Open Thread: Announcement

341ea6e08a49012ee3c400163e41dd5bI’m starting some new IRL projects (that have nothing to do with the blog and won’t be discussed here.) It’s a big time commitment and if all goes well, I’m going to be really busy for the foreseeable future.

Right now I have no idea how this will affect the blog, whether I’ll be figure out how to balance my time and keep up my regular schedule or will need to cut back. I’ll let you know when I find out.

(Update: hooo boy has life been kicking my butt.)

m3-agenesis-carter-worthington-2015In the meanwhile, here’s a graph of the incidence of people who never develop their permanent third molars, broken down by continent (I assume N. and S. America are sampled from Native American populations.)

This is not the same as not getting your wisdom teeth, though I’d wager a graph of that would look similar.

(“agenesis”= does not begin; “m3″= third molar.)

male-heights-from-skeletons-in-europe-1-2000-clark-645x403And a simple graph of heights in the US, Europe and Sweden over the past … 2000 years.

I propose that the recent increase in heights isn’t just because of better nutrition/more food/more milk and protein in the diet, but also because fewer women die giving birth to large babies now that we have c-sections, and large babies likely grow into large adults.

hybridThis is just a joke. It has no deeper meaning.

In interesting news:

Lethal aggression in Pan [chimpanzees] is better explained by adaptive strategies than human impacts:

Observations of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and bonobos (Pan paniscus) provide valuable comparative data for understanding the significance of conspecific killing. … Lethal violence is sometimes concluded to be the result of adaptive strategies, such that killers ultimately gain fitness benefits by increasing their access to resources such as food or mates. Alternatively, it could be a non-adaptive result of human impacts, such as habitat change or food provisioning. To discriminate between these hypotheses we compiled information from 18 chimpanzee communities and 4 bonobo communities studied over five decades. Our data include 152 killings (n = 58 observed, 41 inferred, and 53 suspected killings) by chimpanzees in 15 communities and one suspected killing by bonobos. We found that males were the most frequent attackers (92% of participants) and victims (73%); most killings (66%) involved intercommunity attacks; and attackers greatly outnumbered their victims (median 8:1 ratio). Variation in killing rates was unrelated to measures of human impacts. Our results are compatible with previously proposed adaptive explanations for killing by chimpanzees, whereas the human impact hypothesis is not supported.

Behind the Murky World of Albanian Blood Feuds:

…He produces a list of recent killings he contends are the result of feuding families – not just random acts of violence in a country awash with guns, but the result of continued adherence to an ancient Albanian code of justice known as the “kanun”, or canon.

There is a farmer who was killed after cutting down his neighbour’s tree, a lover who shot both his girlfriend’s brothers after being denied her hand in marriage, and a returning migrant worker gunned down after he went back to his village, reigniting a decades-old feud.

Such are the rules of the “kanun”, a tribal code of 1,262 rules laid down by the 15th-century Albanian nobleman Lekë Dukagjini, which ordains that “spilled blood must be met with spilled blood”.

But while the Kanun stories remain part of Albania’s cultural and historical DNA, they are also a source of growing concern for Britain’s asylum tribunals. Since 2012 tens of thousands of Albanians have migrated to Europe, many seeking asylum on the basis that they are afraid for their lives as a result of “blood feuds”. …

Darwinian Perspectives on the Evolution of Human Languages:

Herodotus, writing in the Histories, Book II.53 around 450 BCE, remarked that Homer “lived, as I believe, not more than 400 years ago.” Many modern classicists and historians prefer a more recent, mid-8th century date for the Iliad. We (Altschuler, Calude, Meade, & Pagel, 2013) decided to try to estimate a date for the Iliad by investigating patterns of cognacy among the 200 words of Swadesh’s (1952) fundamental vocabulary in three languages: Modern Greek, Homeric Greek from Homer’s Iliad, and Hittite, a language distantly related to both modern and Homeric Greek.

We first recorded whether each word in the Swadesh list was cognate or not between pairs of the three languages. Then, we solved for the date in history that was the most likely for the Iliad, given our knowledge of the rates of change of the words and the patterns of cognacy we observed. Our calculation suggested that the original text of the Iliad was released in approximately 762 BCE. This date is in close agreement with classicists’ and historians’ beliefs arrived at independently by studying historical references and the nature of Homeric Greek as expressed in the Iliad.

Staffordshire Strikes Gold with Iron Age Find:

An archaeological find on Staffordshire farmland is believed to include the earliest examples of Iron Age gold ever discovered in Britain.

The collection, which has been named the Leekfrith Iron Age Torcs, was discovered by two metal detectorists just before Christmas.

Unveiling the torcs today (February 28), experts said the unique find could date back as far as 400BC and was of huge international importance.

For Comment of the Week, I’ve been enjoying the conversation between multiple commentators about Fishing and Fish Sauce over on What Mental Traits does the Arctic Select For?

E: … I know in terms of iodine deficiency, pre-modern-transport and storage, distance from the sea makes a big difference. And probably in a well-ordered place with relatively good transport like the Roman Empire at its height, fish sauce must have been the easiest way to get the benefits to the most people, regardless of distance from the ocean. (I wonder if there would be any way to test iodine deficiency in bodies in the Alps before, during, and after the Roman Empire…)

Someone get on testing bodies for iodine deficiency!

 

So, what are you thinking about?

Dear Donna Zuckerberg: You Don’t Own the Classics

You don’t own Aeneas. You neither sent him down to Hell nor raised him up–

Hic aliud maius miseris multoque tremendum
obicitur magis atque improuida pectora turbat.

You incurred not Hera’s wrath nor threw love-cursed Dido on her pyre–

ecce autem gemini a Tenedo tranquilla per alta
(horresco referens) immensis orbibus angues

You did not bear Anchises upon your shoulders as you fled Troy’s burning walls–

fit sonitus spumante salo; iamque arua tenebant
ardentisque oculos suffecti sanguine et igni
sibila lambebant linguis uibrantibus ora.

You do not own the blind poet’s songs, Hektor of the shining helm, Diomedes of the great war cry–

τίς δὲ σύ ἐσσι φέριστε καταθνητῶν ἀνθρώπων;
οὐ μὲν γάρ ποτ’ ὄπωπα μάχῃ ἔνι κυδιανείρῃ

You cannot take Plutarch nor Socrates by PhD!

“I went to one who had the reputation of wisdom …
When I began to talk with him, I could not help thinking that he was not really wise,
although he was thought wise by many, and wiser still by himself …
So I left him, saying to myself, as I went away: Well, although I do not suppose that either of us knows anything really beautiful and good, I am better off than he is – for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows. I neither know nor think that I know.”

Even a critic as skeptical as Edward Said, having succumbed to the temptation of university, academic employment, could not tear down the master’s house with the master’s tools: what hope have you?

At pater infelix, nec iam pater, “Icare,” dixit,
“Icare,” dixit “ubi es? qua te regione requiram?”

You may focus on the parts of antiquity that weren’t white men–

And I shall read Homer, Virgil, Ovid, Plato, Herodotus, Sophocles, Plutarch and Horace
because they are spectacular

Because you think it despicable to inspire “the foundation of Western civilization and culture”–

τὸν δ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ὑπόδρα ἰδὼν προσέφη πολύμητις Ὀδυσσεύς:
‘ξεῖν᾽, οὐ καλὸν ἔειπες: ἀτασθάλῳ ἀνδρὶ ἔοικας.
οὕτως οὐ πάντεσσι θεοὶ χαρίεντα διδοῦσιν
ἀνδράσιν, οὔτε φυὴν οὔτ᾽ ἂρ φρένας οὔτ᾽ ἀγορητύν.
ἄλλος μὲν γάρ τ᾽ εἶδος ἀκιδνότερος πέλει ἀνήρ,
ἀλλὰ θεὸς μορφὴν ἔπεσι στέφει, οἱ δέ τ᾽ ἐς αὐτὸν
τερπόμενοι λεύσσουσιν: ὁ δ᾽ ἀσφαλέως ἀγορεύει
αἰδοῖ μειλιχίῃ, μετὰ δὲ πρέπει ἀγρομένοισιν,
ἐρχόμενον δ᾽ ἀνὰ ἄστυ θεὸν ὣς εἰσορόωσιν.
ἄλλος δ᾽ αὖ εἶδος μὲν ἀλίγκιος ἀθανάτοισιν,
ἀλλ᾽ οὔ οἱ χάρις ἀμφιπεριστέφεται ἐπέεσσιν,
ὡς καὶ σοὶ εἶδος μὲν ἀριπρεπές, οὐδέ κεν ἄλλως
οὐδὲ θεὸς τεύξειε, νόον δ᾽ ἀποφώλιός ἐσσι.

You reduce the Classics to something that inspires:
No civilization, no culture

No one.

Worthless.

Your PhD does not entitle you to dictate other people’s heritage.

My hatred of English class

This is a rant.

So I was reading the Iliad yesterday, (for the simple reason that I like the Iliad,) laughing over the section in book I where Hera and Zeus are bickering, and I thought, “I am so glad I have never had to write an English paper on this.” I am perfectly happy discussing a book, writing a review that I hope will help someone else decide if they want to read the book, or highlighting things that I think are particularly interesting about a book. But I hate English papers. You know what they say about explaining a joke; being forced to spend multiple pages explaining why I think Homer intends us to find the passage amusing kills the whole experience. (And then getting a curt note from the teacher to the effect that this is really not what she was looking for just adds insult to injury.) No one but my Greek prof ever wanted to hear that great literature was supposed to be funny.

Obviously my ability to read and write English lies somewhere above average but below extraordinary; sufficient, you might think, for the average English class.

I did not do well in English. Average, not well. I spent most of English class wondering why we had to destroy such nice books by writing such god-awful papers about them. No, I do not care about the symbolism of the color green in Jane Eyre; I do not care about the grand themes in the Scarlet Letter. There has always been a judgment rolled up in this, an indication that the way I experience and internalize and interpret novels is somehow incorrect, and the teacher’s version is the correct way to do it.

While there are better and worse ways to teach math, I accept that the math I did in highschool and college was “real math,” and that anyone faced with calculating when a plane going 500 miles an hour will get to Detroit will do much the same calculation as I did. To the extend that I use math in my adult life, it is generally performed exactly like I was taught to do it, or else I can figure it out based on what I have already learned.

But my adult understanding and use of English (and literature) has nothing at all to do with anything we were taught back in highschool English.