Articles to 2019-10-02

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


It seems to me that everything Gollwitzer et al. report can be explained through effort. When social information does not come to you intuitively, you have to think and concentrate. The same thing is observable in colour-deficient vision. Colour impaired people tend to be better at discriminating between slight differences in brightness, because they need all the help they can get. In the same way sighted people can be trained to gather a lot of information about spaces from their sounds and echoes, they just normally don't need to and don't try very hard.


I have no idea whether Peters et al. has any relevance at all. We're not given or shown any data, only regression lines. All the numbers added carry no information whatsoever and are simply taken straight off those lines themselves, not that the authors would tell us that. To be of any practical value, the relationship would also have to be the other way round. With confidence as parameter, as here, they tell us next to nothing. But treating innate ability as given, is there any value in boosting people's confidence? We don't know and we aren't told, possibly because that relationship turned out statistically insignificant. We aren't told that either.


“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.

Higher temperatures increase the probability and severity of forest fires, at least in the short term after cooler years leaving more combustible material lying around. As Escobar shows, climate is not the main driver of the current tropical fires, intentional deforestation is.

The end of the snowball earth 2200 million[1] years ago is usually attributed to a rise of volcanic carbon dioxide and its resulting warming melting the ice. As Hand reports (no primary publication yet), the melt was probably initiated by a large meteor impact. This means that carbon dioxide alone was a weaker driver than so far assumed.

The Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum is the best documented case of a carbon dioxide driven thermal excursion and is used to model the outcome of the anthropogenic carbon release. As Zeebe & Lourens show it was preceded by an exceptional state of prolonged eccentricity. The dependence of carbon dioxide and temperature runs both ways and it's hard to determine which was cause and which effect. The best example so far for causal carbon dioxide is not as clear cut as it seemed.

All this of course is not to say that most of the current problems were not anthropogenic, but rather to direct effort towards the real causes and problems instead of wasting resources on religious symbolism. Looking back at former catastrophes in our long history does not induce optimism. Rational analysis and sensibly directed effort are not what humans tend to do, witch hunts, flagellantism, and erecting mo‘ai are. Just look at any hill ridge in Europe.


Group size and social structure are two things Paleolithic archaeologists have been speculating about for decades or even centuries. Duveau et al. is the first time we're ever given hard and reliable data. It's gratifying to find them not far off all the former guesses and speculations, so the main conclusions about population sizes and structures still hold.


North Korea demonstrates what controlling the information people receive can do. North Koreans cannot see what is not targeted for them from above, and Facebook users will not see what is not targeted for them from above. As of today the latter effect is much weaker and less efficient. Studies like Aral & Eckles work hard at remedying that deficiency. Of course they claim to be doing it to prevent the manipulation of elections and public opinion but in reality they design and optimize the means to do the very opposite and place them into the hands of the governing class while advocating for the abolition of the very rights of privacy that currently make this difficult. They go so far as to call what they're doing a “civic duty”.


This blog is non-political. but where science becomes subverted by politics, comment on science has to cover that aspect too. Please note, that my comments are not political as such, i.e. they do not contain political opinion and party preference, but solely about those in power, controlling government agencies and all their resources, targeting science directed by those agencies at mainly smaller opposition. Where science is abused by the ruling class or in danger of becoming so, science commenting has to pick that up.

No, I refuse to use the inflated American counting where a milliard is called a billion, even if most of Britain has succumbed to it. The correct British English I learnt uses the same counting as French and German.     Zurück

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