22 April 2019

Imagine how deep the water is at this dock

Filmed in Alaska.  Worth clicking the fullscreen icon at lower right.

Yoda bookend


A temple older than Stonehenge - way, WAY older - updated

When people think of the history of "civilization," the earliest identifiable distinct culture is that of Sumer, founded around 6000 B.C. The Egyptian pyramids, the Olmecs of the New World, the first dynasties of China all came later - millennia later. The bluestones weren't erected at Stonehenge until about 3000 B.C.

The November 2008 issue of Smithsonian has a fascinating report about excavations on the Turkish/Syrian border of a temple complex that dates to 9000 B.C., which would place it as about contemporary with the earliest rubble at Jericho. Gobekli Tepe has extensive construction and architecture, including circles of carved standing stones, created by people who apparently still lived as hunter-gatherers.

It's hard to conceive of the antiquity of this site just reading the "B.C." numbers. Think of it this way:
"There's more time between Gobekli Tepe and the Sumerian clay tablets [etched in 3300 B.C.] than from Sumer to today."
For those interested in such things, this is mind-boggling.

More info at the links. Image credit to Archaeology.org

Addendum: another article on this site here, with pix and speculation relating it to the legend of the Garden of Eden.

Reposted from 2009 because of this new report from the BBC:
Researchers compared DNA extracted from Neolithic human remains found across Britain with that of people alive at the same time in Europe. The Neolithic inhabitants were descended from populations originating in Anatolia (modern Turkey) that moved to Iberia before heading north. They reached Britain in about 4,000BC.

Details have been published in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

In addition to farming, the Neolithic migrants to Britain appear to have introduced the tradition of building monuments using large stones known as megaliths. Stonehenge in Wiltshire was part of this tradition.

Chemotherapy nails

Via the MildlyInteresting subreddit, where others share their experiences.

The underground city of Derinkuyu, Turkey

In 1963, an inhabitant of Derinkuyu (in the region of Cappadocia, central Anatolia, Turkey), knocking down a wall of his house cave, discovered amazed that behind it was a mysterious room that he had never seen, and this led him room to another and another and another to it ... By chance he had discovered the underground city of Derinkuyu, whose first level could be excavated by the Hittites around 1400 BC

Archaeologists began to explore this fascinating underground city abandoned. It managed to forty meters deep, but is believed to have a fund of up to 85 meters. At present 20 levels have been discovered underground. Only eight can be visited at the highest levels; others are partially blocked or restricted to archaeologists and anthropologists who study Derinkuyu.

The city was used as a refuge for thousands of people living in the basement for protection from the frequent invasions suffered Cappadocia, at various times of their occupation, and by the early Christians.

The city benefited from the existence of an underground river, water wells and had a wonderful ventilation system (52 wells have been discovered vents) that amazes engineers today.
Text credit and photos here (original sources have undergone linkrot).  Wiki here. Reddit here.

Reposted from 2008 to add this newer and vastly improved image - 

 - which enlarges with a click.  Via.

Found in the white of an egg

Apparently these are incidental calcium concretions.  Relevant discussion at Backyard Chickens, via.

The "Jeopardy" buzzer

Pictured above is a practice one created by now-legendary James Holzhauer, whose current record-breaking performance is attributed in part to his buzzer skills.
On Wednesday, James—in keeping with Jeopardy! house style, let’s assume we’re on a first-name basis—set a new record for one-day Jeopardy! winnings with a total of $131,127, surpassing a record that he set scarcely a week ago when he obliterated the previous high of $77,000 set by Roger Craig in 2010 with a total of $110,914. Since his streak began on April 4, James has amassed $697,787; he now has the first, second, third, and fourth spots on the one-day record list (after winning $89,158 and $106,181 in two other games), and is in second place in all-time regular-season Jeopardy! earnings behind Ken Jennings, who reached $2,520,700 over a still-unrivaled 74 games in 2004. James, 34, is winning more, faster, than any contestant ever has...

“If you put random people up there on Jeopardy!, the most important thing would be who knows the answers,” says Jennings. “But with players that good, buzzer timing really becomes what tends to separate the winner from the non-winners.”..
Buzzer tips in the longread at The Ringer.

20 April 2019

Control your children

Cropped for size from the original here.

This is called a "campfire" cupcake


The stark division of the United States Congress

Most Americans bemoan the confrontational politics of this country's two-party system.  It was not always this dramatic.  The image above summarizes data presented in a two-minute gif that I can't embed, but which is viewable here.  I'll embed three screencaps:

The dots represent individual Democratic and Republican congressmen; the lines between them show how often each pair votes the same way.

There is a reasonably informed discussion at the gif site.  I heard an excellent podcast on this subject, from either This American Life or Radiolab.  They traced the acceleration of the us-vs-them mentality to Newt Gingrich's 1994 Contract with America and the rise of Rush Limbaugh on radio.  Cable television has played an obvious role.

Things were not always wonderful in the old days, however, when Senators and congressmen passed bad legislation and collaborated to strike deals that ignored the wills of their constituents.  There is no easy answer.

Non-scientific dentistry

Excerpts from an interesting longread at The Atlantic:
The uneasy relationship between dentist and patient is further complicated by an unfortunate reality: Common dental procedures are not always as safe, effective, or durable as we are meant to believe. As a profession, dentistry has not yet applied the same level of self-scrutiny as medicine, or embraced as sweeping an emphasis on scientific evidence...

Consider the maxim that everyone should visit the dentist twice a year for cleanings. We hear it so often, and from such a young age, that we’ve internalized it as truth. But this supposed commandment of oral health has no scientific grounding. Scholars have traced its origins to a few potential sources, including a toothpaste advertisement from the 1930s and an illustrated pamphlet from 1849 that follows the travails of a man with a severe toothache. Today, an increasing number of dentists acknowledge that adults with good oral hygiene need to see a dentist only once every 12 to 16 months...

Throughout history, many physicians have lamented the segregation of dentistry and medicine. Acting as though oral health is somehow divorced from one’s overall well-being is absurd; the two are inextricably linked...

Most major medical associations around the world have long endorsed evidence-based medicine. The idea is to shift focus away from intuition, anecdote, and received wisdom, and toward the conclusions of rigorous clinical research. Although the phrase evidence-based medicine was coined in 1991, the concept began taking shape in the 1960s, if not earlier (some scholars trace its origins all the way back to the 17th century). In contrast, the dental community did not begin having similar conversations until the mid-1990s. There are dozens of journals and organizations devoted to evidence-based medicine, but only a handful devoted to evidence-based dentistry.

In the past decade, a small cohort of dentists has worked diligently to promote evidence-based dentistry, hosting workshops, publishing clinical-practice guidelines based on systematic reviews of research, and creating websites that curate useful resources. But its adoption “has been a relatively slow process,”..

Among other problems, dentistry’s struggle to embrace scientific inquiry has left dentists with considerable latitude to advise unnecessary procedures—whether intentionally or not. The standard euphemism for this proclivity is overtreatment. Favored procedures, many of which are elaborate and steeply priced, include root canals, the application of crowns and veneers, teeth whitening and filing, deep cleaning, gum grafts, fillings for “microcavities”—incipient lesions that do not require immediate treatment—and superfluous restorations and replacements, such as swapping old metal fillings for modern resin ones. Whereas medicine has made progress in reckoning with at least some of its own tendencies toward excessive and misguided treatment, dentistry is lagging behind...

In parallel with the rising cost of dental school, the amount of tooth decay in many countries’ populations has declined dramatically over the past four decades, mostly thanks to the introduction of mass-produced fluoridated toothpaste in the 1950s and ’60s. In the 1980s, with fewer genuine problems to treat, some practitioners turned to the newly flourishing industry of cosmetic dentistry, promoting elective procedures such as bleaching, teeth filing and straightening, gum lifts, and veneers. It’s easy to see how dentists, hoping to buoy their income, would be tempted to recommend frequent exams and proactive treatments—a small filling here, a new crown there—even when waiting and watching would be better. It’s equally easy to imagine how that behavior might escalate.

18 April 2019

Fossilized dinosaur nest

"A Chinese dinosaur scientist has expressed his disappointment and concern at the sale of a rare fossilized dinosaur nest for US$420,000 at an auction in Los Angeles.

The unusually well-preserved 65 million-year-old dinosaur nest containing fossilized eggs was sold by auction house Bonhams & Butterfields on Monday.

Before the auction, Xing Lida, a dinosaur expert with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, appealed to Bonhams not to auction the fossil, which he believes to have been smuggled out of China...

The nest contains 22 unhatched eggs arranged in a circular pattern around the edge. Embryonic remains were uncovered in 19 eggs and one egg was removed for study. Some eggs were so well-preserved that the embryo curled inside was still visible...

The theft and smuggling of fossils out of the country is a serious problem in China. Smugglers have often broken fossils to make them easier to conceal and carry."

The various upsides of running for president

Excerpts from an article in The Guardian:
The fact is, not all of the people running for president are actually running for president.
There is almost always at least a few candidates in these kinds of fields that are either there to push an issue agenda, or these are candidates who are interested in building their name recognition, building their stature and status within the party,” said John Sides, professor of political science at George Washington University and editor-in-chief of The Monkey Cage politics analysis site...

But the potential upside, even for candidates who do not win, can be large. For some candidates, there’s money in it. Ask Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor whose failed 2008 run netted him a Fox TV show, tripled his speaking fees and made his books bestsellers. The former House speaker Newt Gingrich ran what looked like a for-profit campaign in 2012, using campaign events to sell books.

Other candidates run to advance a signature issue or agenda. Ron Paul, the former Texas congressman, caught fire in 2008 with demands for small government and non-intervention overseas. Ralph Nader’s anti-corporate message sparked similar grassroots enthusiasm in 2000, and in 2016 Bernie Sanders went from being a protest candidate to swiping 23 primary contests from Hillary Clinton and emerging as a major force in national politics...

For others, the promise might be a greater profile, or a shot at a cabinet slot, or even a place on the party’s general-election ticket. The Reagan-Bush (1980), Kerry-Edwards (2004) and Obama-Biden (2008) tickets all sprang from primary rivalries. Herman Cain, the former restaurant executive who blazed across the sky as a Republican candidate in 2012, was mooted recently for a spot on the Federal Reserve board...

While running for president without running for president might seem to fall short of certain ideals about the call to service and the dignity of the office, Sides said it was “perfectly rational” for some candidates to jump in the race without necessarily intending to win.

Population density in Europe

Via the Europe subreddit.

A zoomable map of world population density.
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