Archive for October, 2015
31 Oct 2015

Eastern US Has a New Species

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Coywolf

The Economist discusses the pedigree of the now-ubiquitous Eastern Coyote.

It is rare for a new animal species to emerge in front of scientists’ eyes. But this seems to be happening in eastern North America.

Like some people who might rather not admit it, wolves faced with a scarcity of potential sexual partners are not beneath lowering their standards. It was desperation of this sort, biologists reckon, that led dwindling wolf populations in southern Ontario to begin, a century or two ago, breeding widely with dogs and coyotes. The clearance of forests for farming, together with the deliberate persecution which wolves often suffer at the hand of man, had made life tough for the species. That same forest clearance, though, both permitted coyotes to spread from their prairie homeland into areas hitherto exclusively lupine, and brought the dogs that accompanied the farmers into the mix.

Interbreeding between animal species usually leads to offspring less vigorous than either parent—if they survive at all. But the combination of wolf, coyote and dog DNA that resulted from this reproductive necessity generated an exception. The consequence has been booming numbers of an extraordinarily fit new animal (see picture) spreading through the eastern part of North America. Some call this creature the eastern coyote. Others, though, have dubbed it the “coywolf”. Whatever name it goes by, Roland Kays of North Carolina State University, in Raleigh, reckons it now numbers in the millions.

The mixing of genes that has created the coywolf has been more rapid, pervasive and transformational than many once thought. Javier Monzón, who worked until recently at Stony Brook University in New York state (he is now at Pepperdine University, in California) studied the genetic make-up of 437 of the animals, in ten north-eastern states plus Ontario. He worked out that, though coyote DNA dominates, a tenth of the average coywolf’s genetic material is dog and a quarter is wolf.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Robert Laird.

31 Oct 2015

Overheard at Yale

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OAY

OAY is a secret, closed group on Facebook where current undergraduates post interesting, amusing, or thought-provoking images or anecdotes.

OAY1

31 Oct 2015

The Mathematics of Vampire-Human Relations

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Vampire

Ella Morton reviews the academic literature addressing the possibility of vampire-humanity peaceful coexistence and the alternative hypothesis which argues that hungry vamps will simply eat themselves out of human prey.

A surprisingly large number of academic studies—as in, more than one—have applied mathematical modeling to the concept of human-vampire co-existence. … these papers look at whether Earth’s vampire population would inevitably annihilate humanity, and, if so, how long it would take.

30 Oct 2015

“Absurd, Costly, Pointless”

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milleritecartoon

The French Société de Calcul Mathématique SA., a think tank devoted to matters mathematical & statistical, delivered, last month, a devastating white paper, which characterized the battle against Global Warming as “an absurd, costly, and pointless crusade.”

pdf

Barbara Hollingsworth, at CNS News, summarizes:

As the United Nations gears up for its next international conference on climate change in Paris next month (COP 21), a scathing white paper released by a society of French mathematicians calls its fight against global warming “absurd” and “a costly and pointless crusade”.

“You would probably have to go quite a long way back in human…history to find [such a] mad obsession,” according to a translated summary of the document released in September by the Paris-based Société de Calcul Mathématique SA.

The mathematicians harshly criticized a “crusade [that] has invaded every area of activity and everyone’s thinking,” noting that “the battle [against] CO2 has become a national priority.

“How have we reached this point in a country that claims to be rational?” they ask, adding that mathematicians “do not believe in crusades. They look at facts, figures, comments and arguments.”

“There is not a single fact, figure…[or] observation that leads us to conclude the world’s climate is in any way ‘disturbed,” the paper states. “It is variable, as it has always been. … Modern methods are far from being able to accurately measure the planet’s overall temperature even today, so measurements made 50 or 100 years ago are even less reliable.”

Noting that concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) have “always” varied, the French mathematicians also said that after processing the raw data on hurricanes themselves, they verified that “they are no more frequent now than they have been in the past.”

“We are being told that a temperature increase of more than 2 degrees C[elsius] by comparison with the beginning of the industrial age would have dramatic consequences and absolutely has to be prevented.

“When they hear this, people worry. Has there not already been an increase of 1.9 degrees C?

“Actually, no. The figures for the period 1995-2015 show an upward trend of about 1 degree C every hundred years! Of course, these figures, [which] contradict public policies, are never brought to public attention,” the white paper stated.
(Google)

The French mathematicians also said that the UN’s climate models have failed to take into account natural phenomena that affects climate far more than human activity.

Human impact on the climate is “tiny, quite negligible in comparison with natural causes,” they point out. “Human beings can do nothing about solar activity, the state of the oceans, the temperature of the Earth’s magna, or the composition of the atmosphere.”

Furthermore, the work done by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) does not meet the basic standards set by reputable scientific journals because its “conclusions go [contrary] to observed facts; the figures used are deliberately chosen to support its conclusions (with no regard for the most basic scientific honesty); and the variability of natural phenomena is passed over without comment.”

Even if there were such a thing as global warming, “then we should celebrate,” the mathematicians said. “And if it does not exist, then we simply shall have to carry on switching on the central heating.”

Read the whole thing.

30 Oct 2015

Henry V’s Sword Displayed

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HenryVSword
Henry V’s sword. Analysis

AFP:

King Henry V’s sword was carried through London’s Westminster Abbey on Thursday as England celebrated the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, one of its greatest-ever victories in war.

A service was held in the royal church where the king is buried, six centuries on from the day when news of the victory arrived in London, triggering joyous celebrations.

The battle on October 25, 1415 saw a heavily-outnumbered and exhausted English army inflict a catastrophic defeat on the French that altered the course of the Hundred Years’ War.

King Henry was 28 and two years into his nine-year reign. His longbow archers routed the French nobility.

Westminster Abbey holds king Henry’s “funerary achievements” — the personal items carried at his funeral, namely his sword, shield, saddle and helmet.

His sword was carried through the church once again and placed on the altar next to his helmet.

Queen Elizabeth II’s cousin Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, joined around 2,200 people at the service, many of whom were history buffs who snapped up the tickets.

The choir sang “The Agincourt Carol” in its original 15th-century English.

It begins: “Owre kynge went forth to Normandy / With grace and myght of chyvalry / There God for hym wrought mervelusly / Wherefore Englonde may calle and cry / Deo gratias!”

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29 Oct 2015

My Favorite Moment in Last Night’s GOP Debate

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Tweet101

Hat tip to Stephen Green.

29 Oct 2015

Lippmann in 1937 on Progressivism

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progressiveswilldecide

Nick Short quotes Walter Lippmann (of all people) full-throatedly critiquing Progressivism’s enthusiasm for statist coercion.

In his book entitled “An Inquiry into the Principles of the Good Society“, the once avid progressive Walter Lippmann wrote, “Although the partisans who are now fighting for the mastery of the modern world wear shirts of different colors, their weapons are drawn from the same armory, their doctrines are variations of the same theme, and they go forth to battle singing the same tune with slightly different words. Their weapons are the coercive direction of the life and labor of mankind. Their doctrine is that disorder and misery can be overcome only by more and more compulsory organization. Their promise is that through the power of the state men can be made happy.”

Lippmann continued, “Throughout the world, in the name of progress, men who call themselves communists, socialists, fascists, nationalists, progressives, and even liberals, are unanimous in holding that government with its instruments of coercion must by commanding the people how they shall live, direct the course of civilization and fix the shape of things to come. …the mark of a progressive is that he relies at last upon the increased power of officials to improve the condition of men… the only instrument of progress in which they have faith is the coercive agency of government.”

Though this statement in itself is an extraordinary indictment on the direction in which liberalism would inevitably lead us, Lippmann’s next statement is what truly brings home the notion of what we today would consider the modern idea behind progressivism. Noting how progressives seem to imagine no alternative but to rely on the coercive agency of government, Lippmann writes that they can’t even “remember how much of what they cherish as progressive has come by emancipation from political dominion, by the limitation of power, by the release of personal energy from authority and collective coercion. For virtually all that now passes for progressivism in the United States calls for increasing ascendancy of the state: always the cry is for more officials with more power over more and more of the activities of men.”

I had not been aware of there ever having been a classically liberal Lippmann. When I was young, Lippmann was an aged whited speculchre reliably defending Big Government Progressivism (then called: Liberalism) de haut en bas.

Hat tip to Vanderleun.

28 Oct 2015

They Have the Russian Shaking in his Boots

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28 Oct 2015

We Don’t Know Anyone Like That

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tsundoku

27 Oct 2015

US Military Small Arms Need Replacing

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M4_MOD2

Jim Schatz, in National Defense, makes an irrefutable case for replacing US primary-issue small arms. US forces need a more reliable rifle and both new rifles and new pistols firing more potent rounds.

Since the end of World War II, only 10 U.S tank crew members have been killed in warfare. This is an amazing testament to fighting vehicle technology and the money spent to develop and sustain that tactical edge over our enemies.

In that same period, the United States has lost some 60,000 soldiers in small arms engagements, an approximate one for one exchange.

Few foes on the planet could hope to dominate America in a tank, air or naval battle. Yet every bad actor with an AK-47 takes on U.S. and NATO ground forces in a small arms fight. We are no longer suitably armed to prevent it.

This happens because the current U.S. Army small arms development and acquisition system is dysfunctional and virtually unworkable, even for those within the system. It has not brought troops substantial evolutionary small arms and ammunition capabilities in years, or even decades, and too often not at all, and almost never on or under budget. Lives are often lost as a result. …

Small arms are the most deployed weapon systems in our arsenal, yet the age of America’s eight most numerous conventional military small arms are on average more than 35 years old. While we have replaced uniforms, helmets, body armor, radios, rations and footwear countless times in three decades, the weapons and ammunition we use in 2015 are little more than variants of Vietnam-era technology possessing the antiquated capabilities of a bygone era.

The Army continues to procure weapons with old performance specifications that have been repeatedly eclipsed by superior commercial small arms used by our allies, our top-tier special operations forces and sometimes by our enemies. Elite units — with a few exceptions — do not use the standard-issue U.S. Army small arms or ammunition. Why? Because they are inferior to the more advanced weapons selected by these units. There is a fundamental difference between their acquisition process and that of the “Big Army,” where there are hundreds of decisions makers and countless agencies and offices involved.

Read the whole thing.

Schatz doesn’t get into it, but I think the root of the problem is cultural. America has become, in recent decades, much more a nation of metrosexuals than a nation of riflemen. The shooting sports are completely alien to the largest urbanized sector of American society.

We now have to look to Germany & Italy to buy military-quality small arms. Colt is in bankruptcy. The Winchester factory in New Haven closed years ago, and Winchester today is just a revived trade name building its products in Japan. The American chattering classes are not concerned in the slightest with feminization of American men or the decline of our domestic arms industry. They’d like to confiscate and destroy all our guns.

27 Oct 2015

Warrior’s Grave Found at Pylos

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Pylos2
One of more than four dozen seal stones with intricate Minoan designs found in the tomb. Bulls were a common Minoan motif. (Photo: Department of Classics/University of Cincinnati)

Archaeologists from the University of Cincinnati excavating near Nestor‘s palace at Pylos found an intact shaft grave.

New York Times:

Remarkably, the burial was intact apart from a one-ton stone, probably once the lid of the grave, which had fallen in and crushed the wooden coffin beneath.

The coffin has long since decayed, but still remaining are the bones of a man about 30 to 35 years old and lying on his back. Placed to his left were weapons, including a long bronze sword with an ivory hilt clad in gold and a gold-hilted dagger. On his right side were four gold rings with fine Minoan carvings and some 50 Minoan seal stones carved with imagery of goddesses and bull jumpers. “I was just stunned by the quality of the carving,” Dr. Wright said, noting that the objects “must have come out of the best workshops of the palaces of Crete.”

An ivory plaque carved with a griffin, a mythical animal that protected goddesses and kings, lay between the warrior’s legs. The grave contained gold, silver and bronze cups.

The warrior seems to have been something of a dandy. Among the objects accompanying him to the netherworld were a bronze mirror with an ivory handle and six ivory combs.

Because of the griffins depicted in the grave, Dr. Davis and Dr. Stocker refer to the man informally as the “griffin warrior.” He was certainly a prominent leader in his community, they say, maybe the pre-eminent one. The palace at Pylos had a king or “wanax,” a title mentioned in the Linear B tablets, but it’s not known if this position existed in the griffin warrior’s society.

Ancient Greek graves can be dated by their pottery, but the griffin warrior’s grave had none: His vessels are made of silver or gold, not humble clay. From shards found above and below the grave, however, Dr. Davis believes it was dug in the period known as Late Helladic II, a pottery-related chronology that corresponds to 1600 B.C. to 1400 B.C., in the view of some authorities, or 1550 B.C. to 1420 B.C., in the view of others.

Pappas Post

26 Oct 2015

Tyranny of the PC

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SlowPC

My wife Karen blogs infrequently, but today she posted a very excellent rant all about the inescapable personal time cost of using your computer.

Remember sub-second response time? That was the promise that any computer that can react quickly enough will come to seem like an internal mental reaction. You would be able to treat the computer like a psychologically immersive responsive tool, the same way a musical instrument feels.

Back in the green-screen days, before Windows and its ilk, it was possible to interact with computers at maximum human speed — as fast as you could type commands, they could be implemented, and keyboard buffers allowed you to control what command went to what program. That was sub-second response time — it felt like the computer was an extension of your body.

Ever since, computers have settled for becoming an extension of your intellect, instead. The more powerful the response, the more we expect it to be delayed by internet and other network latency delays, by software complexity, by the loss of keyboard type-ahead. We are grateful for the more flexible and powerful results, but we have lost the ability to treat the machine as a direct tool, one that convinces us it is an extension of our body by its immediacy. The required sub-second response time is an ever-receding goal, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

Read the whole thing.

26 Oct 2015

Some People Would Consider This a Compliment

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FoxTombstone

26 Oct 2015

Arrangements for American Gun Confiscation

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AustraliaGunConfiscation
In 1996-1997, Australia confiscated and destroyed roughly one million semi-automatic and pump-action rifles and shotguns through a compulsory gun “buy back” program.

Daren Jonescu notes that Hillary Clinton has already openly adopted gun confiscation Australian-style as a campaign promise and evaluates the practicalities of just how such a radical and invasive policy might be implemented.

That a wide-scale confiscation program could be arranged from a purely logistical point of view is obvious, as such programs have already been successfully carried out in other nations, and far more complicated programs are administered by the U.S. federal government every day. Her reserved phraseology, then, is a bureaucratizing euphemism to mask the real problem that would make such a program difficult to “arrange” in America: resisters.

Clinton knows what every American gun control advocate knows, namely that a substantial number of Americans see their weapons as political tools of last resort. They will not relinquish their firearms at their government’s “request.” Any national confiscation program would involve many episodes of government agents — police or military — visiting citizens’ homes to search for and seize guns, against some level of resistance from gun owners. Some of these episodes would become violent, involving gunfire and bloodshed, probably on both sides, resulting in the use of increased levels of government force, and in heightened public tension in the face of these armed confrontations between private citizens and the government. …

[A] major part of the discussion on this issue, among progressives of all stripes, is the question of how, whether, or when this resistance might be reduced to “acceptable levels,” and quelled without stirring broader social upheaval. This is the question buried within the bureaucratic coldness of Hillary’s conditional clause, “if that could be arranged.”

Let us consider aloud a matter that progressives might prefer to reserve for private cocktail party conversations, namely what sort of “arrangements” would be required to make a national gun confiscation viable in the United States.

Read the whole thing.

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