Friday, July 2, 2021

Links 2 July 2021

Gold wreath from one of the Macedonian royal tombs

For us, dreaming is private. We think, as Heraclitus wrote, "The universe for those who are awake is single and common, while in sleep each person turns aside into a private universe." But in some cultures that is not so, and dreaming people enter shared worlds or arrange to share dreams together.

Review of the evidence that exposure to lead causes crime and other social ills.

Nine-minute NY Times video about efforts to locate and preserve slave cemeteries in Louisiana. Good on the researchers' techniques but they only talked to people fighting industrial development and should have talked to some plant workers and others who support it.

Shenzhen Terraces, a multi-level park for a very urban place.

Infrastructure costs: Kevin Drum has numbers showing that the cost of building new transit projects in the US is close to the global average, except in New York City, where it is far more than any other place in the US.

Roman building found under a movie theater in Verona may have been a hotel.

Tyler Cowen on nuclear waste repositories, kicking off from the question of how to mark them as dangerous in a way people will understand in 10,000 years.

The language of cults: "Montell concludes that language is the primary means by which any group, and not just a cult, establishes a sense of shared purpose and identity."

Was "We Can Work it Out" really a song about tensions within the Beatles that they could not work out? I continue to marvel that people in the midst of intense conflicts with each other can make art together, but you see it over and over. (In case you wondered, "Straussian" means saying the required thing while hinting that you actually believe the opposite.)

Standard weights spread from some place with a rigid royal bureaucracy, likely Mesopotamia or Egypt, across the Middle East and Europe, crossing boundaries and being used in places with hardly any government at all. Marketplace pressures enforced standards even with no government backing them up. The investigators present this as surprising but you often find a reverence for law in places with weak states, so this is only what I would expect.

Woke scholar publishes paper arguing that Vikings can't possibly have settled in the New World because this is exciting to white supremacists and therefore a "problematic myth." Personally I do not regard the archaeological evidence for Vikings at sites like L'Anse aux Meadows as 100% certain, but it is pretty good, and the resolution to the debate certainly has nothing to do with how offensive we find the answers.

Up close study of fire ant rafts.

The Hubble Space Telescope has been offline since its first-line memory module failed on June 13. The Hubble has three backup memory modules and a whole backup computer, but commands intended to bring those systems into operation have had no effect. So the problem must be something that impacts all those systems, and NASA doesn't know what that might be. At the moment, of course, NASA has no rocket system that could carry astronauts to the station. Maybe Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk could send a repair mission; that would make the splash they seem to want and actually be useful. Or maybe the Russians or the Chinese could do it, by way of international goodwill etc. To me, the Hubble has been the best thing humans have sent into space since the 1970s, and it would be sad if it dies because people are busy setting up pointless moon bases or whatever.

Since I have complained so much about the F-35 program, it's only fair for me to report that it easily won the open competition for Switzerland's next generation fighter bomber on both performance and cost effectiveness metrics. Amazing what a trillion dollars will buy.

Anissa Weier, sentenced to 25 years in a mental hospital for her part in the Slenderman Attack, has been freed by a judge after 3 years. Her partner in crime Morgan Geyser is still confined. Although they were 12 years old at the time of the attack, they were tried and sentenced as adults. 

Remains of 8th century imperial palace found in Japan.

Cool relief sculpture found at fort along Hadrian's Wall.

Interesting group of Roman sarcophagi found in an olive grove near Iznik (Nicea) in Turkey.

Big metal: Nightwish, Over the Hills and Far Away; Apocalyptica, Hall of the Mountain King; Tool, 10,000 Days; Metallica, Unforgiven; AFI, Kiss My Eyes and Lay Me to Sleep.


David said...

Reading the original Time article about the Vikings in North America, I can find no sign that the author claims that "Vikings can't possibly have settled in the New World because this is exciting to white supremacists." The author doesn't deny or affirm that the Vikings were in Newfoundland, because the author, one Gordon Campbell, isn't interested in that. The article is entirely about myths of discovery--"myth" meaning, in this case, not "false story" but "ideologically significant story." And there's no question that, yes, people of Scandinavian ancestry have used the story to glorify their group, the same way that virtually every European ethnic group has claimed that Columbus was really "theirs." I suppose you could say Campbell is tediously woke and makes too much about nineteenth-century Scandinavian-Americans boasting that they were the ones who discovered America, since that boasting is itself old news. One could just as easily say that the article you linked to that complains about Campbell is a right-wing screed saying whites *never* created myths about how they deserve to be here, because saying they created myths is socialism.

John said...

Interesting take on Jerry Coyne, who would very much deny being "right wing." He is a biologist and radical atheist who used to spend most of his time arguing against fundamentalists, and recently switched to attacking the woke because he thinks they deny science. He sees himself as devoted to the truth, and he therefore attacks anyone who, in his view, exalts ideology over facts. He does have the sort of conservatism of those professors who were shocked when dirty hippies took over the university, but you would certainly never find him defending Trump.

I find that many old-fashion liberals are really angry about wokeness. Perhaps some of it is jealousy at being outflanked on the left and denied the status of being revolutionary or whatever. But some of it is a sense that the most dangerous attacks now being made on the pursuit of truth, at least in universities, come from the left. Some people like Coyne who came of age fighting for evolution and stem cell research react violently to anybody's argument against the primacy of pursuing truth as a value. From his perspective, Gordon Campbell thinks feelings about racism matter more than telling the true story about history, so that has to be fought. I bet he would say that for a scholar to even mention feelings about the past is unscientific and wrong.

Shadow said...

According to Tyler's commenters, worrying about nuclear waste far into the future is a waste of time, not because there is nothing to do about it, but because the waste isn't "that" dangerous after a while. Tyler himself admits to this. And that, folks, is news to me, but I'm always willing to learn. Will have to check that one out.

David said...

I admit I don't know anything about Jerry Coyne, and in principle, I'd side with him against extreme woke denials about the pursuit of truth (as in those who approvingly interpret Kuhn to mean that incommensurability indicates that there is no such thing as objective truth whatsoever).

I'd defend myself by saying Coyne's zeal has allowed him to become a little unhinged and sound like a rightist. He's really misrepresenting Campbell for polemical purposes. As I said, I don't think what Campbell is saying is very remarkable--if anything, I'd say it's so obvious and universally agreed that it goes without saying, and repeating it isn't newsworthy. Lots of folks have overhyped ideas like the Viking presence in North America in the service of obvious, crude nationalist-type agendas. Italians hyping Columbus is old-timey and kind of sad. Duh.

If Coyne is going to crusade for evidence and truth, I'm all for it. But he should start by not misrepresenting his opponents.

G. Verloren said...

Tyler Cowen on nuclear waste repositories, kicking off from the question of how to mark them as dangerous in a way people will understand in 10,000 years.

If in 10,000 years everyday technology isn't advanced enough for the danger to be as easily detected as sunlight, then we've probably killed ourselves off and the point is largely moot.