Today’s photos come from Tony Eales in Queensland. His narrative and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.
Lots of beautiful beetles around at the moment. I’ve been checking the flowers of native plants and under the lights of the train station to see what is around locally. Here’s a selection
The most interesting find was this small beetle. I found it crawling on my desk at work. I suspect I accidentally transported it there on my clothing. While it is just a small brown beetle, it turns out that this is the single species Acanthocnemus nigricans, in its own family Acanthocnemidae. It is a pyrophilous beetle that congregates in recently burned areas and even attracted to bonfires. It has twin heat sensing organs beneath its pronotum that it uses to find fires. Originally a solely Australian species it has now spread to Europe, Africa, India and Southeast Asia. There was a small bushfire right near my house recently and and I think that’s why it ended up on my clothes and transported to my office. This shows the use of always carrying collection vials.
I’ve also come across a couple of longicorn beetles. One from the large robust Subfamily Prioninae. This one is a female Cacodacnus planicollis. The males have large mandibles for fighting each other, however even the smaller female jaws are not something I’d like to get my finger to close to.
The other longicorn was a member of the Subfamily Cerambycinae or typical longicorns. This is Coptocercus multitrichus, a pretty, medium-sized beetle associated with Eucalyptus forests.
The main reason I have been searching flowering trees and shrubs is to find jewel beetles. So far, I haven’t had a great deal of luck but I have found two species, neither feeding on flowers.
The other jewel I found was a new one for me, Hypocisseis suturalis. I found it on a Red Ash (Alphitonia excelsa) leaf, but it looked so much like a bird or gecko dropping I had to touch it to make sure it was an insect. I am used to another species of Hypocisseis that I regularly find on Red Ash so it was a bit of a surprise to find this new species on the same host plant.
Speaking of Red Ash, every year at this time I find Red Ash trees half stripped of their leaves and covered in feeding and mating small scarabs of the genus Diphucephala. This one is a male with enlarged extensions at the front of the head for male-male battles.
One beetle species I have been finding on flowers is this member of the Comb-clawed Darkling Beetle subfamily Alleculinae. This one is Lepturidea viridis.
Also on the flowers I have found many of this gorgeous metallic-blue Flower Weevil (Subfamily Baridinae), Ipsichora desiderabilis:
Of course weevils, as the most specious family of beetles, are everywhere. This one is Myllorhinus strenuus, a member of the True Weevils subfamily Curculioninae:
Good morning on the Cruelest Day: Tuesday, November 29, 2020: National Chocolates Day (note the plural). I will recommend once again See’s Candies as the source of the best American chocolates, regardless of price; they’re better than overprice brands like Godiva. Look at this box!
Today’s footie-themed Google Doodle (click on screenshot) leads to the daily schedule of the World Cup in Qatar. Today Ecuador plays Sengal, Netherlands plays Qatar, Wales plays England, and Iran plays the U.S. (see below for more on that).
*The protests against lockdowns in China, which have become protests against the government, but this has caused anxiety among the protestors, who know very well what happens to protestors, especially political ones, in China. Here’s the ambivalence at a large protest in Beijing:
“We don’t want lockdowns, we want freedom!” the protesters shouted as they wound westward through one of the city’s neatly manicured embassy districts, where a Four Seasons hotel stands alongside humble shops selling traditional breakfast crepes. “Freedom of the press! Freedom of publishing!”
It was an extraordinary scene, rarely seen anywhere in China, let alone the capital, under Xi Jinping, the country’s authoritarian leader. But the elation of the moment was laced with anxiety about what, exactly, was happening. When some people began shouting explicitly political slogans, others urged them to remain more narrowly focused on opposing Covid controls. Even what to call the event depended on who and when you asked — was it a protest? Or just a vigil?
The uncertainty mirrored the broader uncertainty of this moment, a potential turning point for not only China’s zero Covid strategy but also Mr. Xi’s rigid grip on the country he leads. In recent days, protests have erupted across China, from western Urumqi, where the fire broke out, to Shanghai in the east. The excesses of the coronavirus restrictions have united people like no other cause in decades. But in a country where dissent is quickly smothered, and most people have never had the chance to protest, many were unsure what to ask for, let alone what could actually happen.
I doubt that Xi is in danger. This is not like the protests in Iran, where the government has a lot more to lose by coming down hard on the protestors. Ergo I think the Iranian government is in much more peril than the one in China—but I’m a biologist, not a pundit. What do I know?
In late November 2022, Fuentes and Kanye West (who had recently announced his own candidacy for the 2024 presidential election) visited Trump at Mar-a-Lago. West said that Trump was “really impressed with Nick Fuentes”. Trump released a statement that after contacting him earlier in the week to arrange the visit, West “unexpectedly showed up with three of his friends, whom I knew nothing about”, with whom Trump dined, and that “the dinner was quick and uneventful”. Trump refused to repudiate Fuentes or the meeting.
Donald Trump repeatedly refused to disavow the outspoken antisemite and white supremacist Nick Fuentes after they spoke over dinner at his Mar-a-Lago resort, rejecting the advice from advisers over fears he might alienate a section of his base, two people familiar with the situation said. The former US president was urged publicly and privately to denounce Fuentes in the aftermath of the dinner, which included the performer Ye, previously known as Kanye West, who has also recently been propagating antisemitic remarks.
Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is barely two weeks old, and already it has his trademarks of bad company and bad judgment. Both were on display Tuesday evening when he hosted the rapper Kanye West (who now goes by Ye) and some comrades for dinner at Mar-a-Lago. One of the hangers-on was 24-year-old Nick Fuentes, a white nationalist who mocks the Holocaust.
Mr. Trump claims that Mr. West had asked to see him and brought along Mr. Fuentes. The former President says he didn’t know who Mr. Fuentes is, but both Mr. West and Mr. Fuentes have said since the meeting that Mr. Trump was impressed with Mr. Fuentes’s political insight. That may be because sources on hand for the dinner have leaked to reporters that Mr. Fuentes flattered Mr. Trump. Nothing goes further at Mar-a-Lago than flattery.
Others have lambasted Mr. Trump for hosting Mr. Fuentes, including David Friedman, who was ambassador to Israel during the Trump Presidency. Mr. Trump’s failure to vet visitors is an example of his usual lack of organization and discipline, especially given that Mr. West has also been spreading anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
But worse is that Mr. Trump hasn’t admitted his mistake in hosting the men or distanced himself from the odious views of Mr. Fuentes. Instead Mr. Trump portrays himself as an innocent who was taken advantage of by Mr. West. This is also all-too-typical of Mr. Trump’s behavior as President. He usually ducked responsibility and never did manage to denounce the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, or others who have resorted to divisive racial politics, or even violence as on Jan. 6, 2021.
If the Trumpster’s lost the Wall Street Journal, he’s lost the nomination.
Below is a video of the highlights of Brazil’s win over Switzerland. Brazil’s one goal is at 3:51, after an earlier Brazilian goal was nullified after an offside call.
Casemiro scored the 83rd-minute winner as Brazil clinched its spot in the knockout round with a 1-0 victory over Switzerland at Stadium 974 in Doha, Qatar.
The strike capped a clever combination as Vinícius Júnior collected the ball on the left flank and picked out Rodrygo, whose one-time flick at the top of the box fell into the path of Casemiro. Hitting a one-time half-volley, the Manchester United midfielder fired past Swiss keeper Yann Sommer to give Brazil the late lead.
Brazil triumphed despite missing star forward Neymar and defender Danilo with ankle injuries. Both players are expected to miss the rest of the group stage.
And here are 5 minutes of highlights of Portugal’s victory over Uruguay. The greedy diva Ronaldo acted as if he headed the ball into the net for the first goal, but the tape showed he never touched the ball. That was at 2:04 below—you can see his perfidy clearly. The second goal for Portugal is a penalty score at 4:35.
Bruno Fernandes scored a pair of goals to help Portugal avenge its round of 16 loss to Uruguay in the 2018 World Cup and clinch a spot in the knockout stage with a 2-0 win at Lusail Stadium.
Fernandes, who had two assists in his team’s 3-2 win over Ghana Thursday, gave Portugal the lead in the 54th minute. The Manchester United midfielder sent a cross into the box that sailed just over the head of leaping teammate Cristiano Ronaldo, who was originally credited with the goal, and into the back of the net. Fernandes put the game away by converting a penalty in the 93rd minute after a VAR review determined Uruguay’s José María Giménez had committed a handball in the box.
I have no predictions now, but maybe we’ll have a contest at a later stage.
*Meanwhile, today sees a politically fraught match: Iran plays the United States. Things are different now as Americans are starting to realize how odious the Iranian theocracy really is. And, as I reported yesterday, the Iranians are ticked off at U.S. soccer for its social media post that showed the Iranian flag missing its crucial symbol of religious authority.
When players representing Iran and the United States take the field at the World Cup in Qatar on Tuesday, millions of fans will be dissecting every move — not just passes, fouls and headers, but also whether the Iranian players sing the national anthem, celebrate any goals or speak about the protests shaking their country.
The game has become yet another front line in the conflict between the two longtime geopolitical foes as Iran battles protests at home in one of the most significant challenges the Islamic Republic has faced since the 1979 revolution that brought it to power. And this time, it is all playing out under the glaring lights of the most watched event in the world.
. . . Now the main question is what Team Melli, as Iran’s squad is affectionately known to fans around the world, will do with its next turn on the field: Please the government that sponsors it by keeping strictly to sports, or win the hearts of the opposition on the streets. Whatever it does, winning or holding the United States to a draw, either of which will advance them to the next round, will put Iran’s domestic strife in front of a huge global audience for at least a few days longer.
“This is why U.S.A. versus Iran is going to be the most significant and politically charged match in the history of the World Cup,” said Omid Djalili, an Iranian-British actor and comedian who has closely tracked the team, combining a fan’s passion with an activist’s fervor.
He insisted this was no hyperbole: “The further they get in the tournament, the more interest there will be in these protests,” he said of the Iranians. “The regime can spin this any way they want — the globe will see what’s going on.”
My prediction: the U.S. will win. The Iranians will then go home, with players who mouthed but did not sing their national anthem facing punishment.
The eruption of Mauna Loa wasn’t immediately threatening towns, but officials told residents to be ready for worse.
Many weren’t living there when Mauna Loa last erupted 38 years ago. The U.S. Geological Survey warned the roughly 200,000 people on the Big Island that an eruption “can be very dynamic, and the location and advance of lava flows can change rapidly.”
A lava flow could even reach the town of Hilo, one of my favorite places on the Big Island:
An eruption from the northeast could send lava toward the county seat of Hilo or other towns in East Hawaii but it could take the lava weeks or months to reach populated areas. It’s possible the eruption may later shift to a rift zone on the southwest flank. Lava emerging from this area could reach nearby communities in hours or days.
“We don’t want to try and second-guess the volcano,” Hon said. “We have to let it actually show us what it’s going to do and then we inform people of what is happening ASAP.”
This is nature dwarfing and overpowering humans again. Mauna Loa built the island, and is still building it since the Big Island is the youngest one, the latest bit of crust to move over the volcano-producing fissure. Good luck, Hawaii!
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s on the windowsill looking in at Malgorzata and Andrzej working.
This is what we expect from the theological mind: drunk on symbolism, no conception of, or interest in, reality. But for goodness’ sake, this is Trinity, the college of Newton, Bacon, Rutherford, Hawking, & 34 Nobel science prizewinners.https://t.co/8II4NyFAJF
From the Auschwitz Memorial: The boy murdered because, though he could have been sent to the camp, he asked to stay with his sister, who was gassed upon arrival.
29 November 1929 | A Czech Jew, Tibor Taglicht, was born. As a refugee he went to Norway.
He was deported to #Auschwitz with his sister Vera in March 1943. He was selected as able to work. He asked to stay with his younger sister. They were both murdered in a gas chamber. pic.twitter.com/j0rEfSIzEI
Tweets from Matthew. First, sexual selection in action.
Happening now at Turtle Pond in Central Park: I've been away&I can't think of a better welcome back than watching these Male Hooded Mergansers absurd courtship displays to win over lady Hooded Mergansers: hood flaring head throws, body dipping, bill clacking&neck stretching! 😃💕 pic.twitter.com/juBIi0aH6r
Reader Eli sent me a link to this movie along with the header, “UK documentary on anti-Semitism from the Left—’Jews Don’t Count’, and his email said this (I’ve added a link)
You may be interested in a recent UK documentary on contemporary leftist antisemitism, “Jews Don’t Count”. It’s made by David Baddiel, a UK Jewish comedian, based on his book released last year, and includes interviews with Sarah Silverman, David Schwimmer (from “Friends”), Stephen Fry and others. It was broadcast in the UK on Channel 4 but it is also available in the U.S. (so far hasn’t been taken down).
[Baddiel’s] central thesis is that “Jews don’t count as a proper minority” when it comes to contemporary notions of prejudice and racism. He sets out to explore why so many people seem to ignore antisemitism, as well as “the dysfunction between progressives and Jews”.
It feels like a particularly bleak statement to make, but it couldn’t be more timely. Anti-Jewish hate crimes continue to rise in the UK and the US. Conspiracy theories and racist tropes about Jews and power continue to be given mainstream platforms. Baddiel’s book lends itself brilliantly to a TV format, which can bring in many other voices. “What do you think of when you hear the word ‘Jew’?” he asks, in the first of many monochrome interludes in which he speaks directly to camera. “Let’s ask some Jews.”
. . .What I like most about this documentary is how conversational it is. The thesis that Baddiel set out in his book (delivered here in the monochrome sections) forms the backbone of the programme, and on screen it feels like the opposite of the kind of back-and-forths that mostly happen online, often anonymously, about the same subjects. He sets out what he believes and meets people who agree with him and who sometimes disagree. It cuts through a lot of online noise and crude finger-pointing. He has a complex and nuanced conversation with his niece, Dionna, who describes herself as “a biracial person”. They discuss whether antisemitism is a “different” form of racism, and if Jews can “pass” as white.
. . . It is a sign of a solid documentary, I think, that every time a question came into my head, Baddiel was either asking it, or setting about answering it, as if I had said it out loud. Often, he pre-empts how people will respond to the point he is making. As someone who spends a lot of time on social media, he is used to anticipating what will be thrown back at him. People sometimes send him a screenshot of him in blackface, playing the footballer Jason Lee on Fantasy Football League in the 1990s, asking, “This you?”
It’s just one hour long, and I’ve watched it all—it’s absorbing and gives a good idea of the anti-Semitism pervading much of the Left in the U.S. an U.K. As Eli recommends, watch it before it’s taken down!
Today we have photos from regular Mark Sturtevant. His notes and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them. I’ll remind readers to send in your good photos, as we’re running low.
Here are some pictures of mainly arthropods, taken in 2021 as the weather began to finally warm near my habitat in eastern Michigan.
An early opportunity was a European paper wasp (Polistes dominula) that emerged from hibernation on the front porch. It was still quite cold, so she was motionless most of the time. After a long winter, I was glad to see her even though the species is invasive and problematic in the U.S. because it has reduced populations of the native paper wasps. These pictures are focus stacked from about 100 pictures each, taken with the assistance of a Helicon Fb tube. That is a device that lets you do rapid focus bracketing with a DSLR camera.
Next is a ground spider (Gnaphosidae), a family of free roaming spiders that include some ant mimics. This is Zelotes fratris. This too is focus stacked, but from a few pictures taken by hand. Note the red velvet mite photo bomb.
Here is a very young green frog (Lithobates clamitans), only recently transformed from a tadpole. Often mistaken for the closely related bullfrog, green frogs can be identified by the dorso-lateral ridge that you can see here. This youngster may one day grow to be the size of both of your fists put together.
The big event for the early part of the 2021 season was a possibly once-in-a-lifetime chance to photograph 17-year cicadas,Magicicada septendecim. Cicadas spend most of their lives as nymphs living underground, where they feed on sap from tree roots. “Periodical” cicadas include a 13-year species and the 17-year species. After those many years, the nymphs emerge en masse in biblical plague numbers, mate, lay eggs, and die over a period of several weeks. It is believed their reproduction cycle evolved to overwhelm predators who cannot grow their population in response. The 2021 season was due to have “Brood X” of the 17-year cicadas, which is the largest population of this species. Brood X extends over multiple states in the US, and one edge of this group extends into southern Michigan. So, with the help of the internet, which provided records about their last emergence, I made the long drive to a likely park to see this marvel. The trip was well rewarded with high thousands of cicadas.
Here are various pictures showing perching cicadas, and a bush with quite a few of them. Cicadas were flying everywhere, and collisions with them were pretty frequent. Males are especially distinct with their bright red eyes.
The eerie sound of thousands of cicadas filled the air over the field. But it was evident that there were far more of them in the trees that surrounded the park, since the trees were fairly deafening with their shrill, spooky music. Accounts from other areas of the Brood X emergence described even heavier population densities, where pretty much everything gets covered by them.
It’s the males who sing, and they do so by forcing air past a stack of vibrating membranes under a pair of “tymbal” plates on the abdomen. This picture showing the plates is blurry because the male was continually squalling in protest.
Here is a wide angle macro picture of a cicada posing with my good friend Gary Miller. Gary is an excellent macro photographer in his own right. It was not even summer, and this is one of my favorite pictures of the entire season.
I wanted to find a video that conveys what this natural wonder is like. This amateur recording is a very good match to what the emergence was like in this field, right down to the screaming trees in the distance:
Readers in the eastern U.S. may have direct experience with seeing a periodical cicada mass emergence, and if you’d like to make plans for seeing one, here is a map that can get people started.
The earliest known reference to French toast is in the Apicius, a collection of Latin recipes dating to the 1st century CE, where it is described as simply aliter dulcia ‘another sweet dish’. The recipe says to “Break [slice] fine white bread, crust removed, into rather large pieces which soak in milk [and beaten eggs] fry in oil, cover with honey and serve”
This was one of my childhood favorites that my mom would make if I was a good boy. I haven’t had it in ages. Here’s a photo and a recipe.
*Led by students (as in Iran), Chinese people are protesting en masse against their government—in China’s case its draconian lockdown policy. The trigger was a fire in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjian Province, which killed ten people; the protestors claim that because of the lockdown policy, firefighters couldn’t get close to the blaze (one source said that the building doors were locked). The protests are country-wide, and have morphed from criticism of the lockdown to criticism of the government and its Party leaders:
Protests erupted in cities and on campuses across China this weekend as frustrated and outraged citizens took to the streets in a stunning wave of demonstrations against the government’s “zero covid” policy and the leaders enforcing it.
Residents in Shanghai, China’s most populous city, came together Saturday night and early Sunday, calling for the end of pandemic lockdowns and chanting, “We want freedom!” and “Unlock Xinjiang, unlock all of China!” according to witnesses at the event. In even more extraordinary scenes of public anger aimed at the government’s top leader, a group of protesters there chanted, “Xi Jinping, step down!” and “Communist Party, step down!”
“There were people everywhere,” said Chen, a 29-year-old Shanghai resident who arrived at the vigil around 2 a.m. Sunday. “At first people were yelling to lift the lockdown in Xinjiang, and then it became ‘Xi Jinping, step down, Communist Party step down!’” he said, giving only his surname because of security concerns.
. . .Such demonstrations are extremely rare in China, where authorities move quickly to stamp out all forms of dissent. Authorities are especially wary of protests at universities, the site of pro-democracy demonstrations in 1989 that spread across the country and ended in a bloody crackdown and massacre around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
At Communication University of China in Nanjing, posters mocking “zero covid” were taken down on Saturday, prompting one student to stand for hours holding a blank piece of paper in protest. Hundreds of students joined in solidarity.
Some placed flowers on the ground to honor the fire victims and chanted, “Rest in peace.” Others sang the Chinese national anthem as well as the left-wing anthem “The Internationale.” They shouted, “Long live the people!”
*The World Cup results for today (click to enlarge):
Germany, behind by one goal, pulled even with Spain via an 83rd-minute strike by Niclas Füllkrug to achieve a tie. Had they lost, they would have had to go home. Here’s a short video of that game’s highlights:
Here are the highlights from Costa Rica’s 1-0 victory over Japan:
*According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. Soccer foundation found itself in hot water after making a social-media post intended to show support to those protesting the Iranian regime. Here’s what they posted (it’s now gone):
What’s the issue here? Well, look at the Iranian flag emblem. It’s missing something, for here’s what the flag normally looks like:
Ergo the issue:
With the U.S. and Iran set to play a high-stakes match in the World Cup here on Tuesday, the U.S. soccer federation took to social media to make what it said was a statement of support for protesters inside Iran: an altered version of the Iranian flag.
Then, Sunday afternoon, the team deleted the post, which wasn’t run past U.S. players or coaches and inflamed tensions with the Iranians ahead of a decisive showdown on the field.
The federation’s action had resulted in an Iranian soccer official calling for a FIFA investigation and disciplinary action against the Americans, just two days before a match the U.S. must win in order to advance.
The post from the U.S. team’s Instagram account, dated two days ago, depicted the Iranian flag without the emblem of the Islamic Republic. The emblem, four curves with a sword between them, represents “there is no God but Allah,” which is part of the Islamic declaration of faith.
. . .A spokesman for U.S. soccer had said the post was a one-time showing of support for the protestors. The team’s players and coaches were not consulted on the posting, the spokesman said, adding that the plan was to show their support in one post and then revert back to using the country’s official flag.
The spokesman said the decision to remove the post came after more internal conversations on the matter.
The Iranian semiofficial ISNA news agency said the U.S. decision to remove the emblem went against FIFA regulations and that the violation of those rules should lead to a fine or ban.
Environmental groups are once again at odds with politicians and fishermen in New England in the wake of a decision by high-end retail giant Whole Foods to stop selling Maine lobster.
Whole Foods recently said that it will stop selling lobster from the Gulf of Maine at hundreds of its stores around the country. The company cited decisions by a pair of sustainability organizations to take away their endorsements of the U.S. lobster fishing industry.
The organizations, Marine Stewardship Council and Seafood Watch, both cited concerns about risks to rare North Atlantic right whales from fishing gear. Entanglement in gear is one of the biggest threats to the whales.
The decision by Whole Foods was an “important action to protect the highly endangered” whale, said Virginia Carter, an associate with the Save America’s Wildlife Campaign at Environment America Research & Policy Center.
The company’s decision to stop selling lobster drew immediate criticism in Maine, which is home to the U.S.’s largest lobster fishing industry. The state’s Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, and its four-member congressional delegation said in a statement that Marine Stewardship Council’s decision to suspend its certification of Gulf of Maine lobster came despite years of stewardship and protection of whales by Maine fishermen.
“Despite this, the Marine Stewardship Council, with retailers following suit, wrongly and blindly decided to follow the recommendations of misguided environmental groups rather than science,” Mills and the delegation said.
Well, what does SCIENCE say about this? I have no idea.
*Pamela Paul’s NYT columns are always worth reading, though of course some are better than others. This week she takes on pop culture: “Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, and the reality of imperfection” Paul’s thesis is that the Zeitgeist has made many women lay claim to mental illness (not that they don’t have it), even if they’re hugely successful like Gomez and Swift.
By most measures, Selena Gomez and Taylor Swift are remarkable women. Intelligent and capable, they’ve succeeded through innate talent, hard and sustained work, ambition and vision. Both are the kind of mega pop stars who inspire convulsions of adulation and tears. Crowds surge and part in their presence. They’re graced with a radiance that seems almost exclusive to celebrities, with skin so incandescent it needs no filter.
But they are not perfect. Nor, importantly, do they pretend to be. A recent Apple TV+ documentary, “Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me,” offers an unsparing portrait of Gomez, now 30, and her experiences with bipolar disorder, lupus, anxiety and psychosis. On her latest album, “Midnights,” Taylor Swift, 32, sings about her depression working the graveyard shift, about ending up in crisis. “It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me / It’s me, hi, everybody agrees, everybody agrees,” goes the song “Anti-Hero.” “Sometimes I feel like everybody is a sexy baby / And I’m a monster.”
This combination of external flawlessness and emotional vulnerability feels like a feature particular to contemporary female pop stardom. On one screen we see impeccable glam, expertly choreographed and costumed performances and startling displays of luxury. On the other screen, admissions of anxiety, PTSD, panic attacks and sleeplessness.
Paul implies, but doesn’t state, that mental health issues have increased significantly more for young girls than for young boys, but that is indeed the case. (If this is at all connected with gender dysphoria, then it might also help explain the much higher number of biological girls wanting to become transsexual than do biological boys). The important question is why the sex difference? Now that would have been an interesting column. Instead, the ending is rather lame:
It may be that each generation gets a slate of pop stars attuned to its own aspirations and insecurities. Young women may be able to better relate to today’s pop stars — for better and for worse.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s resting in the wood basket.
A: I’m going to fetch wood.
Hili: Leave this basket alone.
A: Idę po drewno.
Hili: Ten kosz zostaw w spokoju.
A message from a woman whose boyfriend (presumably the car’s owner) cheated on her.
Two tweets from Masih. Do read the WaPo article linked in the first one.
It was the first time that French president @EmmanuelMacron spoke face to face with Iranians who want to overthrow the regime & said; What is happening in Iran is a revolution. Other G7 leaders must also recognize Iran’s new revolution.#MahsaAminihttps://t.co/ZqTXoe7vWj
And I can’t really decry this; it’s a form of civil disobedience and nobody is injured:
Video received from the city of Shiraz shows a young schoolgirl knocking turban off clerics’ head on a crowded metro platform with no fear. Young Iranians are filming themselves knocking turbans off clerics’ heads to protest 40 year of tyranny by clerical regime.#MahsaAminipic.twitter.com/O0zXnMdMRZ
From Malcolm. The Iranian football team is already in trouble for not singing the national anthem in its first game (they did in the second, for they know what would happen if they persisted and then returned home). But here, a few days ago, the team captain empathizes with the Iranian protestors.
⚡️ BREAKING: #Iran football team captain defies regime, backs protests: “We have to accept that conditions in our country are not right & our people are not happy. They should know that we are with them. And we support them. And we sympathize with them regarding the conditions.” pic.twitter.com/SX4kenXiTZ
Tweets from Matthew. The first one is a fantastic example of camouflage, one in which both the morphology and behavior of the caterpillar has evolved. Look how it walks along the leaf vein! UPDATE: I learned that this is the caterpillar of the common baron butterfly, Euthalia aconthea (h/t Luana).
You can thank reader Pyers for the links to two—count them, two—articles about how a student at Cambridge claims that Jesus was a transsexual male, which of course caused a huge fracas. Pyers added this to his links:
And this one must be for the 5* treatment as being idiotic on just so so many levels. When I read it I just, to use a piece of internet shorthand, PML. [JAC: inquiry reveals that this stands for “pissed myself laughing”]. It is the craziest of the crazy, looniest of loons …
Just do what I was tempted to do and bash your head against a wall. It is at moments like this that you thank God you are an atheist! (Big grin for that one.)
It’s widely reported in the UK media:
The first article’s from the Torygraph:
A quote and picture (bolding is mine):
Jesus could have been transgender, according to a University of Cambridge dean.
Dr Michael Banner, the dean of Trinity College, said such a view was “legitimate” after a row over a sermon by a Cambridge research student that claimed Christ had a “trans body”, The Telegraph can disclose.
The “truly shocking” address at last Sunday’s evensong at Trinity College chapel, saw Joshua Heath, a junior research fellow, display Renaissance and Medieval paintings of the crucifixion that depicted a side wound that the guest preacher likened to a vagina.
Worshippers told The Telegraph they were left “in tears” and felt excluded from the church, with one shouting “heresy” at the Dean upon leaving.
The sermon displayed three paintings, including Jean Malouel’s 1400 work Pietà, with Mr Heath pointing out Jesus’s side wound and blood flowing to the groin. The order of service also showed French artist Henri Maccheroni’s 1990 work “Christs”.
Heath, whose PhD was supervised by the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, also told worshippers that in the Prayer Book of Bonne of Luxembourg, from the 14th century, this side wound was isolated and “takes on a decidedly vaginal appearance”.
Heath also drew on non-erotic depictions of Christ’s penis in historical art, which “urge a welcoming rather than hostile response towards the raised voices of trans people”.
“In Christ’s simultaneously masculine and feminine body in these works, if the body of Christ as these works suggest the body of all bodies, then his body is also the trans body,” the sermon concluded.
A congregation member, who wished to remain anonymous, told Dr Banner in a complaint letter: “I left the service in tears. You offered to speak with me afterwards, but I was too distressed. I am contemptuous of the idea that by cutting a hole in a man, through which he can be penetrated, he can become a woman.
“I am especially contemptuous of such imagery when it is applied to our Lord, from the pulpit, at Evensong. I am contemptuous of the notion that we should be invited to contemplate the martyrdom of a ‘trans Christ’, a new heresy for our age.”
Here is PROOF—one of the pictures shown during Heath’s sermon. You have to do a really logical stretch to see that as a vagina. It’s not even in the right place!
And here’s how Dean Banner defended the claim. Note that he often gives BBC Radio 4’s “Thought for the Day”, which is usually a religious homily. Dawkins did it once, and that was the last time they used an atheist!
Dr Banner’s response to the complaint, seen by The Telegraph, defended how the sermon “suggested that we might think about these images of Christ’s male/female body as providing us with ways of thinking about issues around transgender questions today”.
“For myself, I think that speculation was legitimate, whether or not you or I or anyone else disagrees with the interpretation, says something else about that artistic tradition, or resists its application to contemporary questions around transsexualism,” Dr Banner added.
Dr Banner, who frequents BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day, said that while the views were the speaker’s own, he “would not issue an invitation to someone who I thought would deliberately seek to shock or offend a congregation or who could be expected to speak against the Christian faith”.
Click to read the more heated piece from the Daily Fail:
The Fail doesn’t add much to the above, but does give an official quote form the Uni:
A spokesperson for Trinity College said: The College would like to make clear the following:
‘Neither the Dean of Trinity College nor the researcher giving the sermon suggested Jesus was transgender.
‘The sermon addressed the image of Christ depicted in art and various interpretations of those artistic portrayals.
‘The sermon’s exploration of the nature of religious art, in the spirit of thought-provoking academic inquiry, was in keeping with open debate and dialogue at the University of Cambridge.’
Now it’s barely possible that some randy medieval artist deliberately painted Jesus’s wound to resemble a vagina. But since I’m not convinced that Jesus really existed as any real person, much less as a divine human/son of God/part of God, I can’t be bothered worrying about his gender. The whole fracas is simply hilarious, instantiating what happens when one religion, Christianity, collides with another—wokeness.
I could go on and on about the errors and misconceptions of the paper from Nautilus below, whose aims are threefold. First, to convince us that several of the founders of modern statistics, including Francis Galton, Karl Pearson, and Ronald Fisher, were racists. Second, to argue that the statistical tests they made famous, and are used widely in research (including biomedical research), were developed as tools to promote racism and eugenics. Third, that we should stop using statistical analyses like chi-squared tests, Fisher exact tests, analyses of variance, t-tests, or even fitting data to normal distributions, because these exercises are tainted by racism. I and others have argued that the first claim is overblown, and I’ll argue here that the second is wrong and the third is insane, not even following from the first two claims if they were true.
Click on the screenshot to read the Nautilus paper. The author, Aubrey Clayton, is identified in the piece as “a mathematician living in Boston and the author of the forthcoming book Bernoulli’s Fallacy.”
The first thing to realize is that yes, people like Pearson, Fisher, and Galton made racist and classist statements that would be deemed unacceptable today. The second is that they conceived of “eugenics” as not a form of racial slaughter, like Hitler, but by encouraging the white “upper classes” (whom they assumed had “better genes”) to have more kids and discourage the breeding of the white “lower classes.” But none of their writing on eugenics (which was not the dominant interest of any of the three named) had any influence on eugenic practice, since Britain never practiced eugenics. Clayton desperately tries to forge a connection between the Brits and Hitler via an American (the racist Madison Grant) who, he says, was influenced by the Brits and who himself influenced Hitler, but the connection is tenuous. Nevertheless, this photo appears in the article. (Isn’t there some law about dragging Hitler into every discussion as a way to make your strongest point?)
My friend Luana suggested that I use this children’s book to illustrate Clayton’s point:
As the email and paper I cite below show, Clayton is also wrong in arguing that the statical methods devised by Pearson, Galton, and especially Fisher, were created to further their eugenic aspirations. In fact, Clayton admits this for several tests (bolding is mine).
One of the first theoretical problems Pearson attempted to solve concerned the bimodal distributions that Quetelet and Galton had worried about, leading to the original examples of significance testing. Toward the end of the 19th century, as scientists began collecting more data to better understand the process of evolution, such distributions began to crop up more often. Some particularly unusual measurements of crab shells collected by Weldon inspired Pearson to wonder, exactly how could one decide whether observations were normally distributed?
Before Pearson, the best anyone could do was to assemble the results in a histogram and see whether it looked approximately like a bell curve. Pearson’s analysis led him to his now-famous chi-squared test, using a measure called Χ2 to represent a “distance” between the empirical results and the theoretical distribution. High values, meaning a lot of deviation, were unlikely to occur by chance if the theory were correct, with probabilities Pearson computed. This formed the basic three-part template of a significance test as we now understand it. . .
If the chi-squared test was developed to foster eugenics, it was the eugenics of crabs! But Clayton manages to connect the crab study to eugenics:
Applying his tests led Pearson to conclude that several datasets like Weldon’s crab measurements were not truly normal. Racial differences, however, were his main interest from the beginning. Pearson’s statistical work was inseparable from his advocacy for eugenics. One of his first example calculations concerned a set of skull measurements taken from graves of the Reihengräber culture of Southern Germany in the fifth to seventh centuries. Pearson argued that an asymmetry in the distribution of the skulls signified the presence of two races of people. That skull measurements could indicate differences between races, and by extension differences in intelligence or character, was axiomatic to eugenicist thinking. Establishing the differences in a way that appeared scientific was a powerful step toward arguing for racial superiority.
How many dubious inferential leaps does that paragraph make? I count at least four. But I must pass on to other assertions.
Ronald Fisher gets the brunt of Clayton’s ire because, says Clayton, Fisher developed his many famous statistical tests (including analysis of variance, the Fisher exact test, and so on) to answer eugenic questions. This is not true. Fisher espoused the British classist view of eugenics, but he also developed his statistical tests for other reasons, even if he ever applied them to eugenic questions. In fact, the Society of the Study of Evolution (SSE), when deciding to rename its Fisher Prize for graduate-student accomplishment, says that the order of eugenics —> statistical tests is reversed:
Alongside his work integrating principles of Mendelian inheritance with processes of evolutionary change in populations and applying these advances in agriculture, Fisher established key aspects of theory and practice of statistics.
Fisher, along with other geneticists of the time, extended these ideas to human populations and strongly promoted eugenic policies—selectively favoring reproduction of people of accomplishment and societal stature, with the objective of genetically “improving” human societies.
In this temporal ordering, which happens to be correct (see below), the statistics are not tainted by eugenics and thus don’t have to be thrown overboard. As I reported in a post last year, several of us wrote a letter to the SSE trying to correct its misconceptions (see here for the letter, which also corrects misconceptions about Fisher’s racism), but the SSE politely rejected it.
Towards the end of his article, Clayton calls for eliminating the use of these “racist” statistics, though they’ve saved many lives since they’re used in medical trials, and have also been instrumental in helping scientists in many other areas understand the universe. Clayton manages to dig up a few extremists who also call for eliminating the use of statistics and “significance levels” (the latter issue could, in truth, be debated), but there is nothing that can replace the statistics developed by Galton, Pearson, and Fisher. I’ll give two quotes showing that, in the end, Clayton is a social-justice crank who thinks that objectivity is overrated. Bolding is mine:
Nathaniel Joselson is a data scientist in healthcare technology, whose experiences studying statistics in Cape Town, South Africa, during protests over a statue of colonial figure Cecil John Rhodes led him to build the website “Meditations on Inclusive Statistics.” He argues that statistics is overdue for a “decolonization,” to address the eugenicist legacy of Galton, Pearson, and Fisher that he says is still causing damage, most conspicuously in criminal justice and education. “Objectivity is extremely overrated,” he told me. “What the future of science needs is a democratization of the analysis process and generation of analysis,” and that what scientists need to do most is “hear what people that know about this stuff have been saying for a long time. Just because you haven’t measured something doesn’t mean that it’s not there. Often, you can see it with your eyes, and that’s good enough.”
Statistics, my dear Joselson, was developed precisely because what “we see with our eyes” may be deceptive, for what we often see with our eyes is what we want to see with our eyes. It’s called “ascertainment bias.” How do Joselson and Clayton propose to judge the likelihood that a drug really does cure a disease? Through “lived experience”?
It goes on. Read and weep (or laugh):
To get rid of the stain of eugenics, in addition to repairing the logic of its methods, statistics needs to free itself from the ideal of being perfectly objective. It can start with issues like dismantling its eugenicist monuments and addressing its own diversity problems. Surveys have consistently shown that among U.S. resident students at every level, Black/African-American and Hispanic/Latinx people are severely underrepresented in statistics.
. . . Addressing the legacy of eugenics in statistics will require asking many such difficult questions. Pretending to answer them under a veil of objectivity serves to dehumanize our colleagues, in the same way the dehumanizing rhetoric of eugenics facilitated discriminatory practices like forced sterilization and marriage prohibitions. Both rely on distancing oneself from the people affected and thinking of them as “other,” to rob them of agency and silence their protests.
How an academic community views itself is a useful test case for how it will view the world. Statistics, steeped as it is in esoteric mathematical terminology, may sometimes appear purely theoretical. But the truth is that statistics is closer to the humanities than it would like to admit. The struggles in the humanities over whose voices are heard and the power dynamics inherent in academic discourse have often been destructive, and progress hard-won. Now that fight may have been brought to the doorstep of statistics.
In the 1972 book Social Sciences as Sorcery, Stanislav Andreski argued that, in their search for objectivity, researchers had settled for a cheap version of it, hiding behind statistical methods as “quantitative camouflage.” Instead, we should strive for the moral objectivity we need to simultaneously live in the world and study it. “The ideal of objectivity,” Andreski wrote, “requires much more than an adherence to the technical rules of verification, or recourse to recondite unemotive terminology: namely, a moral commitment to justice—the will to be fair to people and institutions, to avoid the temptations of wishful and venomous thinking, and the courage to resist threats and enticements.”
The last paragraph is really telling, for it says one cannot be “objective” without adhering to the same “moral commitment to justice” as does the author. That is nonsense. Objectivity is the refusal to take an a priori viewpoint based on your political, moral, or ideological commitments, not an explicit adherence to those commitments.
But enough; I could go on forever, and my patience, and yours, is limited. I will quote two other scientists.
The first is A. W. F. Edwards, a well known British geneticist, statistician, and evolutionary biologist. He was also a student of Fisher’s, and has defended him against calumny like Clayton’s. But read the following article for yourself (it isn’t published, for it was written for his College at Cambrige, which was itself contemplating removing memorials to Fisher). I’ll be glad to send the pdf to any reader who wants it:
Here’s the abstract, but do read the paper, available on request:
In June 2020 Gonville and Caius College in Cambridge issued a press announcement that its College Council had decided to ‘take down’ the stained-glass window which had been placed in its Hall in 1989 ready for the centenary of Sir Ronald Fisher the following year. The window depicted the colourful Latin-Square pattern from the jacket of Fisher’s 1935 book The Design of Experiments. The window was one of a matching pair, the other commemorating John Venn with the famous three-set ‘Venn diagram’, each window requiring seven colours which were the same in both (Edwards, 2002; 2014a). One of the arguments advanced for this action was Fisher’s interest in eugenics which ‘stimulated his interest in both statistics and genetics’*.
In this paper I challenge the claim by examining the actual sequence of events beginning with 1909, the year in which Fisher entered Gonville and Caius College. I show that the historians of science who promoted the claim paid inadequate attention to Fisher’s actual studies in statistics as part of his mathematical education which were quite sufficient to launch him on his path-breaking statistical career; they showed a limited understanding of the magnitude of Fisher’s early achievements in theoretical statistics and experimental design, which themselves had no connection with eugenics. Secondly, I show that Fisher’s knowledge of natural selection and Mendelism antedated his involvement in eugenics; and finally I stress that the portmanteau word ‘eugenics’ originally included early human genetics and was the subject from which modern human and medical genetics grew.
Finally, I sent the article to another colleague with statistical and historical expertise, and he/she wrote the following, quoted with permission:
There is an authoritative history of statistics by Stephen Stigler of the UoC. There’s also an excellent biography of Galton by Michael Bulmer. Daniel Kevles’s book is still the best account of the history of eugenics, and he gives a very good account of how it developed into human genetics, largely due to Weinberg, Fisher and Haldane. Genetic counselling is in fact a form of eugenics, and only religious bigots are against it. Eugenics has become a dirty word, associated with Nazism and other forms of racism.
According to Stigler, many early developments, like the normal distribution and least squares estimation, were developed by astronomers and physicists such as Gauss and Laplace in order to deal with measurement error. Galton invented the term ‘regression’ when investigating the relations between parent and offspring, but did not use the commonly used least squares method of estimation, although this had been introduced much earlier by Legendre. Galton consistently advocated research into heredity rather than applied eugenics, undoubtedly because he felt a firm scientific base was needed as a foundation for eugenics.
Like Fisher, Galton and Pearson were interested in ‘improving the stock’, which had nothing to do with racial differences; even Marxists like Muller and Haldane were advocates of positive eugenics of this kind. I think there are many arguments against positive eugenics, but it is misguided to make out that it is inherently evil in the same way as Nazism and white supremacism.
No doubt Galton and Pearson held racist views, but these were widespread at the time, and had nothing to do with the eugenics movement in the UK; in fact, the Eugenics Society published a denunciation of Nazi eugenics laws in 1933 and explicitly dissociated eugenics from racism (see http://www.senns.uk/The_Eug_Soc_and_the_Nazis.pdf). People are confused about this, because the word ‘race’ was then widely used in a very loose sense to refer to what we would now refer to as a population (Churchill used to refer to the ‘English race’: he was himself half American).
Fisher’s work in statistics was very broadly based and not primarily motivated by genetics; he discovered the distribution of t as a result of correspondence with the statistician W.S. Gossett at Guinness’s brewery in Dublin, and his major contributions to experimental design and ANOVA were made in connection with agricultural research at the Rothamstead experimental station (who have renamed their ‘Fisher Court’ as ‘ANOVA Court’). Maybe everyone should give up drinking Guinness and eating cereal products, since they are allegedly contaminated in this way.
It’s the Lord’s day, but also John Avise‘s day, for on Sunday we get a themed collections of bird photos from John. His narrative and captions are below, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.
Don’t forget to send in your photos—we’re running low! Thanks.
I hope all WEIT readers are having a very happy Thanksgiving weekend. In slightly belated honor of Turkey Day, today’s theme is native birds with the word “turkey” in the common name. In North America, there are two such species: the Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), from which domestic turkeys are descended; and the unrelated Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura). The Turkey Vulture probably got its name from its featherless head, like that of a Wild Turkey gobbler. Wild Turkeys can be found across most of the United States and Mexico, whereas Turkey Vultures range throughout the Americas. I won’t include photos of domestic turkeys, because most of you already know what they look and taste like.
Wild Turkey hen:
Wild Turkey adult male (gobbler or tom):
Wild Turkey young male:
Wild Turkey adults with juvenile (chick or poult):
Greetings on Sunday, November 27, 2022. In exactly one month I’ll be greeting my surrogate parents and Hili in Poland, and I’ll meet Szaron and Kulka for the first time! Don’t forget the approach of Xmas as well as Coynezaa, the holiday that begins on Christmas Day and ends on my birthday, December 30,
I was going to post a live Hendrix video in honor of Electric Guitar Day, but I couldn’t find a live performance of “Sweet Angel,” my favorite. Here instead is Mark Knopfler playing “Sultans of Swing,” another virtuoso piece. He explains his style before he starts the song at 1:57.
*Over at the WaPo, Andrew Delbanco takes up the thorny question of reparations for the oppression suffered by minority Americans, mostly black, in his op-ed “Reparations for Black Americans can work. Here’s how.” He goes through the history of the reparations argument in the U.S. (yes, interred Japanese-Americans got them in WWII, and Martin Luther King favored some kind of payback), and then comes up with a solution that sounds good to me:
Today, a great many White Americans feel as demeaned and discarded as Black Americans, and just as forgotten. In the grim metrics of poverty rates, infant mortality and maternal deaths in childbirth, Black Americans and Native Americans continue to hold the lead. But in the distribution of suffering, as measured by other markers such as opioid addiction, alcoholism and suicide, the racial gap is closing.
This multiracial reality can be addressed only with a multiracial response of the sort envisioned by King. Beginning with a robust defense of the right to vote, such a response must include subsidized housing for low-income Americans; improved access to health care; investments in public transportation; expanded child tax credits; preschool and wraparound services for all children of the sort that affluent families take for granted. It must include renewed investment in community colleges, historically Black colleges and universities, tribal and regional public colleges, where low-income White students as well as Black, Hispanic and Native American students are likely to enroll. At elite private colleges, it should mean less dependence on the blunt instrument of standardized testing, and more bridge programs for recruiting and preparing children from low-asset families, White as well as non-White. All this might sound like a fanciful wish list, and a partial one at that — but it is no departure from the American creed of equal opportunity, in which both parties profess to believe. I have no doubt that a racially inclusive approach to repairing our society stands a better chance than any effort that is racially exclusive.
The fact that some of the benefits go to other ethnic groups should lessen the resentment that many people (though not I) feel about the issue of reparations for slavery.
*Yesterday’s World Cup results are pretty much what one expects (click to enlarge). In Argentina’s victory over Mexico, Messi scored one goal and assisted with the other, and apparently broke the game wide open with his vigorous passes and dribbles—old man that he is. This was critical for Argentina, for had they lost to Mexico (remember, they’d already lost to Saudi Arabia in the Cup’s biggest upset), they’d have very little chance to reach the finals.
Here are five minutes of highlights from the Argentina/Mexico game:
As for the other games:
Kylian Mbappé scored two second-half goals to grab a share of the World Cup scoring lead, and an in-control France finished Denmark, 2-1, to secure its place in the knockout stages with a game to go.
. . .Saudi Arabia again tried to summon the magic that helped it produce the greatest moment in the country’s soccer history, but Poland’s goalkeeper, Wojciech Szczesny, and its star striker Robert Lewandowski made sure their team didn’t suffer the same fate as Lionel Messi and Argentina.
With 10 minutes remaining, and Saudi Arabia fresh off two good chances to score, Lewandowski doused the Saudis’ hopes, pouncing on an errant pass from Abdulelah al-Malki and then easily rolling the ball into the back of the net for his first World Cup goal.
. . .Australia grabbed hold a World Cup lifeline on Saturday, beating Tunisia, 1-0, on a first-half goal by Mitchell Duke at Al Janoub.
The victory, Australia’s first at the World Cup since 2010, temporarily scrambled the standings in Group D. And it briefly tied the Socceroos with France in first place with three points. (France restablished sole position of first, and clinched a spot in the knockout round, but beating Denmark, 2-1, later Saturday.
*The Guardian has an interview with physicist Sabine Hossenfelder with the provocative title, “Physicist Sabine Hossenfelder: ‘There are quite a few areas where physics blurs into religion.” This is guaranteed to piss off her colleagues who think the multiverse might be real, but Hossenfelder doesn’t care! A few Q&As with the Biner. As the article notes, “Her second book, Existential Physics: A Scientist’s Guide to Life’s Biggest Questions, came out in August.” (h/t Barry)
You write that a lot of research in physics, such as hypotheses for the early universe, is “religion masquerading as science under the guise of mathematics”. Could you elaborate on that? There are quite a few areas where the foundations of physics blur into religion, but physicists don’t notice because they’re not paying attention. It’s a lack of education in the philosophy of science in general. For example, the most commonly accepted story about the beginning of the universe is the big bang, and to some extent this is really just the simplest way you can extrapolate the equations into the past – and then you can add inflation, which is an exponential phase of expansion; or, like Roger Penrose, you can make it a cyclic universe. But maybe it was a big bounce, or it started with the collision of membranes. These ideas are all possible – they’re all compatible with the observations that we have. But I would call them ascientific – the kind of idea that evidence says nothing for nor against.
You don’t have much time for the multiverse either. Why not? It’s another one of those ideas that I’d call ascientific. If you want to believe that there are infinite copies of you with small alterations – one of them maybe won the Nobel prize, another became a rock star – you can believe this if you want to, it’s not in conflict with anything we know. But from a scientific perspective, if you want to make progress in our understanding of natural law, I’d say it’s a waste of time exactly for that reason, because you can’t test it.
Can you understand why some giants of physics, such as Stephen Hawking, came to believe we are living in a multiverse? I have guesses, but I can’t ask him. It’s not just Stephen Hawking, there’s quite a number of people in the foundations of physics, though if you read the popular science press, it overstates the number, because they’re very prominent. It’s very niche, actually, this whole multiverse thing. Those people are really confused about what science can actually do. How they come to this conclusion that the multiverse must exist is that they have some theory that predicts some things that agree with observations – that’s all well and fine. And then they jump to the conclusion that therefore all the mathematics that appears in this theory also has to exist in some sense. But this is not how it works. You’ve just assigned reality to some mathematical expressions. You can’t support it with a scientific argument.
You’re very exacting when assessing other scientists’ work, so I’m interested to know: which physicists working today do you hold in the highest regard? Oh Jesus. Then you’ll print this and everyone else will hate me. Well, I very much admire Roger Penrose, who has a really sharp mind and has done so many amazing things. He has also been outspoken in his criticism of some of the trends in the foundations of physics, including string theory. And he’s courageous, putting forward some ideas that are fairly out-there – like the stuff with the gravitationally induced collapse, or how consciousness plays a role in the human brain, or the cyclic universe. It’s all very original.
The room of containment, technically an “anechoic chamber,” is the quietest place on the planet — according to some. According to others, it’s more like the second-quietest. It is quieter than any place most people will ever go, unless they make a point of going to multiple anechoic chambers over the course of a lifetime.
. . . Earlier this year, members of the public began, apparently spontaneously, and via TikTok and YouTube, convincing one another that the room was created as an invitation to compete; that spending a few hours alone inside it entitled a person to a cash prize; that the value of this cash prize was up to $7 million; and that anyone could attempt to win it. Orfield Labs was bombarded with phone calls and emails from people demanding a shot at winning the money. There was no contest. But the mystique of the too-quiet room, if construed by outsiders, has perhaps been bolstered by the company’s website, which advertises an experience called “The Orfield Challenge,” whereby, for $600 an hour, a person can attempt to set a new “record” for time spent in the chamber.
A person inside an anechoic chamber will not hear nothing. The human body is in constant motion — inhaling and expelling air, settling limbs into new positions, pumping blood — and so, constantly creating sounds (although usually we cannot hear them). Environments we think of as ultraquiet are typically quite a bit louder than the floor of the human hearing threshold, which is around zero decibels; a library reading room, for instance, might clock in at 40 decibels. An anechoic chamber does not sharpen hearing; it removes the noise that otherwise drowns out the soft, ceaseless sounds of a body, enabling them to be perceived with novel clarity. The body is only totally still — totally silent — in death.
. . . In 2004, Guinness World Records certified the anechoic chamber at Orfield Laboratories as the quietest place on Earth, with an ambient sound level of –9.4 decibels A-weighted. (“A-weighting” measures frequencies according to audibility for humans; negative decibels correspond to sound levels below typical human hearing.) Eight years later, after the chamber was further sealed up to prevent sound leakage, new tests gave a reading of –13 decibels A-weighted. Guinness reaffirmed its status as Earth’s quietest place.
. . . The chamber was outfitted with an office chair for my three-hour stay. Orfield Laboratories’ gray-ponytailed manager, Michael Role, outlined the complicated terms I would need to adhere to in order to set a new record: I would need to stay in the room for three hours. It was my choice to have the lights on or off. Faced with the prospect of staring at a 12-by-10-foot room for three hours with no adornments except a chair and hundreds of hanging fiberglass pyramids, I opted for total darkness. “Sometimes people like to lay down or sit on the floor, so I leave a nice padded blanket in here,” Role said, handing me a blue blanket — which I spread across the floor — before shutting the door (unlocked, he assured me), leaving me in lightless silence.
The room was designed by the Army to test out enemy loudspeakers designed to broadcast deceptive noises. Did Weaver survive her three hours in the room, setting a record? You’ll have to read the article to find out.
There are three variants of the gene, each conferring a different risk. People with the APOE2 variant appear to have a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s; the APOE3 variant — the most common type — is “neutral,” meaning it does not increase or decrease risk; and the APOE4 variant raises a person’s risk. Everyone has two versions of the gene, one inherited from their mother and one from their father.
About 25 percent of people carry one APOE4, increasing their chance of developing Alzheimer’s by two or three times. Another 2 to 3 percent of people have two copies of APOE4, as [actor Chris]. Hemsworth does. This is associated with a roughly 10-fold higher risk. Having APOE4 is also linked to earlier onset of the disease.
. . .Scientists aren’t exactly sure why a gene involved in capturing cholesterol plays such a large role in Alzheimer’s disease. It’s possible that changes in cholesterol can damage brain cells or cause inflammation in the brain, which could lead to dementia.
Having the APOE4 gene variant, either one or two copies, does not mean you will definitely get Alzheimer’s disease. Some conditions, such as Huntington’s disease, are directly caused by a specific gene mutation. Alzheimer’s disease and APOE4 don’t work like that. The gene is just one factor that contributes to people’s risk. Some people with the gene variant are never diagnosed with the disease, and many people without APOE4 develop Alzheimer’s.
How do you know if you have the bad allele, and whether it’s homozygous or heterozygous? Well, you can get genetically tested at your local hospital, or you can send in our DNA to a company like 23andMe, who, for an extra fee, can tell you all the diseases you’re likely to get. This is why, me being a worrier, I just got the basic ancestry information and abjured the health data. It’s your own choice, using “choice” as shorthand for “what the laws of physics determine you do”, of course.
Now, how do you stave off the disease? The same way you stave off almost everything:
All the experts interviewed for this article agreed that regardless of your genetic status, it is possible to reduce your overall risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s. Studies show that tried and true healthy habits — exercise, eating well, limiting your alcohol intake, getting enough sleep, not smoking and being socially engaged — are key to fending off neurodegenerative disease.
Well, I’m screwed, especially about the sleep part. But there’s good news, too!
Finally, higher education has consistently been shown to be one of the best ways to lower a person’s risk for dementia. The hypothesis is that education helps people’s brains become more resilient, a concept known as cognitive reserve. Even if there are visible changes to a person’s brain, the more education they have, the less likely they are to display dementia symptoms.
This isn’t natural selection for genetic variants associated with higher education. Such alleles do exist, but many people are already past reproductive age when they get Alzheimer’s, reducing their reproductive deficit compared to people without dementia.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the Hili dialogue with Andrzej is very strange. Malgorzata explains:
In case you do not understand: Hili doesn’t really know what postmodernism is. Andrzej knows that she doesn’t know and assures her that she will not encounter it here. But Hili thinks that if postmodernism is strange and there is something strange in the hedge, maybe, the two strange things have something in common. This is my interpretation of this strange dialogue. Andrzej, when asked, refused to elaborate, leaving me to guess.
Here you go:
Hili: I think postmodernism is strange.
A: It’s not here.
Hili: Over there in the hedge, there is something strange.
Hili: Dziwi mnie postmodernizm.
Ja: Tu go nie ma.
Hili: Tam w żywopłocie jest coś dziwnego.
From Malcolm: Sheepdogs herd a balloon:
A picture I received from Iran with this note:
« Dear Masih. As I was protesting, one of the regime’s militia members attacked me with a taser & baton. He was such a savage, he even bit my eyebrow and broke my toenail. I was saved by ordinary people.»#IranRevoIutionpic.twitter.com/F5F3unSLoY
From the Auschwitz Memorial: A mass deportation of Norwegian Jews took place eighty years ago today. Nearly all of them died in Auschwitz.
26 November 1942 | German ship S.S. Donau left Oslo in occupied #Norway, carrying 532 of Norway’s Jews, en route to #Auschwitz. They arrived there on December 1. A total of 772 Norwegian Jews were deported for extermination. 26 survived the war. pic.twitter.com/2J4Z5fbCdU
Reader Phil actually found the University and several other landmarks in the photo. Here’s his guide to the photo, which included a note:
The Point [a nearby small peninsula sticking into the Lake] is barely resolvable, I was able to follow 55th east from Midway to Washington Park. The Plaisance [the strip of grass that bisects the University] is only two pixels wide. No ducks were harmed in the creation of this image.