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Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

[NEWS] Five science links: Homo sapiens and Neanderthal art, squirrel smarts, tree talk, SN 2016gkg

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  • The suggestion that there is a relationship between the acoustics of particular caves and the art that early humans painted on those cave walls is fascinating. National Geographic reports.
  • The Neanderthals, archeologists working in Spain have determined, created art. The idea of a significant gap between their cognition and ours seems less and less likely. CBC reports.
  • It turns out that the grey squirrels of North America may be smarter than the red squirrels of Great Britain. This may explain much about the greys’ success in the reds’ homeland. National Geographic reports.
  • The idea of there being secret, easily overlooked, yet powerful communications networks connecting trees fascinates me. Vaster than empires and more slow, indeed. Quartz reports.
  • Back in 2016, through sheer luck and an excellent amateur model, Argentine amateur astronomer Victor Buso happened to catch supernova SN 2016gkg in NGC 613 from the very start of the visible explosion. Popular Science reports.
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[ISL] Five notes about islands: Greenland, South China Sea, Bangladesh, Caribbean, Puerto Rico

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  • The slow melt of the Greenland icecap will eventually release a Cold War American military base into the open air. VICE reports.
  • Robert Farley suggests at The National Interest that China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea would not be of much use in an actual conflict.
  • Reuters notes that a mud island in the Bay of Bengal lucky not to be overwhelmed by high tides is being expanded into a compound to hold Rohingya refugees.
  • A new study suggests that there was some genetic continuing between pre- and post-Columbian populations in the Caribbean, that as family and local histories suggest at least some Taino did survive the catastrophes of colonialism. National Geographic reports.
  • This account from NACLA of Puerto Rico’s perennial problems with the American mainland and the history of migration, culminating in an ongoing disastrous mass emigration after Maria, is pro-independence. Might this viewpoint become more common among Puerto Ricans?

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

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  • Kambiz Kamrani at Anthropology.net notes new findings suggesting that the creation of cave art by early humans is product of the same skills that let early humans use language.
  • Davide Marchetti at Architectuul looks at some overlooked and neglected buildings in and around Rome.
  • Bad Astronomer Phil Plait explains how Sirius was able to hide the brilliant Gaia 1 star cluster behind it.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at new procedures for streamlining the verification of new exoplanet detections.
  • Crooked Timber notes the remarkably successful and once-controversial eroticization of plant reproduction in the poems of Erasmus Darwin.
  • Dangerous Minds notes how an errant Confederate flag on a single nearly derailed the career of Otis Redding.
  • Detecting biosignatures from exoplanets, Bruce Dorminey notes, may require “fleets” of sensitive space-based telescopes.
  • Far Outliers looks at persecution of non-Shi’ite Muslims in Safavid Iran.
  • JSTOR Daily looks at the history of the enslavement of Native Americans in early colonial America, something often overlooked by later generations.
  • This video shared by Language Log, featuring two Amazon Echos repeating texts to each other and showing how these iterations change over time, is oddly fascinating.
  • At Lawyers, Guns and Money, Erik Loomis is quite clear about the good sense of Will Wilkinson’s point that controversy over “illegal” immigration is actually deeply connected to an exclusivist racism that imagines Hispanics to not be Americans.
  • Lingua Franca, at the Chronicle of Higher Education, looks at the uses of the word “redemption”, particularly in the context of the Olympics.
  • The LRB Blog suggests Russiagate is becoming a matter of hysteria. I’m unconvinced, frankly.
  • The Map Room Blog shares a map showing global sea level rise over the past decades.
  • Marginal Revolution makes a case for Americans to learn foreign languages on principle. As a Canadian who recently visited a decidedly Hispanic New York, I would add that Spanish, at least, is one language quite potentially useful to Americans in their own country.
  • Drew Rowsome writes about the striking photographs of Olivier Valsecchi.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel notes that, in the 2030s, gravitational wave observatories will be so sensitive that they will be able to detect black holes about to collide years in advance.
  • Towleroad lists festival highlights for New Orleans all over the year.
  • Window on Eurasia notes how recent changes to the Russian education system harming minority languages have inspired some Muslim populations to link their language to their religion.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell makes the case that Jeremy Corbyn, through his strength in the British House of Commons, is really the only potential Remainder who is in a position of power.

[URBAN NOTE] Five city links: New York City, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, Berlin, Amsterdam, Istanbul

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  • What does the impending demolition of the venerable Union Carbide tower, at 270 Park Avenue, to make way for a new ultratall skyscraper say about changing New York City? New York reports.
  • The South China Morning Post observes how the cities of Shenzhen and Guangzhou, though still behind Hong Kong, are starting to advance past it as a result of these cities’ sustained investment in innovative technologies.
  • Aldi in Berlin will apparently build affordable student housing on top of at least some of its new discount food stores in Berlin. Bloomberg reports.
  • This VICE article looking at the lives of lonely people in Amsterdam, many newcomers, is affecting.
  • The Crisis Group looks at how Syrian refugees, of diverse ethnicities and religions, are finding a new home in the multiethnic Istanbul neighbourhood of Sultangazi.

[URBAN NOTE] Five city links: Niagara Falls, Brantford, Regina, Tofino, Port Moody

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  • Why are the falls at Niagara Falls so famously compelling, even lethally seductive for some? Some human brains might be confused by the immensity. The National Post reports.
  • The extent of the flooding in Brantford, inland from Hamilton on the Grand River, is shocking. The Toronto Star reports.
  • The Saskatchewan capital city of Regina turns out to be the McDonald’s breakfast capital of Canada. Global News reports.
  • This essay in The Globe and Mail by Greg Blanchette looking at the rental housing crunch in the small Vancouver Island town of Tofino describes what’s frankly a terrifying situation.
  • If not for the fact that the CP Railway owned no property locally, the Vancouver suburb of Port Moody could well have become Canada’s biggest west coast metropolis. Global News reports.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • Bad Astronomer Phil Plait tells us what tantalizing little is known about Proxima Centauri and its worlds.
  • Centauri Dreams imagines that, for advanced civilizations based on energy-intensive computing, their most comfortable homes may be in the cool dark of space, intergalactic space even.
  • D-Brief notes an effort to predict the evolution of stick insects that went in interesting, if substantially wrong, directions.
  • Mark Graham notes that, in the developing world, the supply of people willing to perform digital work far outweighs the actual availability of jobs.
  • Mathew Ingram announces that he is now chief digital writer for the Columbia Journalism Review.
  • JSTOR Daily explores how consumerism was used, by the United States, to sell democracy to post-war West Germany.
  • Language Hat explores the script of the Naxi, a group in the Chinese Himalayas.
  • Paul Campos considers at Lawyers, Guns and Money the importance of JK Galbraith’s The Affluent Society. If we are richer than ever before and yet our living standards are disappointing, is this not the sort of political failure imagined?
  • Russell Darnley takes a look at how the death of a community’s language can lead to the death of that community’s ecosystem.
  • Jason Davis at the Planetary Society Blog considers the possibility of the ISS being replaced by privately-owned space stations.
  • Dmitry Ermakov at Roads and Kingdoms shares some photos from his ventures among the Finno-Ugric peoples of Russia.
  • Peter Rukavina shares a black-and-white photo of Charlottetown harbour covered in ice.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel makes the point that cancelling NASA’s WFIRST telescope would kneecap NASA science.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

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  • Kambiz Kamrani at Anthropology.net notes that lidar scanning has revealed that the pre-Columbian city of Angamuco, in western Mexico, is much bigger than previously thought.
  • James Bow makes an excellent case for the revitalization of VIA Rail as a passenger service for longer-haul trips around Ontario.
  • D-Brief notes neurological evidence suggesting why people react so badly to perceived injustices.
  • The Dragon’s Tales takes a look at the list of countries embracing thorough roboticization.
  • Andrew LePage at Drew Ex Machina takes a look at the most powerful launch vehicles, both Soviet and American, to date.
  • Far Outliers considers Safavid Iran as an imperfect gunpowder empire.
  • Despite the explanation, I fail to see how LGBTQ people could benefit from a cryptocurrency all our own. What would be the point, especially in homophobic environments where spending it would involve outing ourselves? Hornet Stories shares the idea.
  • Imageo notes that sea ice off Alaska has actually begun contracting this winter, not started growing.
  • JSTOR Daily notes how the production and consumption of lace, and lace products, was highly politicized for the Victorians.
  • Language Hat makes a case for the importance of translation as a political act, bridging boundaries.
  • Language Log takes a look at the pronunciation and mispronunciation of city names, starting with PyeongChang.
  • This critical Erik Loomis obituary of Billy Graham, noting the preacher’s many faults, is what Graham deserves. From Lawyers, Guns and Money, here.
  • Bernard Porter at the LRB Blog is critical of the easy claims that Corbyn was a knowing agent of Communist Czechoslovakia.
  • The Map Room Blog shares this map from r/mapporn, imagining a United States organized into states as proportionally imbalanced in population as the provinces of Canada?
  • Marginal Revolution rightly fears a possible restart to the civil war in Congo.
  • Neuroskeptic reports on a controversial psychological study in Ghana that saw the investigation of “prayer camps”, where mentally ill are kept chain, as a form of treatment.
  • The NYR Daily makes the case that the Congolese should be allowed to enjoy some measure of peace from foreign interference, whether from the West or from African neighbous (Rwanda, particularly).
  • At the Planetary Society Blog, Emily Lakdawalla looks at the many things that can go wrong with sample return missions.
  • Rocky Planet notes that the eruption of Indonesian volcano Sinabung can be easily seen from space.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel notes how the New Horizons Pluto photos show a world marked by its subsurface oceans.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that, although fertility rates among non-Russians have generally fallen to the level of Russians, demographic momentum and Russian emigration drive continue demographic shifts.
  • Livio Di Matteo at Worthwhile Canadian Initiative charts the balance of federal versus provincial government expenditure in Canada, finding a notable shift towards the provinces in recent decades.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell makes the case, through the example of the fire standards that led to Grenfell Tower, that John Major was more radical than Margaret Thatcher in allowing core functions of the state to be privatized.
  • Arnold Zwicky takes a look at some alcoholic drinks with outrĂ© names.