Would religions survive if children were not brainwashed into them?

May 25, 2017

Whether “indoctrination” of an empty child’s mind is less reprehensible than the “brainwashing” of an adult mind that has existing beliefs is not the point.  At issue is whether beliefs, which, by definition, exist outside the realm of knowledge, can be force-fed. No religion allows its followers to develop their own beliefs. All religions presume to instill their standard beliefs onto their own adherents and onto potential converts. Can beliefs be externally imposed or must they be developed internally? My own “belief” is that an idea, which is not the result of an individual’s own cognitive processes but is externally imposed, cannot be a true “belief”. All societies permit, and most approve, the indoctrination of children into the religions of their parents (or guardians). Apart from coerced conversions (which are still going on), I would guess that over 95% (and perhaps 99%) of all those who follow a religion, follow that of their parents.

Human behaviour has effectively made religion hereditary. Religion is not controlled by our genes except in that our genes may determine how susceptible we are to indoctrination. Yet our religious beliefs are determined by who our parents are. Unfortunately parents have not succeeded as well in indoctrinating children away from other undesirable behaviour. The growth or decline of religions across the world simply mirrors fertility on the one hand and the coercive conversion of peoples into the religion.

If a group of children were brought up in isolation on a desert island, by robotic instructors confined to teach only in the area of knowledge, and to answer any question in the space of ignorance with a “don’t know”, some of the children may well develop “religious” beliefs with divine power being attributed to the sun and the moon and the winds and the waves. But for there to be war between the sun-worshipers and the wind-worshipers there would first need to be those arrogant enough to anoint themselves as priests. There would be no organised religions without priests appointing themselves as special messengers of the divine powers. There would be no religious wars without “turbulent priests” bent on religious expansion. If every child was allowed, as it felt necessary,  to develop its own religious beliefs, organised religions would never catch hold. And if organised religions did exist they would merely wither and die without a continuous stream of new adherents in the form of brain-washed children growing up.

The problem lies not in whether one believes in gods or not, but in that organised religions exist and that they compete. They compete by claiming that one set of beliefs in the space of ignorance are superior or better than another set, also in the space of ignorance. The claims for the one or for the other are made by turbulent priests. It has been so ever since organised religions came into being. It is still so today, whether it is a mad mullah pronouncing a fatwa or a Hindu God-man calling for the destruction of a mosque or a Buddhist monk attacking unbelievers or a “celibate” Pope pronouncing on family values.

Who will rid us of these turbulent priests?


Sherpas are genetically more efficient at using Oxygen

May 23, 2017

A new paper today confirms that Sherpas are genetically more efficient at using Oxygen. It is another example of an ethnic group where defining characteristics of the group are genetically inherited.

Horscroft, J et al. Metabolic basis to Sherpa altitude adaptation. PNAS; 22 May 2017; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1700527114

EurekAlertSherpas have evolved to become superhuman mountain climbers, extremely efficient at producing the energy to power their bodies even when oxygen is scarce, suggests new research published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). …..

When oxygen is scarce, the body is forced to work harder to ensure that the brain and muscles receive enough of this essential nutrient. One of the most commonly observed ways the body has of compensating for a lack of oxygen is to produce more red blood cells, which are responsible for carrying blood around the body to our organs. This makes the blood thicker, however, so it flows more slowly and is more likely to clog up blood vessels.

Mountain climbers are often exposed to low levels of oxygen, particularly at high altitudes. This is why they often have to take time during long ascents to acclimatise to their surroundings, giving the body enough time to adapt itself and prevent altitude sickness. In addition, they may take oxygen supplies to supplement the thin air.

Scientists have known for some time that people have different responses to high altitudes. While most climbers require additional oxygen to scale Mount Everest, whose peak is 8,848m above sea level, a handful of climbers have managed to do so without. Most notably, Sherpas, an ethnic group from the mountain regions of Nepal, are able to live at high altitude with no apparent consequences to their health – as a result, many act as guides to support expeditions in the Himalayas, and two Sherpas are known to have reached the summit of Everest an incredible 21 times.

Previous studies have suggested differences between Sherpas and people living in non-high altitude areas, known collectively as ‘lowlanders’, including fewer red blood cells in Sherpas at altitude, but higher levels of nitric oxide, a chemical that opens up blood vessels and keeps blood flowing.

Evidence suggests that the first humans were present on the Tibetan Plateau around 30,000 years ago, with the first permanent settlers appearing between 6,000-9,000 years ago. This raises the possibility that they have evolved to adapt to the extreme environment. This is supported by recent DNA studies, which have found clear genetic differences between Sherpa and Tibetan populations on the one hand and lowlanders on the other. Some of these differences were in their mitochondrial DNA – the genetic code that programmes mitochondria, the body’s ‘batteries’ that generate our energy.

To understand the biological differences between the Sherpas and lowlanders, a team of researchers led by scientists at the University of Cambridge followed two groups as they made a gradual ascent up to Everest Base Camp at an elevation of 5,300m.

The study was part of Xtreme Everest, a project that aims to improve outcomes for people who become critically ill by understanding how our bodies respond to the extreme altitude on the world’s highest mountain. This year marks 10 years since the group’s first expedition to Everest.

The lowlanders group comprised 10 investigators selected to operate the Everest Base Camp laboratory, where the mitochondrial studies were carried out by James Horscroft and Aleks Kotwica, two PhD students at the University of Cambridge. They took samples, including blood and muscle biopsies, in London to give a baseline measurement, then again when they first arrived at Base Camp and a third time after two months at Base Camp. These samples were compared with those taken from 15 Sherpas, all of whom were living in relatively low-lying areas, rather than being the ‘elite’ high altitude climbers. The Sherpas’ baseline measurements were taken at Kathmandu, Nepal.

The researchers found that even at baseline, the Sherpas’ mitochondria were more efficient at using oxygen to produce ATP, the energy that powers our bodies.

As predicted from genetic differences, they also found lower levels of fat oxidation in the Sherpas. Muscles have two ways to get energy – from sugars, such as glucose, or from burning fat (fat oxidation). The majority of the time we get our energy from the latter source; however, this is inefficient, so at times of physical stress, such as when exercising, we take our energy from sugars. The low levels of fat oxidation again suggest that the Sherpas are more efficient at generating energy.

The measurements taken at altitude rarely changed from the baseline measurement in the Sherpas, suggesting that they were born with such differences. However, for lowlanders, measurements tended to change after time spent at altitude, suggesting that their bodies were acclimatising and beginning to mimic the Sherpas’.

One of the key differences, however, was in phosphocreatine levels. Phosphocreatine is an energy reserve that acts as a buffer to help muscles contract when no ATP is present. In lowlanders, after two months at high altitude, phosphocreatine levels crash, whereas in Sherpas levels actually increase.

In addition, the team found that while levels of free radicals increase rapidly at high altitude, at least initially, levels in Sherpas are very low. Free radicals are molecules created by a lack of oxygen that can be potentially damaging to cells and tissue.

“Sherpas have spent thousands of years living at high altitudes, so it should be unsurprising that they have adapted to become more efficient at using oxygen and generating energy,” says Dr Andrew Murray from the University of Cambridge, the study’s senior author. “When those of us from lower-lying countries spend time at high altitude, our bodies adapt to some extent to become more ‘Sherpa-like’, but we are no match for their efficiency.” ……

Race is not a social construct as the politically correct would have me believe. Race is real and is a consequence of ancestry. Racial classification is fluid and changes but only over generational time. Sherpa genes help high-altitude living. There are West African genes which help sprinters, East African genes which are beneficial for long-distance runners, Scandinavian genes which predispose to diabetes 1 and Indian genes which predispose to diabetes 2.

And there are genes which predispose to high performance in IQ testing.


Spicing up Swedish food /2 – Köttbullar dopiaza

May 17, 2017

Start with half a kg of your favourite frozen, Swedish meat balls (köttbullar) to feed 2 people.

Though meat balls are now quintessentially Swedish, their origin lies in meat koftas from Turkey going back to around 1750 after King Charles XII’s adventures in the Ottoman Empire. Indian koftas also derive from the Middle East but have accumulated spices and changes of ingredients along the way. Today lamb or mutton or chicken mince is used to make koftas in India but not beef or pork. Spices are used generously and even all vegetarian koftas are used. Frozen meatballs in Sweden usually consist of minced beef or pork or a beef/pork mix  or chicken. They also contain, in various quantities, onions, milk, egg, breadcrumbs, and flour. They are usually seasoned with just salt and pepper and sometimes a little cinnamon.

In an Indian kofta curry, the koftas themselves would be spiced as would the curry. Do-piaza means two onions and any dopiaza dish uses a large quantity of onions added in two separate steps (hence two onions). In this dish the relatively bland köttbullar are marinaded in spices prior to cooking the dopiaza.

Ingredients: 500 g frozen köttbullar, 5 medium onions. 100 g crushed tomatoes, 2 teaspoons chillie powder, (one teaspoon chillie powder can be replaced by 2 green chillies if available), 3 cloves garlic,  2 cm ginger, 2 teaspoons coriander powder, 1 teaspoon cumin powder, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, seeds from 3 cardamom pods, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, ½ teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon garam masala, 100 ml plain yoghurt, fresh parsley or dill if coriander is not available.

Mix a marinade of the yoghurt with the coriander powder, cumin powder, cardamom seeds and 1 teaspoon chillie powder. Add in the defrosted köttbullar and make sure that they are all well coated in the marinade. Leave in a fridge for at least 3 hours (overnight is fine).

Chop two onions coarsely and 3 onions very finely. Ginger and garlic should be peeled and crushed (a ginger garlic paste being ideal).

Use a heavy skillet pan with a closely fitting lid.

Heat some oil in the skillet and saute the coarsely chopped onions till they are just softened and translucent. Put aside into a bowl.
Heat some more oil and at high heat fry the cumin seeds and black peppercorns till they spit. Reduce to medium heat and add the rest of the chillie powder and allow to fry for 10-15 seconds. Add the finely sliced onions the ginger, the garlic and the green chillies (if any). Saute together on medium heat for 1 – 2 minutes.

Add the köttbullar together with all the marinade. Add the crushed tomatoes. Braise for 5 -8 minutes on medium heat. Now add the turmeric and stir well. Reduce to very low heat, cover the skillet and cook/simmer for 15 minutes. 

Add the coarsely chopped onions and garam masala. Stir gently and cover again. Leave on low hear for a further 10 minutes.

Garnish with fresh coriander (or dill or parsley).

Serve hot with a long-grain rice.


Spicing up Swedish food /1 – Pyttipanna a la Madras

May 16, 2017

I quite like traditional Swedish food (which is pretty bland but not quite as tasteless as some people imagine). That includes such dishes as isterband, kåldolmar, stekt lever med lök, Janssons frestele, köttbullar. köttgryta, ärtsoppa, pannbiff, pyttipanna, gravad lax, fattiga riddare and gubbröra. 

However, to suit my palate, I tend to tweak most traditional recipes when I am in control of the kitchen. Quite simple modifications can elevate traditional Swedish, everyday dishes (husmanskost) from the merely mundane to the seriously delicious.

Here is number 1.

Pyttipanna a la Madras

The recipe is based on a half-kg bag of frozen pyttipanna (feeds two). A wok (or large frying pan) is most suitable for preparation.

(Of the various frozen brands available, I find the finely diced  – finhackad – versions to be the most suitable for absorbing additional flavours).

Ingredients : half-kg bag of frozen pyttipanna; o.5 tsp cummin seeds; 1 -2 tsp chillie powder (or 4 – 8 large, crushed, dried red chillies); 2 cloves garlic (crushed); half can of crushed tomatoes; 1tsp garam masala;  0.5 tsp black peppercorns, chopped parsley, 2 rashers of bacon, crushed potato chips.

Heat 2 tblsp of cooking oil (olive oil. does not get get hot enough). When hot enough (2 mins) add the peppercorns and cummin till the seeds spit and pop, add and stir fry the red chillies not more than a minute), add the crushed tomatoes. Stir 2 minutes. Add the frozen pytt (which can be pre-cooked in the microwave to save time). Stir fry till done (6 -8 minutes from frozen or 3 minutes with pre-cooked pytt). Sprinkle with crushed potato chips and garam masala.

Top with a fried egg and two crispy bacon rashers for each serving with sliced beetroot or preferably, cucumber, on the side. Garnish with the parsley. Salt to taste.

Options: Frozen prawns can be added together with the frozen pytt. Half a ttsp of mustard seeds can be added and fried with the cummin for extra flavour and texture.


Human evolution wish list

May 9, 2017

Evolution is reactive and has no direction. Evolution only gives the good-enough. If it can be said to have a goal it is the growth in numbers of the surviving population. “Quality of life” is irrelevant to evolution. But if it favoured excellence it could have been much more focused on the “improvement” of humans rather than just the increase of population.

My top ten wish-list.

  1. Inheritable memory
  2. Eyes with light sources
  3. Third eye for uv
  4. Telescopic limbs
  5. Hard-wired translation in the brain
  6. “Intelligence” based fertility
  7. Scent producing organ
  8. Direct absorption of light and heat energy by skin
  9. Organs for production and detection of radio waves
  10. X-ray sight


The speed of light may have been faster

May 4, 2017

I have speculated before that the rate at which time dissipates may not be constant (The Magical Speed of an Inconstant time).

Now come suggestions that the speed of light may have been faster at the time of the Big Bang. That is perfectly consistent with the speed of time being slower at the time of the Big Bang.

In 2015, scientists at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) confirmed evidence of gravitational waves. These ripples in space-time, formed by the merger of two supermassive black holes, were exactly what Einstein had described with his theory of general relativity. But physicists studying the LIGO data found evidence of “echoes” that seem to contradict the predictions made by general relativity.

“Theoretical physicists Jahed Abedi, Hannah Dykaar, and Niayesh Afshordi, published a new paper explaining that the group believes they have detected the first evidence of gravitational effects not explained by general relativity in the data,” reported Inverse in the wake of the LIGO announcement. In this way, Einstein’s vindication could also prove his theory’s undoing. And this isn’t the only evidence that could disrupt the theory of relativity.

Physicists studying the early origins of the universe hypothesize that light has not always traveled at the same speed. This directly challenges special relativity.

“João Magueijo from Imperial College London and Niayesh Afshordi of the Perimeter Institute in Canada proposed a new experiment proving Einstein wrong and demonstrating that the speed of light actually isn’t a constant,” Inverse reported in November 2016. “The pair thinks light may have moved faster in the past, around the time of Big Bang, and that it’s actually slowed down since.”

They suspect that the lumpy density of the early universe caused light to behave differently. As the universe expanded and smoothed out, these lumpy areas disappeared. But there still may be some areas at the edge of the universe where the lumpiness persists, and in these areas, faster-than-light travel could be possible.

That’s why Einstein’s theory of relativity, which provides the foundation of most of modern physics, may soon be proven wrong as advanced technologies enable us to peer farther into the expanding universe than we ever have before: Once we finally peer into a black hole, we might find that Einstein was wrong about general relativity.

My speculations about time had to resort to magic:

And so I distinguish between perceived time and eal time. eal time, of course is magical. It is only by definition that we take the passage of time to be constant. Of course this is just perceived time. And we perceive time only as a consequence of change. But eal time does not have to elapse at a constant rate.

The Big Bang does not, apparently, mathematically permit of a time older than 13.8 billion years. Magical eal time, of course, goes back to infinitely long ago. All can be resolved merely by accepting that ℜeal time elapsed at zero rate at the Big Bang and then gradually built up to the rate of elapse we are subject to now. ……

At the Big Bang, even change had to get started. All change, all motion, all vibrations, all oscillations and all radiation had to start from zero. The atoms and the elements had to come into being. Cesium had to have come much later. These cycles of these oscillations of even the very first atoms may be regular now. But they would all have had to start somewhere (somewhen) and start from zero. The speed of oscillation had to build up from nothing (implying an infinite period) to that applying today. Which means that close to the Big Bang as atoms were ratcheting up their oscillations, the period between cycles would have been longer, starting infinitely long and reducing rapidly (in apparent time) to what is observed today. Closer to the Big Bang, eal time, as opposed to apparent time, would have elapsed more slowly and the period between cycles of all radiation would have had to start from infinity. The very speed of time would have been slower.

At the Big Bang, the speed of eal time would have been zero. A perceived picosecond of elapsed time would actually have been after the elapse of many, many trillions of eal time years. The perceived age of the universe of 13.8 billion years of perceived time would have been infinitely long ago in eal time.

Ultimately physics is just magic.


Could Lincoln have avoided civil war?

May 2, 2017

Could the US civil war have been avoided? Perhaps Lincoln was not entirely without blame. Perhaps there was an alternative to war to get rid of slavery.
The US and Haiti were the only two countries which ended slavery by violent means.

This is an extract from Sanderson Beck’s essay written in 2008.

……. President Buchanan took the weak position that he had no authority to decide any of these questions, and he declined to make any preparations to fight over them. In fact by his negligence some weapons of the United States were moved to the South by their sympathizers in his Democratic administration.

Lincoln took the strong position, which some would call tyrannical, that states have no right to secede from the Union. He believed it was his obligation as President to enforce the laws that would keep the states in the Union even against their will as expressed by democratic conventions and state legislatures. His policy is ironic and even hypocritical because this position conflicts with Lincoln’s own doctrine of the right of revolution that he expressed in Congress on January 12, 1848 during the Mexican War when he said,

Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power,
have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government
and form a new one that suits them better.
This is a most valuable—a most sacred right— a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world.
Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that can, may revolutionize and make their own so much of the territory as they inhabit. More than this, a majority of any portion of such people may revolutionize, putting down a minority, intermingled with or near about them, who may oppose their movement. Such minority was precisely the case of the Tories of our own revolution.
It is a quality of revolutions not to go by old lines or old laws, but to break up both and make new ones.

In his inaugural address President Lincoln warned against a civil war while promising that he would not invade the South. ……..

…….. Two days after he announced the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus throughout the nation. Careful research by scholars, such as Mark E. Neely, Jr., indicates that during the Civil War the Federal Government imprisoned more than 14,000 civilians for opposing the Government or its war in some way. Lincoln authorized military officers to shut down newspapers if they were disrupting recruiting or the war effort. The Provost Marshal General’s Bureau was organized in 1863, and by the end of the war two years later they had arrested and returned to the Union Army 76,526 deserters. During the draft 161,286 citizens failed to report to the Union Army, but how many of them were arrested is unknown.

Lincoln also had imperial ambitions for the United States, and he used Government subsidies to finance the transcontinental railroad to the west coast. In 1862 a crop failure caused starvation among the Santee Sioux because the Federal Government refused to pay them the $1,410,000 owed them from the sale of 24 million acres in 1851. When the Sioux revolted, General John Pope tried to exterminate them. Hundreds of Indians were held as prisoners of war and were given military trials that sentenced 303 to death. President Lincoln commuted most of these sentences, but thirty-nine were put to death in the largest mass execution in the history of the United States. After Lincoln’s death under mostly Republican administrations the experienced military would be used to attack any Indians who were in the way of the railroads and the western expansion of the United States. Lincoln was ambitious on behalf of the United States and did not want to see the empire divided. He developed the power of the imperial presidency as commander-in-chief by arrogating to himself extra-constitutional “war powers. ………
…… In the 19th century most nations in the world abolished slavery by peaceful means. The British freed all the slaves in their empire in six years, completing the process in 1840. Most Latin American nations emancipated all their slaves between 1813 and 1854, and the gradual liberation of slaves in Brazil was completed in 1888. The only other violent emancipation of slaves was the slave uprising in Haiti in 1794.”


Microplastic misconduct: Swedish paper about fish larvae eating microplastics was fabricated

April 28, 2017

A paper claiming evidence about fish larvae eating micro-plastics to their detriment was fabricated. To be published, any paper about the impact of humans on the environment must always be negative. Exaggerated and even fabricated data are rarely questioned. Studies which are positive about human impact are – by definition of “political correctness” – never publishable. There is clearly “politically incorrect” and “politically correct” science.

This is another case of made up work being passed off as “politically correct”science.

Swedish Radio reports today that

A study about fish larvae eating micro-plastics contains such serious flaws that it should be retracted from Science, where it was published says Sweden’s Central Ethics Review Board’s expert panel for misconduct in research.

The panel believes that two researchers at Uppsala University are guilty of misconduct. It is a remarkable study from last year, which deals with the fact that perch young seem to prefer to eat micro-plastics to regular fish food.

After criticism by external researchers, an investigation was made by the Central Ethics Review Board, which today delivered an opinion. The researchers have been found guilty of misconduct in several cases.

“The most serious is the lack of original data,” says Jörgen Svidén, Department Head at the Central Ethics Review Board.

The study was published in the journal Science last year. The Central Ethics Review Board writes in its opinion that it is remarkable that the article was ever accepted. The opinion has been sent to Uppsala University, which must now make a decision on the matter. 

The researcher’s claimed that a laptop containing the data had been stolen. Really? And this was not backed up? Uppsala University had rejected claims of misconduct by its staff in the wake of serious allegations in 2015. How gullible can a University be?

ScienceMag wrote then:

When Fredrik Jutfelt and Josefin Sundin read a paper on a hot environmental issue in the 3 June issue of Science, the two researchers immediately felt that something was very wrong. Both knew Oona Lönnstedt,  the research fellow at Sweden’s Uppsala University (UU) who had conducted the study, and both had been at the Ar research station on the island of Gotland around the time that Lönnstedt says she carried out the experiments, which showed that tiny particles called microplastics can harm fish larvae. Jutfelt, an associate professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, and Sundin, a UU postdoc, believed there was no way that Lönnstedt had been able to carry out the elaborate study.

Less than 3 weeks later, the duo wrote UU that they had “a strong suspicion of research misconduct” and asked for an investigation. Their letter, initially reported by Retraction Watch in August, was cosigned by five scientists from Canada, Switzerland, and Australia, who hadn’t been at the research station but also had severe misgivings about the paper and who helped Sundin and Jutfelt build their case. 

This week, Science is publishing an “Editorial expression of concern” about the paper, because Lönnstedt and her supervisor at UU, Peter Eklöv, have been unable to produce all of the raw data behind their results. Lönnstedt says the data were stored on a laptop computer that was stolen from her husband’s car 10 days after the paper was published, and that no backups exist. ……

…… The paper, which received a lot of press attention, focused on plastic fragments of less than half a millimeter in size that result from the mechanical breakdown of bags and other products. There’s increasing evidence that these microplastics collect in rivers, lakes, and oceans around the world, but so far, little is known about their effects on aquatic organisms and ecosystems. What Lönnstedt and Eklöv reported was alarming: They had exposed larvae of European perch maintained in aquaria at the research station to microplastics and found that they had decreased growth and altered feeding and behavior. Microplastics made the larvae less responsive to chemical warning signals and more likely to be eaten by pike in a series of predation experiments, the pair further reported. In an accompanying Perspective, Chelsea Rochman of the University of Toronto in Canada wrote that the study “marks an important step toward understanding of microplastics” and was relevant to policymakers. ……

….. In the report of its “preliminary investigation,” the UU panel sided with Lönnstedt. She and Eklöv had explained everything “in a satisfactory and credible manner,” wrote the panel, which asked UU to “take diligent steps to restore the reputation of the accused.” But the panel’s report didn’t provide detailed rebuttals of the long list of problems provided by Sundin and Jutfelt, who say that the investigation was superficial. ….. 

Much may now depend on the conclusions of an expert group on misconduct at Sweden’s Central Ethical Board, which is doing its own, independent investigation. Jutfelt says he’s hopeful because it appears that the group is “doing a more thorough job.” Lönnstedt says she’s not worried about the outcome. A spokesperson for the board says it is not clear when it will wrap up the inquiry. 

Microplastic misconduct Foto: Uppsala universitet

The Ethics Review Board has now reported and it is clear that this “politically correct” paper was fabricated. Uppsala University’s so-called investigation is also shown to have been less than serious and merely carried out a whitewash of their own staff.


Fantasy or just bad science — “humans in North America 130,000 years ago”

April 27, 2017

Nothing wrong with fantasy of course. It just makes for bad science. The real problem here is that it is very bad science being encouraged by the journal Nature. The whole paper is based on analysing some crushed Mastodon bones which were found 25 years ago, a doubtful application of a dating technique and then the assertion that it was impossible for the bones to have been crushed by anything other than human activity. They made some experiments to crush bones and then they leap to their fantastic conclusion that the crushing was (was and not might have been) by stone tools (of which there are no traces) made by unknown humans (who also have left no other trace).

This is not just fantasy. It is borderline rubbish.

Controversial study claims humans reached Americas 100,000 years earlier than thought

The “science” is quite sophisticated —–

“Scientific” bone crushing

Even the staid BBC is driven to report:

Prof Michael R Waters, from Texas A&M University in College Station, described the new paper as “provocative”. He told BBC News the study “purports to provide evidence of human occupation of the Americas some 115,000 years before the earliest well established evidence”.

Prof Waters explained: “I have no issues with the geological information – although I would like to know more about the broader geological context – and the likely age of the locality. However, I am sceptical of the evidence presented that humans interacted with the mastodon at the Cerutti Mastodon site.  …… To demonstrate such early occupation of the Americas requires the presence of unequivocal stone artefacts. There are no unequivocal stone tools associated with the bones… this site is likely just an interesting paleontological locality.”

Prof Tom Dillehay, from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, told BBC News the claim was not plausible. Another authority on early American archaeology, Prof David Meltzer from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, said: “Nature is mischievous and can break bones and modify stones in a myriad of ways. ……. With evidence as inherently ambiguous as the broken bones and non-descript broken stones described in the paper, it is not enough to demonstrate they could have been broken/modified by humans; one has to demonstrate they could not have been broken by nature. ….. This is an equifinality problem: multiple processes can cause the same product.”


A shortage of children in Japan

April 23, 2017

The challenges of population implosion will be quite different to the challenges of growing populations. Japan is facing most of these challenges earlier than the rest of the world, but what Japan faces in the next 50 years will also be faced in Europe in about 20 years, by China in 70 years and in India in about 100 years.

The challenges of an aging population are receiving much attention as the ratio of working population to supported population declines. But what receives less attention is the upheaval being caused in Japan by the sharp decline in the number of children.

From a peak of just under 30 million children (0-14 year olds) in 1955, the number has been declining. By 2050 there will be only about 10 million children in Japan. Rural schools are already being abandoned for lack of children. That in turn leads to long commutes for the children still living in rural areas. Commutes of 50km, each way, are not so rare.

QuartzMedia: About 5,800 public school buildings closed between 2002 and 2013, according to data from the Japan’s education ministry. By rights, many more schools should close for lack of students. But they remain in existence because no one can think of anything better to do with them. Of those that have closed, a few hundred have been demolished and about 1,500 schools were still on the books in 2014 in need of a new purpose, according to ministry data.

It is not just schools of course. Numbers of teachers, demands for teacher training places, school meals suppliers, uniform manufacturers and even school bus manufacturers are all facing shrinking demand. Demand for higher education places lag school places by about 15 years. Some Universities are reducing their entry requirements to fill the places they have.

Japan is among the first to face these challenges and how they cope is going to be watched with great interest.

That they will cope is not in doubt. But how they cope will provide many of the solutions that the rest of the world is going to need.



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