Articles to 2018-05-21

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

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Reich et al.'s conclusion as summarized by Hovenden & Newton is completely unsupported by their data. First they only measure standing biomass instead of primary production as they should have and they do not tell us, if their plots were grazed or excess growth otherwise removed instead of clogging up the plants. But even taking their results at face value, they are obviously unusable. They only look at the difference between controls and elevated carbon dioxide and ignore the absolute values. If everything had gone as expected, their controls under ambient conditions should have stayed constant with slight oscillations about the mean. This is more or less what we see for their C4 grass. The C3 on the other hand suffers a total collapse to less than a third of its starting value, all of it in the first phase, before their “unexpected result” sets in. Towards the end C3 sees a slight rebound that's a bit stronger for the ambient control than the elevated plots. In all their whole purported and unexpected result, contradicting every other experiment and observation, rests on an obvious failure in the control base line. Sometimes experiments just go wrong and not seeing this, when it's that obvious, is inexcusable.

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I have never liked luminescence dating much. Its results rely too much on assumptions and approximate secondary measurements and many, often most, individual data points fall outside the declared two-sigma-band, making the result depend upon subjective choice. Clark-Balzan et al. is a case in point. Their result looks reasonable but it depends more on prior assumptions than actual measurements.

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When Renfrew built a suite of models for different kinds of exchange mechanisms and the consequences for find distribution in the archaeology record, he offered an important research tool, but one of limited resolution. I have never been convinced by archaeologist's uncritical adoption of his down-the-line model to the near exclusion of all others and it seems my skepticism is confirmed by the new study by Ibáñez et al.

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Talhelm et al. chimes with Clark’s A Farewell to Alms (list 0f 2012-09-01). Human attitudes and behaviour is deeply ingrained by long cultural heritage. Clark asks the additional and controversial question, how much of it might have become inherited after thousands of years of selection.

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The murderous ideology of Socialism has caused more death, more suffering, more poverty and deprivation that any other, perhaps more than all others combined. I was appalled by the article by Gonzáles-Ruibal et al. in the otherwise reputable journal Antiquity. They ask “What do we have, as archaeologists, to the citizens of the decaying towns of the US Midwest?” Archaeology if it is anything worthwhile at all is science. To see how ridiculous the question cited above is, just replace archaeology by physics, chemistry or astronomy. It might make borderline sense with an applied science like engineering.

It gets worse when Gonzáles-Ruibal et al. blatantly announce: “The material remains of the past, along with living traditions and the environment, can often be destroyed with little or no consultation in the pursuit of ever-growing profit. Despite some arguments, predatory capitalism does not need archaeologists, simply because it does not need legitimizing narratives.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Like it or not, the preservation of cultural heritage is a pursuit and preoccupation of the sated and the secure. The vulnerable and hungry have other priorities and more pressing things on their minds.

Like other academics, archaeologists lead a privileged life feeding off the working and net tax payers of society. This does of course oblige them to give something worth-while back in return, but that something certainly is not high handed lecturing and preaching the party line.

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Burkert et al. offer a novel take on the term measurement. I find it instructive to compare their comprehensible and testable model to those overfitted ones favoured by economists and climatologists, comprising more adjustable parameters than underlying data points.

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Curry and Zhilin et al. offer competition to the unique temple at Göbekli Tepe and show that the time for change and monumental religion had come in more than one part of the world.

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