Friday, April 29, 2022

Links 29 April 2022

Wall fragment with peacock, Roman, AD 1-79.

For 50 years there has been a strong negative relationship between fertility and income in richer countries, and between fertility and education. But in the many rich nations this is no longer true. The development of a childcare market may be driving some of this shift.

Some ivory artifacts in medieval Kyiv were made with walrus ivory from Greenland. There was also walrus hunting in the Russian arctic, so the presence of Greenland specimens is a little surprising.

Polyester now accounts for more than half of global fiber production. It's also cool again, thanks to its use in activewear like leggings.

Understanding the ice on Europa by analogy to Greenland. That part of the article is interesting, but the claim that "The chances of finding alien life on Jupiter’s moon Europa just shot way up" is false, because there is still no sign of complex organic molecules. Water by itself means nothing.

Potentially important improvement in T-cell therapy for cancer.

The Large Hadron Collider is back online after a three-year rebuild of its main detectors. Now they say the mission is to look for evidence of dark matter and dark energy. Which would of course be amazing, but I'm not holding my breath; I am not aware of any physics indicating that evidence of those things should findable at the energies the LHC can reach.

Twitter thread on using AI to recreate a childhood imaginary friend.

From Macron's victory speech, a typically useless line: "we will invent a new way of doing things together, for a better five years." Sadly that won't happen, and France will have five more years of the same frustrations and divisions. I don't think this is Macron's fault, since France's problems long predate him, but he certainly doesn't have any answers. 

The best performers do not give the best advice.

Flooding forests in Arkansas, duck hunting, and talking to rural Americans about science.

Drive-thru Vietnamese fast food, coming soon to a roadside near you. (NY Times)

Disney, Florida, and the First Amendment.

Bronze Age statue of the goddess Anat found by a farmer in the Gaza Strip.

Trove of wonderful artifacts at the home of an illegal antiquities dealer in Jerusalem.

Review, by Tony Judt, of Mark Mazower's Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth Century (1999). Dark Continent is on my mind because I am reading Mazower's new history of the Greek Revolution of the 1820s, which so far is wonderful.

Protesters throwing eggs drive the "People's Convoy" of trucks away from Nancy Pelosi's house in Oakland, Ca.

Move over Graphene, the new wonder material is Borophene.

A lot of what Frank Peretti put in his Christian fantasy novels in the 1980s is now widely believed by conservative Christians.

Scott Siskind reviews a book about Lacanian analysis, in case you were ever curious about that French madman Lacan. Best bit:

Physics is stuck in an annoying equilibrium where the Standard Model works for almost everything, and then occasionally we come across some exotic domain where it totally falls apart and we know that reality must be something deeper and weirder. I feel like psychology is the same way: you can explain almost everything with your standard scientific toolkit. Then you look at sex, and you realize you’ll need something much more complicated and worse.

Ukraine Links

The railway saboteurs of Belarus. Interesting that they worked mainly by disabling signals, because they did not want to harm train drivers. With the Russians mostly withdrawn from Belarus, some have moved on to disabling signals in Russia. (Washington Post)

Detailed look at a textbook VDV (air assault) battalion tactical group, with some comparisons to actual BTGs observed in Ukraine.

Former US armored brigade commander on why the Russian's can't succeed. Basically, 1) waging a big war is just really hard, and 2) he knows how to tell good units from bad ones, and the Russian units he has seen are bad.

The role of Ukraine's "Territorial Defense" troops, hastily raised from volunteers after the invasion began.

Reports of a "blame game" within the Russian security forces. But note that most of the military leadership wants to expand the war, not end it.

The defense of Ukraine puts Clausewitz into action.

The political calculations behind the US Secretary of Defense's statement that the US wants "Russia weakened to the point where it can’t do things like invade Ukraine" (NY Times). The US wants to defeat Russia without starting a war with them.

Another count of Russian dead confirmed by funeral announcements finds 1744, of whom 317 are officers, including 2 major generals, 13 colonels, 30 lieutenant colonels, and 39 majors. Elite units are heavily overrepresented.

NBC News feature on how much intelligence the US if feeding to Ukraine (a lot). Among other things they say the US helped Ukraine shoot down a Russian transport plane full of paratroops early in the war; this was reported at the time but no wreckage has ever been spotted.

Operation Z: Death Throes of an Imperial Delusion, significant and interesting discussion of the war by two British intelligence analysts. The text is not nearly as triumphal as the title. Includes discussion of the situation in Moldova. 

How the sinking of the submarine Kursk in 2000 set the tone for Putin's rule.

The intersection of drones and cyberwarfare; making drones effective is all about protecting them from electronic disruption, and defeating them is all about overcoming those defenses. Iran claimed they captured one US drone by sending it false GPS signals, thus inducing it to land at an Iranian base.

Russian infantryman's account of fighting in Rubezhnoe in March and April, grim. "With pure mathematics, the chance of leaving the front line alive and unwounded was close to zero."

Biden asks for $33 billion in additional assistance for Ukraine. Ukraine's defense budget in 2020 was $5.9 billion. As somebody on Twitter said, "I guess the US is serious."

Britain is supplying Ukraine with "hundreds" of Brimstone missiles.

Jomini's most recent map of the battle zone.


szopen said...

Re: Ai and imaginary friend, I don't believe this guy report for a second. I think the story is either heavily embelished, or outright faked.

Re: Territorial units: here we had the right re-creating Territorial Defense. The Left screamed that it was to make fascist paramilitary groups which would be used to squash the opposition. They mocked the rationale, laughing at how those TD units could possibly had any chance against Russian tanks. Now they are silent about this, and still goes about how the Right is pro-Putin, because Kaczynski in the past met with Le Pen, or because one crazy, well-known politician without any support is as usual saying crazy thing.

John said...

Glad to see you back. That's very interesting about territorial defense; I'm sure a lot of Americans would react the same way. How is the mood in your part of Poland these days?

Also, I'm curious; did people in Poland know the government was transferring all those tanks to Ukraine before it was announced in the US?

szopeno said...

I never left, I'm just reading without commenting - because I feel it's on rare occassion when I have something valuable to add.

About the mood - I would say people are quite militant, even unreasonably so.
There is a lot of sympathy for Ukraine, of course, and there are still people who demand "we should do more". For example, when government announced we will be banning Russian coal and gas except LPG, it was criticized for making that exception. But still, it's quite a... I don't know how to put that into words. A bizarre feeling when you know there is a war in neighbouring country and people are dying while you are mowing your lawn.

On chats, on facebook everyone is pro-Ukraine and shares pro-Ukrainian memes. Each time I see them I have a feeling of inadequacy. We do so much for our brotherly nation, we are upvoting memes and sing anti-Putin songs! Well, occassionally we git fundraiser to buyt bulletproof vests or electronic equipment for Ukrainian army.

(BTW, one POlish very vular anti-Putin song - basically saying f* Putin - is supposedly getting popular in Ukraine:

My neighbours, who are Yehova witnesses have accepted a family of Ukrainian refugees from Mikołajów (a city close to the Black Sea). Plus I see a lot more Ukrainians in the streets - but war seems as distant as it was in another continent. The village my wife is from was cut from gas, because they were provided by Russian company which is now sanctioned - but her family hasn't even noticed, because they use LPG. There are some which try to arouse moods against Ukrainians, but they are failing miserably. They are some which point out that we should be more careful with giving out aid, especially when we get hardly more help from UE than say Italy. SOme my friends made accounts on VK (russian FB more or less) in order to inform or just troll Russians).

About tanks - there were gossips about tanks being transferred some time ago before it was announced, but I do not think there was anything official earlier in Poland. There were jokes like "we have not provided tanks to Ukraine. It's true our tanks dissappeared, but those are not the same tanks which are now in Ukraine. Such tanks can be bought in every shop" (mocking earlier Russian propaganda). People keep admonishing each other that we should not repeat gossips, because that could damage the help to Ukraine.

David said...

@szopen (or szopeno?)

I second John's gladness at seeing you back.

szopeno said...


it's szopen (Polish spelling of chopin), but because it's quite popular nick and is often taken on different forums, I had to pick "szopeno" for blogger.