one chosen in Pennisi. Trying to untangle the values, I can not see them to show what it is claimed they do.


Why have I overlooked Kuhn & Stiner until now? From everything I read elsewhere, Neanderthals were our technological and intellectual equals and the main advantage of moderns were their social skills. Levallois is known to be the most demanding of all tool technologies and blade production efficient but comparatively primitive and far easier to learn. An interesting take on this is made in the short story by Jeff Hecht, nature 453 (2008), 562. (I have a stake in this: the clichéd and proverbial engineer of jokes and anecdotes is known for his social incompetence.)

If true, what does this really mean? Undoubtedly the highest degree of social competence is that exhibited by impostors and con-artists followed by bullies able to attract a band of loyal followers. Look at who gains dominance in French suburbs right now and manages to expel all others. I know of no weapon-induced lesions on Neanderthal skeletons and there's ample proof of their care for incapacitated elders. (Despite all its factual nonsense I really love Hecht's story.)

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