Sleeper Agents

Although there are differences, people across northern Europe are not all that different. Fst across the region is surprisingly low. This extends to appearance: although you can notice that Danes don’t look just like Scots, there is overlap, people from group A that could superficially pass for members of group B. Superficially: looking at appearances, not at autosomal DNA. All because the whole area is ( to a large extent) the product of Indo-European invasions, and before that an Anatolian agricultural expansion. The recipe is not all that different over that region.

I think that it would have been harder to infiltrate someone from China into MI6 without anyone noticing.

On an unrelated note, occasionally we have had people suggest or wonder about whether northern Africa, north of the Sahara, had much admixture from sub-Saharan blacks back in Classical times or earlier. We now know, from ancient DNA, that moderately ancient Egypt had significantly less SSA admixture than Egyptians today, and it is reasonable to think that this was probably true of North Africa as a whole. I was already sure of this – because although nearly all contemporary North African populations have a fair amount of SSA admixture ( ~20%), a few have almost none ( < 1%). Key fact: there are several ways to mix two populations, but (without using advanced genetic technology or waiting several tens of thousands of years, in the case of mildly incompatible subspecies like AMH and Neanderthals) there is no way to unmix two populations.

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PNG data

Anyone have data on PNG performance in PISA or TIMSS? Or similar info?

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The Index

It would be helpful if some guy would post a list of all the true things you’re not allowed to say. With localized versions: specific things you can’t say at company X, say McDonald’s or Google. I’ve seem people from other cultures slip up on this, and it hardly seems fair. Whoever wrote down the list would of course be immediately fired, but surely someone is willing to suffer for the greater good.

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Buffalo gourds and Josephson junctions

Every technique is in competition with rival techniques. This inhibits the development of new techniques, even if they have high potential in the long run. To succeed, they have to beat out existing techniques in the short run.

For example, there are potential advantages for superconducting electronics for computing, but CMOS keeps improving. It’s a moving target: it’s not enough to be good, or interesting, you have to be better. Soon, not in 50 years. This is particularly difficult considering the enormous amount of resources currently invested in improving semiconductor computing technology.

In the same way, one successful domestication tends to inhibit other domestications. Several crops were domesticated in the eastern United States, but with the advent of maize and beans, most were abandoned. Maybe if those Amerindians had continued to selectively breed sumpweed for a few thousand years, it would have been competitive: but nobody is that crazy. Pretty crazy, but not that crazy.

Teosinte was an unpromising weed: it’s hard to see why anyone bothered to try to domesticate it, and it took a long time to turn it into maize. If someone had brought wheat to Mexico six thousand years ago, likely the locals would have dropped maize like a hot potato. But maize ultimately had advantages: it’s a C4 plant, while wheat is C3: maize yields can be much higher.

Modern scientific plant breeders seldom or never start with a wild plant and try to domesticate it. Instead they modify already-domesticated plants. Many wild plants could be domesticated, but people aren’t willing to put in the huge effort required to get that plant to the point of being competitive with existing, highly optimized crops.

Maybe they should: but there’s a huge startup cost. Plant breeders at the University of Arizona made efforts to domesticate buffalo gourd as drought-tolerant source of oi, protein, and starch. But that was 35 years ago: the natural fate of such long-term projects is death by boredom, impatience, and retirement..

Why didn’t people domesticate foxes, back in the day? Is it because foxes are solitary hunters, don’t have the right pack structure and thus can’t be domesticated, blah blah blah? No: they’re easy to domesticate, at least they if you’re a crazy Russian. But we already had dogs: what was the point?

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Why the Aurochs could not be domesticated.

” Historical descriptions, like Caesar’s Commentarii de Bello Gallico or Schneeberger, tell that aurochs were swift and fast, and could be very aggressive. According to Schneeberger, aurochs were not concerned when a man approached, but when teased or hunted, an aurochs could get very aggressive and dangerous, and throw the teasing person into the air, as he described in a 1602 letter to Gesner.[9]”

Much more dangerous than zebras.

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Chained Nixies

Peer Vries pointed out that Great Britain, after a while, was getting far more labor power from steam engines that it could ever have gotten from coerced labor. In 1840 England had 17 million “steam slaves”: 121 million in 1870, and 411 million in 1896.

Just a little earlier the main power sources were water and wind: watermills and windmills. As late as 1850 water power was “the leading source of mechanical power on both sides of the Atlantic.”

A detailed county-by-county analysis found > 65,000 water-powered mills in the eastern United States by 1840. The distribution looked something like this:

That kind of water wheel usually produced more than 10 horsepower, with 1 horsepower corresponding to the labor effort of about 28 men. So.. in 1840, in terms of raw power, the North had way more chained nixies (> 18 million) than the South had black slaves( ~2.5 million). And when it came to industrial production, it showed.

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I will reread and review Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs, and Steel

If the price is right. Running a GoFundME for $1000. Paypal and bitcoin are also acceptable.

The idea is not to joyfully take out the trash, as I did with Cordelia Fine’s Testosterone Rex, but to answer a book that is fundamentally wrong without being utter dreck.

Here’s the link.

Then again, since GoFundMe has just suspended my account, maybe not.

Now it’s up again. So go ahead.

Paypal also works: use the Donate button.

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