mindstalk: (Default)
"Jumping spiders can see the moon." Awesome eyes, apparently. https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/06/jumping-spiders-can-see-the-moon/529329/

Cabbage white sex life https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/06/butterfly-cabbage-white-vagina-dentata/530889/

Papa John's peppers https://www.thrillist.com/eat/nation/papa-johns-pizza-peppers-pepperoncini-pepper

What happened to the Greenland Vikings (2015). Leans toward the settlements existing for the walrus ivory hunt, and being abandoned after the rise of elephant ivory, the Black Death, and oh yeah, a century of cooling climate. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/why-greenland-vikings-vanished-180962119/

Hearing voices and how culture can affect dealing with non-standard neurology. (Psychic, weird, or schizophrenic?) https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/06/psychics-hearing-voices/531582/

10 year old article on "positive psychology" http://harvardmagazine.com/2007/01/the-science-of-happiness.html

11 year old article on behavioral economics http://harvardmagazine.com/2006/03/the-marketplace-of-perce.html

Decline of front bench seats in cars https://jalopnik.com/why-front-bench-seats-went-away-1776706852

1660s air pollution https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fumifugium

Jared Diamond on hunter-gatherer childrearing. http://www.newsweek.com/best-practices-raising-kids-look-hunter-gatherers-63611

Suffragette martial arts http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/suffrajitsu

Nice table of Gospel events https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_harmony#A_parallel_harmony_presentation

Mussels that live on asphalt volcanoes https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/06/the-mussels-that-eat-oil/530775/

How New Zealand got PR elections http://www.sightline.org/2017/06/19/this-is-how-new-zealand-fixed-its-voting-system/


2016-Oct-01, Saturday 22:46
mindstalk: (Default)
Perspective of an ex-neo-Confederate.

Weekly church attendance by state.

Barcelona's plans for superblocks.  And Barcelona transit: crazy trains but hyperrational bus grid, with lines labeled as H2 or V5 ,for Horizontal or Vertical.

Paris turns the bus stop into major transit infrastructure.

Save a biker, use the Dutch reach in opening car doors.

Not sure if this is correct or just plausible, but words on why Europe, or cold climates in general, doesn't have many venomous animals.

The mythology of "Irish slavery".

mindstalk: (science)
Cook pasta. Leave the pasta in its water in case you want to make soup, scooping out pasta as needed for other dishes. Leave pasta in its water in the pot on the stove (physically, but gas off), figuring it can't go bad in a day, right? Discover 18 hours later that no, it does have an off smell already.

This happened years ago with a rice and lentil thing, actually: left it moist on the stove, it smelled bad a day later. In both cases, it's a gas stove with a vigorous pilot light, so there actually is some heat input even when 'off'. Also in both cases, the food was warm, whether from the pilot light or from vigorous biological activity or both. I suppose I could experiment, with the pot moved somewhere else. (And not the top of the fridge.)


2015-Aug-15, Saturday 18:47
mindstalk: (Default)
Oil state prudence and sovereign wealth funds: Norway vs. Alberta, also a look at how Norway's fund invests. I liked the Albertan complaining that Norway is a relatively small country: yes, but it has more people than Alberta... http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/international-business/european-business/norways-sovereign-wealth-fund/article25973060/?click=sf_globefb

Debunking the fear about EMPs http://foreignpolicy.com/2013/05/24/the-empire-strikes-back/

Portugal, optimal currency area, and labor mobility: fiscal union trumps labor mobility in importance. http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/08/14/the-downside-of-labor-mobility/
Who cares about reserve currency status? http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/08/12/international-money-mania/

First we export pollution to China via outsourcing, now they export it back to us via air movements: http://www.sgvtribune.com/environment-and-nature/20150810/air-pollution-from-china-undermining-gains-in-california-western-states

Trees and bus stop waiting time perception http://www.citylab.com/commute/2015/08/trees-can-make-waiting-for-the-bus-feel-shorter/401135/?utm_source=atlanticFB

How the US 'justice' system abuses bail: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/magazine/the-bail-trap.html?smid=tw-nytmag&_r=0

Vampire squid: not a squid. (Or vampire, durr.) http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2015/06/23/vampire-squids-arent-vampires-or-squids/

Real paleo diet might have evolved around carbs. Oops! http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/13/science/for-evolving-brains-a-paleo-diet-full-of-carbs.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur

Privacy Badger, an EFF alternative to the supposedly more commercial Ghostery browser plug-in. https://www.eff.org/press/releases/privacy-badger-10-blocks-sneakiest-kinds-online-tracking
mindstalk: (Default)
I forgot how complicated plant sex was. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plant_reproductive_morphology#Use_of_sexual_terminology

"Plants have a complex lifecycle involving alternation of generations. One generation, the sporophyte, gives rise to the next generation via spores. Spores may come in different sizes (microspores and megaspores), but strictly speaking, spores and sporophytes are neither male nor female. The alternate generation, the gametophyte, produces eggs and sperm. A gametophyte can be either female (producing eggs), male (producing sperm) or hermaphrodite (monoicous, producing both eggs and sperm).

In groups like liverworts, mosses and hornworts, the dominant generation is the sexual gametophyte. In ferns and seed plants (including cycads, conifers, flowering plants, etc.) the sporophyte is by far the most dominant generation. The obvious visible plant, whether a small herb or a large tree, is the sporophyte, and the gametophyte is very small."

Edit: this wasn't even in Biology class. Weird hybrid sex! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parthenogenesis#Hybridogenesis And it's how the edible frog reproduces.

Today in biology

2013-Jul-08, Monday 22:30
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RPG.net has a thread on "what if the Cretaceous and early Iron Ages were mixed up somehow?" e.g. humans interacting with surprise dinosaurs and such. As often happens with silly geeky threads with well-selected geeks, I learned non-silly things.

The largest living reptile and land predator are the same animal, which I have never ever heard of before: the saltwater crocodile. With the largest range of any croc too, from east India through Indonesia to northern Australia, and individuals found as far as Japan, southern Australia, and east Africa. They're territorial/aggressive/stupid enough to attack boats in their territory, though I don't know exactly what that means behaviorally. Also, something distinguishing crocodilian+s from alligators is salt glands excreting excess salt, though no other croc is as marine as the saltwater.

Humpback whales are baleen whales, which means I always thought of them as big singing cows, grazing plankton or krill which might as well be plants. Wikipedia describes them as cooperative tool-using predators, hunting down schools of 'small' fish like Atlantic salmon by weaving bubble nets (which I've heard of, but I think from dolphins) and group tactics to herd the fish into nicely scoopable density. This had come up because of someone wondering about mosasaurs eating the same fish fishermen wanted, even if they didn't attack boats, and someone else saying fish already live with whale-sized predators.

Ah right, mosasaurs, last of the great marine apex predators, after icthyosaurs and then plesiosaurs. As big as sperm whales in the largest cases. Live birth seems common to all of them. It was suggested that if salties attack small boats, whale-sized mosasaurs might attack 15 foot fishing boats for the prey inside. I'm skeptical, but I've learned that one thing dumber than "Someone Is Wrong On the Internet" is "Someone has different untestable assumptions on the Internet."

Someone supporting the Doom Predators idea asked "have you seen a trireme? They're not that big." I have not but I did look them up. 37 meter lengths. 24 m for biremes. Phoenician merchant ships 16+m long and 6+m wide. Longships 16-36m in length. Vs. sperm whales and top mosasaurs of about 16 m in length. Would such animals attack a high-walled piece of wood as big as let alone bigger than they are? Would they continue to do so after being stabbed a few times by spears? Especially near the eye?

I also learned that T. rex was about as tall at the hip and as massive as male African elephants. T. rex is *long* but generally shown cantilevered, not standing up. The mass estimates are in dispute; some thing even those are too high, while others thing they could have massed up to 9 tons, as opposed to 5-7. Also it had lots of hollow bones... Forelimbs are infamously short but apparently really strong, suggesting non-vestigial function, perhaps to hold prey.

Currently research seems to say T. rex couldn't move faster than a human sprinter, if that (25 mph, 11 meter/s) and probably not properly run (have an airborne phase) at all, like elephants.

Triceratops is more massive, actually, 6-12m. And yes, it did co-exist with and have duels with T. rex. Not as long or as high, I guess thicker?


2013-Mar-27, Wednesday 17:27
mindstalk: (Default)
I've been trying to reset my sleep schedule to something more in tune with society. So far I'm just massively jet lagged without the fun of having gone anywhere.

Snooze buttons are bad for you or at least can be, especially if you actually fall asleep you again; sleep has phases, and you can fall into a deeper phase than you were initially. This might also explain something I found during my orals prep: for two weeks my body refused to sleep more than 3 hours a night, and I was tired all the time, but trundled through my studied. The day of my exam I set my alarm, got woken up after three hours, and felt like nauseous crap. There's a difference between three hours because stupid body wakes up and three hours because alarm.

Another column on how teens naturally sleep at 11pm for 9 hours despite US insanity of having high schooler start earlier than elementary school.


NY Times takes on the Senate, the least democratic legislature in the developed world. 66:1 ratio in power between WY and CA. Why do the 500,000 people of Wyoming deserve more power (and federal money) than the 500,000 people of Fresno?


Cosmic ray bit flips a growing problem?

Cracked on gun myths or weird facts: gun ads are weird, there's no typical mass shooter, making suicide harder does work to reduce suicides, there's weird gun/god association, violence is down, guns get collected like expensive Barbie dolls, maybe all the gun porn and violent games reduce overall violence while increasing mass shootings. Maybe.


social mobility of food services, and contribution of liquor to urban vitality

Las Vegas female bartenders. Another profession gets sexualized and off-limited for the non-young.


Transit has big benefits. Even if a small %age of trips is via transit, those will be disproportionately trips that otherwise would have been on congested roads, so the benefit is larger than one might expect. I always said drivers should welcome transit subsidies as reducing the competition for road and parking...

Productivity minimum wage would be $22/hour. Inflation-linked would be over $10.50
mindstalk: (Default)
I ran across two "bad Catholics" links today. One on an alleged gay network within the Vatican (paging Dan Brown), the other on the founder of the ultra-conservative Legion of Christ, a priest who sexually abused his own children... children which he shouldn't have on account of being a priest. (By a mistress, not by a dead pre-priesthood wife.)

In unrelated, horror, a friend linked to this case of twisted suburbia, where two homes with back-to-back yards can reach each other via seven miles of roads. Comments note that such cul-de-sac design seems bad for evacuation or fire access: block one road and no one can get out.

Jumping yet again, we get carnivory in cows and deer and elephants and other supposedly dedicated herbivores (unlike the KFC-eating chickens I mentioned last year; chickens do eat insects after all.)

I am not a vegetarian. I'd like my meat to come from humanely treated animals but I'm not superdiligent about even that. I'm not unconflicted, I just kind of write it off with "meh, other issues, the natural world is arguably worse" and stuff like that. Nonetheless, when I see a post and comments totally mocking Pearce's Abolitionist Project, I get filled with rage.[1]

A study claims the evidence of sugar causing diabetes is pretty strong. There are truffles on my shelf I haven't eaten yet. I am conflicted.

Happy news! Former US prosecutors and DEA agents defending Colombian drug traffickers. At least it sounds happy, like "we had an attack of conscience", not "oooh, what big wallets you narcolords have".

Pretty funny though not reliable guide to the papal candidates.

Putting babies out to sleep in the freezing cold: child abuse or Nordic custom?

[1] Doubt it's possible is fine. Doubt that even if we thought we could, we'd be wise enough to do so well, is fine. A general suspicious of crazy-sounding extreme ideas is more than fine. "Ha ha he wants to abolish holocaust-loads of pain and suffering, what a doodyhead" or "But all the suffering makes things of beauty" are just terrible, IMO. Yeah, I know I risk hypocrisy here ("meat is tasty"). I'm fine with that for now, and while I poke at them I don't *laugh* mockingly at vegetarians.


2013-Jan-21, Monday 12:59
mindstalk: (kirin)
Annals of a banana republic:
Texas under Perry:cut school budgets, give corporate welfare, get campaign donations
bright note: Daimler says it avoids incentives out of school budgets
"our workers send their kids there"

Cambodia propaganda state via karaoke and comedians. Sounds like something out of Transhuman Space Broken Dreams

MLK day poem

what's good for American Airline isn't good for their execs

government can't save

Several from the Economist:

Indian genes in Australia; stone tool upgrade

soot pollution worse than thought

American embassy reported on Beijing pollution

Austrialia had 40 degree national average temperature , high of 50

global warming governance: geonengineering, migration

safe asset shortage

China nuclear power

four winged protobird
mindstalk: (science)

"In 1993, however, its nocturnal assaults were captured on video,[5] proving that at least some Kea will attack and feed on healthy sheep. The video confirmed what many scientists had long suspected, that the Kea uses its powerful curved beak and claws to rip through the layer of wool and eat the fat from the back of the animal. Though the bird does not directly kill the sheep, death can result from blood poisoning or accidents suffered by animals trying to escape."

The world's largest parrot, the Hyacinth macaw, is a meter long. Granted, a lot of that is a long tail. It's still strong enough to open coconuts. Your fingers aren't safe around any large parrot beak but this one seems particularly unwise to taunt.

I forget if I mentioned cannibal chickens here. When last in Spokane, my brother-in-law threw KFC scraps to his backyard chickens, and they went *nuts* over it. Nuts as in racing to pick at the bones. This ties in with things I've heard elsewhere but can't recall, to a hypothesis that there aren't any natural herbivores by inclination, just would-be carnivores with varying abilities to obtain meat and alternate backup strategies.

Ever since my mother told me about feral parrots in Hyde Park in Chicago, I've wondered how they survive the winter. I still don't *know*. My leading hypothesis was sheltering against warm buildings. But the star of North America, the monk parakeet, is kind of temperate zoned, being found as far south as Buenos Aires (up to 35 S, I guess. But Chicago is 42, and I've seen claims of colonies in Wisconsin.) It also uniquely (for parrots) builds big stick nests, which may help it shelter, and it's social in big flocks, so can huddle for warmth.


But the rose-ringed parakeet is outright tropical, with a Wikipedia map showing the Sahel and India as its natural range, and it's colonized Germany, London, and Manchester. What's up with that? I'm still looking at "warm building spots", but have added "they're warm-blooded and covered in feathers, they can survive as long as they get food regularly." Which is also where the urban nature fits in.


It's comforting to know that if I ever want a parrot, there are multiple species with abundance levels of "pest" as opposed to "vulnerable", or extinct like the Carolina parakeet.

'parakeet' seems to mean "small parrot with a long tail", it's not a clade of specifically related spacies.

I have lots of other links, but I guess I'll make this only about parrots.

Except for http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraphyletic I've often heard "reptiles aren't a real group, because they exclude birds (and mammals)", but there's a word for that, and the idea is of a related group minus members that have diverged sufficiently distinctly. Other examples are prokaryotes (eukaryotes are descended, but treated differently), primates or apes minus humans, ungulates minus whales (!), bony fish minus tetrapods, invertebrates minus vertebrates... pretty common.
mindstalk: (Default)
I'm currently reading this book, on recent human evolution. It's not an evolutionary psychology book, as that capsule description made someone thing, though it probably will be talking about evolution and the brain. It's by an anthropologist and a physicist, which is a bit odd, but nothing's obviously wrong about it so far.

Main idea isn't new to me: that human evolution, far from being halted by civilization, has in fact sped up. See John Hawks, who *is* an evolutionary biologist (longer piece, by him). Basic idea is that more people = more mutations and thus chances to adapt, and new environments, many of them created by us, means new things to adapt to. (Environment also includes new foods and diseases, and things like cities.)

The book structure is a bit odd; it spends most of chapter 2 talking about the possibility of incorporating adaptive Neanderthal genes, something for which in 2009 they had no real evidence apart from some intermediate skeletons in a few locations, not like the recent genetic evidence of Neanderthal and Denisovian genes. (Which might about as a verified prediction, then.) Speculation on incorporating genes, speculation on what we could have gotten out of them... not entirely divorced from evidence, but still odd.

But there's also math. Simple math. A neutral gene variant -- one with no adaptive effect -- lives or dies by chance, with a chance of taking over a population of 1/2N, N being the size of the population. But, per Haldane, an *adaptive* gene which grants one s% more children (a highly statistical measure, obviously) has probability 2s of sweeping a population. So a gene granting 1% more fitness has 2% chance of taking over. Not high for one such gene... but out of a 100, we'd expect 2 to take over.

(I suspect small number simplification; a 50% adaptive improvement can't be 100% likely to take over, though we can expect good things of it.)

Per Hawks, imagine that the frequency of 1% beneficial mutations is 1 per 10,000 people. Then a population of 10,000 will have 1 such mutation per generation, and it'll take on average 50 generations for one of those mutations to start taking over rather than withering away by chance.

But in a population of a million people, there'd be 100 mutations, and so we'd expect 2 mutations a generation to start being fixed. In 1000 years, 100 successful adaptations, rather than 1.

And we do in fact see lots of genes in the process of 'sweeping' populations. Mostly in metabolism and digestion, disease resistance, reproduction, DNA repair, and the central nervous system. The first two have obvious examples and aren't politically alarming, examples adult like lactose tolerance (less than 8000 years old in Europeans, 3000 years old in Tutsi) and malaria resistance (also 3000 years old.) They say skin color might be another one; hunter-gatherers can get vitamin D from meat, so even in the north don't have a big need for light skin, and several light-skin mutations are younger than agriculture. White people may not have existed 10,000 years ago. Europeans and Asians have more inactive variants of an African gene that promotes salt retention -- useful for high-sweating tropical dwellers, less so in cooler climates, and also leading to hypertension in a modern diet. East Asians apparently have various genes reducing the risk of alcoholism, and the authors speculate that the high rates of diabetes and alcoholism among 'indigenous' populations owe a lot to a near total lack of genetic adaptation to agricultural diets with lots of starch and alcohol.

But the central nervous system? That's the *brain*. Suggesting differences there is politically charged in the way that fire is hot. Yet if evolution happened in other parts of our biology, and it did, why should the brain be immune?

They agree that the amount of time we're talking about isn't enough to build up complex adaptations from scratch. But they point out that you don't need to; simple adaptations can still have big effects. There's huge variation in dogs (chihuahua, Great Dane; smart and friendly border collie, dumb basset hound and mean pitbull), just from shifting the balance of traits present in wolves, plus adding something that means dogs are far more attentive to humans (with the pinnacle of border collies, who can learn words in about 5 repetitions.) They don't mention the prairie and montane vole species, where a single gene change means monogamous pair bonding or not. And shifting the frequency of existing genes is far easier and faster than fixing a new mutation.

So even with all humans sharing the same basic mental mechanisms of intelligence and personality, the proportion of those mechanisms in various populations could easily have changed in the past 10,000 years. But you'll have to wait until I read the rest to hear what...