Just a thought

Denisovans apparently interbred with modern humans, with about 3–5% of the DNA of Melanesians and Aboriginal Australians and around 7–8% in Papuans deriving from Denisovans.
The Denisovans or Denisova hominins ( /dɪˈniːsəvə/ di-NEE-sə-və) are an extinct species

If the DNA lives on in such quantities then are they extinct?

After all, if the identifiable DNA of any one of us were present in such quantities in the population 10k (or 50k, whatever) years hence we’d describe that as a definite evolutionary win.

The things people will complain about

For consumers, the current food system is defined by abundance and low prices. Americans spend just under 10% of their disposable income on food, among the lowest rates in the world,

No, really, that’s a complaint. About how food is too cheap because capitalism made it so.

Two things brought us to this grim place. The first is a profit-led drive for ever-increasing efficiency in agriculture, which has been in train for at least two centuries.

We’ve been trying to get more efficient at agriculture since the Neolithic. In fact, that’s a useful definition of when we started to try to do so – the Neolithic.

And they’re complaining!

Well, yes, sorta

Leonardo da Vinci: new research discovers 14 living descendants of Renaissance master

And then again not so much:

Leonardo, who was probably gay, produced no children but he did have more than 20 half-brothers.

Descendants of his siblings perhaps. Which ain’t quite the same thing really.

Dear Lord

Wait, what? The American government was paying for research into bat coronaviruses in Wuhan?

Umm…..OK, so it’s pretty out there at the moment but, umm, what if it s actually true?

Holy Bejayzus.

So, I asked the one person I know who would have a view I should think seriously about on this.

Nick goes a bit too far and gets a few facts wrong, but not by much

I’m taking that as quite likely right then. Which is, umm, a hell of a story. There is more to come – not from me – in tomorrow’s Speccie.

Holy Bejayzus.

BTW, the American research in Wuhan was originally funded under Obama….

An interesting question

Does flat pack pasta actually save on transport costs and emissions?

Hoping to bring the food staple into a sustainable 21st century, US-based academics developed morphing flat-pack pasta.

They stamped grooves into flat pasta sheets which, when boiled, swelled into penne, rigatoni and farfalle.

Traditional pasta already morphs when cooked, expanding and softening when boiled. The team harnessed these natural properties to create its flat-packed pasta – made of only semolina flour and water.

Assistant Prof Lining Yao, director of the Morphing Matter Lab, said: “We were inspired by flat-packed furniture and how it saved space, made storage easier and reduced the carbon footprint associated with transportation.”

Fun project to do, certainly, but does it actually save on transport costs?

Hmm. The defining line is the weight of water. Transport works on volume weight. Yes, you can get 36 tonnes into a 40 foot container. 36 tonnes of feathers would never fit. 36 tonnes of gold would be a layer on the floor. You can definitely get 36 tonnes of water in.

The rough and ready guide then becoming. If the item is more dense than water then it works on weight – 36 tonnes. If it’s less dense than water then it’s volume – the m³ of the container. So, is past more or less dense than water?

More, obviously. But what about shapes, with air, in a package? I don’t actually know. A packet of spaghetti almost certainly denser than water. A bag of farfalle? Penne? Umm?

I hope the researchers found out the answer before they started…..

The Quantumscape breakthrough

No, I have no idea what it is either.

However, I would scream with laughter if this foolish idea of what it is were in fact true.

So, their problem. They want to use solid lithium. OK, but that means dendrites. Akin to tin whiskers that so plagues solders. With solder you get around it by adding lead, or bismuth.

They have patented at least one step on the path to solving that, alloying with lanthanum, a rare earth.

OK. So, now the leap. What if it is scandium which provides the non-dendrite forming solid state battery material?

You heard the rumour here first – there is, after all, a one in 91 chance that it’s right too…… and given that Li and Sc both alloy well with aluminium it’s not an entirely stupid and ridiculous leap either.

The if some then all fallacy

Presumably there’s a more formal name for this. If some people, some part of a class of them, do this then to assume that all do is a fallacy.

That welfare queen turning up in a Cadillac to collect her checks doesn’t mean all on welfare are shamming it – only that one has done so. That one adult make became happier when spayed does not mean that all teenage girls who – currently – desire their tits flayed off will be forever happier.

So, what is that more formal name for the fallacy? Assuming that because one then all? Fallacy of generalisation?

Minced Chicken

The US Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency airworthiness directive calling for the inspection of Boeing 777s, following two separate incidents involving Pratt & Whitney 4000 engines on Saturday.

“We reviewed all available safety data,” the FAA said in a statement. “Based on the initial information, we concluded that the inspection interval should be stepped up for the hollow fan blades that are unique to this model of engine, used solely on Boeing 777 airplanes.”

In the US, one of the engines on a United Airlines Boeing 777 exploded shortly after it took off from Denver en route to Honolulu.

The United aircraft’s engine explosion scattered debris over a Denver suburb of Broomfield. Nobody was injured.

Luckily, with today’s engines, this test is done:

The chicken gun test (and yes, we all know the apocrypha about British Rail borrowing it).

The point being not that an engine must survive a bird strike or other such failure. Rather, that it doesn’t power thousands of strips of superfast nickel turbine blades through the passenger cabin, fuel tanks or control surfaces…….

Hmm, well

It is absolutely crucial that media outlets and universities begin to recognise that like climate denial, trans denial is based on unscientific views that are wildly out of step with peer-reviewed scholarship. When GC activists suggest that trans rights ought to be “debated” on the basis of “free speech”, they set the terms of a highly uneven debate between their ideological perspectives vs. actual scholarship. If we focus on the actual scholarship, we see that there are many debates to be had in trans studies around identity, embodiment, race, decolonisation, the relation to non-binary identity, research methods, and more, but those discussions are completely annihilated by GC feminists suggesting that the debate should be about the very legitimacy of trans people in the first place.

In response to this outrageous and fabricated debate, I present (below) a very short introductory list of peer-reviewed scholarship in the field of trans studies that might be used to rebut the entirely unsupported claims of GC feminists, to illuminate the vast depths of the field of trans studies, and to illustrate to the media and universities alike that the “debates” are to be found elsewhere from where GC feminists claim.

This is a world in which Richard Murphy publishes peer reviewed academic papers. Hell, this is a world in which I have done so at least once. Even in a journal with an impact factor.

“Peer-reviewed scholarship” ain’t all that any more…….

No Tom, really, no

Israel has already reached the goal Britain is hoping to achieve in over a month’s time. Despite beginning their vaccination drive over a week after the UK, Israel has now vaccinated 70% of citizens over the age of 60. This is enough coverage to have prevented the majority of all possible future Covid fatalities.

No, herd immunity comes from the whole population, not the vulnerable one.


Oophagy – the word of the day

I sorta vaguely knew this:

Researchers say the data also indicates that like all present-day lamniform sharks, embryonic Megalodon grew inside its mother by feeding on unhatched eggs in the womb – a practice known as oophagy, a form of intrauterine cannibalism.

Although I was under the impression that it wasn’t necessarily unfertilised eggs that got eated.

Gives a new insight into twins really, doesn’t it?

Doesn’t this just bugger Ms Mazzucato

Google’s London-based artificial intelligence laboratory has used up a further £1.6 billion in capital, underlining the cost of conducting advanced research.

Deepmind made losses of £477 million last year and its Dublin-based parent waived a £1.1 billion loan to the company.

Because of course private, profit seeking companies just never will invest for the long term, do real research. Therefore we should all pay more tax so government can do it.

Right On!

In 2017 he argued that the preparation and delivery of university lectures was of far greater importance for the academic than the student, adding: “If some voluntarily attending students become more erudite, more cultured individuals with a longer attention span, more aware of their intellectual heritage, more ardently wedded to their chosen subject or profession, this may be regarded as a fortunate by-product of what the lecturer has learnt.”

The same is true of writing articles. Just the necessity of sorting out the argument to be written down improves it.

Such a strange idea

The less good news is that some people buy into the idea that racism is “natural”, that we all have an affinity with people who look more like us.

Someone’s really going to have to explain Haldane to Sonia Sadha. You know, the basics of how human beings work?

Google doesn’t quite get this independent bit

Google Scholar wants me to add an email. It’s listing citations of my work etc, so why not have somewhere people can contact me?

As people are citing my stuff at times seems sensible enough.

But the email must be at an institution. Gmail isn’t good enough.

That is, Google doesn’t believe in even the possibility of someone doing citeable work without their being at an institution. Despite their counting the citations of someone not at an institution.

So, a question for scientific types

I’m told – a book I’m reading – that the Earth’s magnetic poles reverse, or is it the field that reverses, at times. OK, so, all of us even vaguely scientifically literate know that. The “vaguely” is the important thing here.

So, I’m told that it reverses, well, not randomly, but at unknown in advance dates. And when it does, it does so pretty quickly. But that’s quickly in geologic time. So, bumble along for a few hundred thousand, mebbe tens of millions, of years. Then the magnetic field weakens, wibbles, then over perhaps 4,000 years reverses and strengthens again.

It’s the 4 k years interregnum that interests. That the North Pole becomes the South Pole doesn’t bother me.

But the Van Allen belts, they protect us all from solar radiation. And some say that without that protection we’d all fry. I assume, but don’t know, that the Van Allen stuff is the product of the same magnetic fields that produce north and south poles. So, the reversal means 4k years of light to no Van Allen belts.


1) Why haven’t all land mammals repeatedly fried every polarity reverse?

2) They have and this is punctuated equilibrium?

3) Sure, we’ve got enough electromagnetic stuff out there that full exposure to the solar wind will fry civilisation – there’s a reason why space hardened computer chips really are different.

So, using this as a fictional device you can definitely kill civilisation and reduce population through polarity reverse. Could you though get away with it forcing the punctuation of the equilibrium and, say, get to Eloi and Morlocks as a story device?

This depends upon two assumptions. That absence of the Van Allen belts causes real problems and also that the reversal, or the weakness coincident with it, kills the Van Allen belts for that period of time.


Now they tell us, eh?

Herd immunity could have saved more lives than lockdown, study suggests
Researchers from Edinburgh University reassessed Imperial University modelling that showed half a million people would die

Listen to the scientists is all very well but which scientists?