08 December 2022

Archeological evidence of crucifixion in Britain

Sometime between 130 and 360 C.E., a 25- to 35-year-old man in what’s now Cambridgeshire, England, died by crucifixion at the hands of the Roman Empire. His skeleton—found with a telltale nail hammered through its heel bone—represents one of the few surviving physical traces of the ancient punishment, report David Ingham and Corinne Duhig for British Archaeology magazine...

Archaeological evidence of crucifixion is rare, as victims often didn’t receive a proper burial. Additionally, most crucifixions used rope rather than nails to bind the condemned to a cross.

According to BBC News, scholars know of only three other possible physical examples of crucifixion during the ancient era: one found in La Larda in Gavello, Italy; one from Mendes in Egypt; and one from Giv’at ha-Mivtar in north Jerusalem...

Excavators discovered the remains, dubbed Skeleton 4926, during a dig conducted ahead of construction in the village of Fenstanton in 2017, reports PA Media. The community stands along the route of the Via Devana, an ancient Roman road that connected Cambridge to Godmanchester...

Skeleton 4926 showed evidence of severe suffering endured before death. According to a separate Cambridge statement, the man’s legs bore signs of infection or inflammation, possibly caused by binding or shackles. Six of his ribs were fractured, likely by blows from a sword.
Photo from British Archaeology magazine, where there is lots more information and many photos of the dig and the objects found.

"High overshoot" climate change ahead

An interesting article at The Washington Post looks at 1,200 possible scenarios regarding our planet's future climate (using the semi-arbitrary year of 2100 as an end point).  Most of the scenarios result in a global mean temperature rise of 2-5 degrees Celsius, widely considered to result in ominous or even extinction-level effects.

Of the "hopeful" scenarios, only 112 result in an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius or less by 2100.  The components of the scenarios (see the link for detail) involve such things as CO2 removal, decreased CO2 production, changing energy demand, reducing methane production etc.  If you narrow down the choices that permit "reasonable assumptions" about human behavior, there are no paths to keeping the mean temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

I'm in the "doom and gloom" camp.  I don't think humans will do anything meaningful. I think the people who have the power to effect meaningful change will not do so; they will continue to "kick the can down the road" hoping a future generation will solve the problem.  This includes businessmen, politicians, and individuals.  The former two groups will come up with multi-year "plans" but not allow their company or country to suffer while they themselves are still in power.  Adult individuals will remain either ignorant or indifferent because the latter years of the century are beyond their lifespan.

And I often wonder if in fact we have already gone past a "tipping point" but nobody is telling us that because they don't want the global public to panic.  

Is there no such thing as a fish ?

Cuttlefish = not fish
Starfish = not fish
Jellyfish = not fish
Silverfish = not fish
Shellfish = not fish

Seahorse = fish

07 December 2022

Peruvian politics

I received this email today from my cousin in Peru:
This morning I planned to tell you that the Peruvian Congress planned to impeach President Castillo, 
But before I could write you, President Castillo dissolved Congress, 
But before I could report that Castillo was taking action, his Cabinet ministers began to desert him, 
But before I could tell you that news, the Congress met and impeached Castillo,
Then Castillo, still defiant, called on the Armed Forces for support,
But the Armed Forces took a hard look at where they could conduct more graft,
And The Armed Forces told Castillo that he was on his own, 
And Castillo told his family to start packing,
But the family could not pack very quickly, because it was an awful lot of cash, 
And the police arrived at the Presidential Palace with an arrest warrant, 
And the family was still packing, because it was a lot of cash,
And the Legislature met to swear in the VP, Dina Balluarte, a real loose cannon, 
And she gave a speech in which she thanked the military and god, in that order, 
And Castillo was photographed leaving the Presidential Palace with a police escort,
And now life will go on. 

05 December 2022

Ancient Roman blanket

It looks like a blanket, but it's a mosaic floor, warped by earthquakes.
Antakya, anciently Antiochia on the Orontes, is a Turkish city renowned for its superb collection of Roman mosaics and a stunning museum. It can now add a truly remarkable geometric mosaic, lauded as being the largest surviving example in the world, to its public attractions...

Now a new attraction has opened to the public, displayed beneath a futuristic hotel. It takes the form of a unique archaeological park, the Necmi Asfuroğlu Archaeology Museum, which is home to the impressively sized great mosaic. This 1,050m² 4th-century pavement was discovered in 2009, when the Asfuroğlu family began constructing what was supposed to be a new luxury hotel on a site 2km from the centre of the modern city. However, it soon became apparent that the proposed location was full of incredible archaeology.

Instead of abandoning the project, the family decided to preserve the archaeological treasures by integrating them into their new hotel. The Asfuroğlu family worked alongside the Antakya Municipality, the Hatay Archaeology Museum, and the Adana Conservation Council for Cultural and Natural Assets to conduct the largest archaeological excavation in Turkey since the 1930s, and to plan a hotel that would cause the least disturbance to the archaeology. A team of 200, including 35 archaeologists and five restorers, worked for 18 months to complete the excavation and restoration. The finds were superb and included the great geometric pavement, beautiful mosaics such as the 2nd-century AD Bathing of Pegasus, panels devoted to the Muses, and a 5th-century mosaic of Megalopsychia, the physical embodiment of magnanimity, surrounded by birds...

The superb Pegasus or Helikon mosaic, with its Greek inscriptions, is said to contain a remarkable 160 colour shades of plant-dyed tesserae.
More information (and three additional images) at World Archaeology.  And kudos to that family for their preservation efforts.

Should you compost your underpants ?

The situation is more complicated than most people imagine.  
As apparel brands face pressure to curb fashion’s enormous waste problem, many are turning to resale programs that let consumers cash in on used duds. But companies that make intimates don’t typically have that option: When underwear is past its prime, the obvious solution is to toss it, adding up to billions of pounds of textile waste over time...

For two years, [Los-Angeles-based Kent] has been selling a line of “fully compostable” underwear made from 100% pima cotton, which has longer fibers and is known to last longer than traditional cotton blends. Customers can buy Kent undies for about $25 apiece... When a pair of Kent undies are ready for decommissioning, they can be dropped into a regular compost bin or mailed back to the company...

While Kent’s secret is using 100% cotton — with zero other materials, synthetic dyes or softeners — customers tend to prefer underwear that’s also stretchy, which requires the use of spandex or elastane. Neither is compostable or recyclable, and both have a low melting point that makes it difficult for the shredders used in textile-recycling plants to process in any large quantity... The problem is particularly acute for women’s underwear, which usually has elastic fibers throughout, whereas men’s boxers often have an elastic band that’s easier to remove...

Underwear and other stretchy garments that arrive at textile-recycling facilities are thus rarely shredded; instead they’re repurposed into padding in products like car seats, punching bags and pet beds...

Spandex isn’t the only culprit. Most women’s underwear also contains polyester and nylon — increasingly prevalent in textile production as a cheap alternative to natural fibers like cotton. Some intimates have also been found to contain high levels of BPA and PFAS chemicals..

“Another ancillary consequence of [materials like polyester and nylon] is they release microfibers into natural environments, both when you produce them in upstream production along with washing,” says Kibbe. “As they decompose, they release tremendous amounts of greenhouse gas emissions like methane into our ecosystems.”..

But would-be buyers may still feel weird about dropping their underwear in a compost bin alongside banana peels and coffee grounds, and there’s an understandable discomfort baked into the idea of mailing back used underwear. ..

Even harder than recycling underwear: recycling a bra. That’s because bras contain tiny pieces of plastic and metal that have to be removed piece by piece, a labor-intensive and expensive process. Their padding is also typically made from polyurethane, which can’t be recycled.
More at Bloomberg.

SARS-CoV-2 biology animated

Minnesota "Name a snowplow" contest returns

"The Minnesota Department of Transportation's "Name a Snowplow" contest is back for the third straight year.

The agency is accepting name suggestions for the next 10 days. Last year, MnDOT received more than 11,000 suggestions after putting out a call for the public to help name eight snowplows — one for each district in the state. "Betty Whiteout" was the runaway winner.

MnDOT was the first transportation department in the country to launch a snowplow naming contest — an effort to bring some levity to winter, Meyer said. Agency officials had seen an article in "Roadshow" explaining how Scotland names its entire snowplow fleet and posts maps showing their locations. The country calls the vehicles "gritters," the article said, which led to witty handles such as "Gritney Spears" and "Gritty Gritty Bang Bang.""
More information at the StarTribune.  Entries can be submitted to the DOT here.  "Gosh darn it, nothing vulgar please."  And politics-related names are verboten.

Addendum:  Here are the gritters of Scotland (hat tip for link to reader Marge):


The "well-being" index of each U.S. state

Massachusetts and Minnesota are #1 and #2, but...
"...neither state has the highest income (that’s Connecticut). Nor do they have the highest life expectancy (California and Hawaii). Or even the most leisure time (Mississippi and West Virginia work the least). But Massachusetts and Minnesota have the best balance across a panel of metrics that, combined, give people a holistic sense of well-being."
More information at the Washington Post, where the graphic is interactive so you can mouse over each state to retrieve data.

Moroccan "tree goats" explained

02 December 2022

Fish death by COVID

A photo from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year People's Choice Awards competition.  Click to read the explanatory caption.

Also, check out the seahorse and the snub-nosed monkeys

Via the Washington Post

The "Turntable Paradox"

Especially for lovers of mathematics, but worth skimming by everyone.  Via Neatorama.

Kottke is back

Just a quick note to alert readers that Jason Kottke has resuscitated his eponymous blog after taking a 7-month sabbatical from blogging.  I mention this because the breadth of material in his blog and the often eclectic subject matter makes it one of the most TYWKIWDBI-like blogs in cyberspace.  And Jason Kottke is a legend, having achieved a Lifetime Achievement award for blogging four years before I even started this one.

I will harvest occasional material from Kottke for this blog, but I suggest you do bookmark his site and check it on your own, because there's lots of stuff there.  His archive holds 30,000 posts (mine has about 18K), dating back to 1998.

01 December 2022

Not a pine cone (it's an ootheca)

More information at The Daily Mail about what to do if you find one on your Christmas tree.  See also Wikipedia.
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