Daily Archives: January 11, 2009

The Fantastic Mystery of the Younger Dryas

One of the most interesting and exciting stories in science is that of the Younger Dryas. The Younger Dryas was a climate event that had important effects on human history, and that has been reasonably linked to some of our most important cultural changes, and ultimately some evolutionary changes as well. That is one reason why it is interesting. In addition, the Younger Dryas was a pretty big deal … a climate change or something like a climate change that caused massive changes all around the earth, and fairly recently. But the cause of the Younger Dryas is at present unknown, although a series of explanations have been advanced, each as convincing as the next depending on one’s point of view. The Younger Dryas itself is interesting, and the story of how scientists have studied it and the changing explanations emerging from that research is just as interesting.

The latest science is beginning to suggest that it is all even more interesting and exciting (and scary) than previously thought.

Continue reading The Fantastic Mystery of the Younger Dryas

Bush and Harry Use the P-Word

Americans, take note:

Prince Harry has apologised for using offensive language to describe a member of his army platoon.
The News of the World has published video in which the prince calls one of his Sandhurst colleagues a “Paki” in commentary he made over filming.


Now, help me out here, citizens of the UK and colonies and former colonies: How bad is this?

I had always assumed that “Paki” was a slur. I have seen the word used mainly in novels in which Brits or Americans were speaking distainfully of the Pakistanis, usually in spy novels and such, but I never knew if “Paki” was really bad (like the n-word bad) or not so bad at all (like calling Brits Brits) or highly variable (like the word “frog” for French of Kanook for Canadians).

The reason I ask this is the following: Some years ago, George Bush was being interviewed and in that interview made specific mention of the “Pakis” for the Pakistanis. No outrage was claimed, no apologies were asked for, no backpedaling happened. It was like “Paki” was perfectly normal and acceptable. That made me wonder.

So maybe now we should be going back over the old newsreels to find George Bush using the P-word?????

Even a little power corrupts absolutely

It is a travesty when the lives of young people doing little more than trying to make a point are tossed aside in order to make the likes of federal prosecutors, FBI agents, state investigators, and the occasional mayor and governor feel like they have larger than average dick. Which is pretty much what happened in Saint Paul in relation to the RNC last year. Shame on them.

Eventually it had to come out in the trials for alleged crimes at the Republican National Convention(RNC) that the so called “anarchists” of the RNC Welcoming Committee were being influenced by provocateurs. Basically the worst that happened at the RNC was broken windows, slashed tires and one dropped sandbag. However, the worst alleged planned incident that was an alleged fire bombing by three people. The stories that are now coming out point to the leader of that group as Brandon Darby, paid by the FBI. Brandon had the strongest political activist background. Brandon was not a person just sitting in a meeting taking notes, he was a person teaching people in martial arts how to fight the police. Brandon was a leader! Informants don’t lead, provocateurs lead. Yet this provocateur is getting off scot-free and even being called a hero by the Powerline Republican blog. Brandon suckered two naive young people into doing acts that will put them in jail for a long time. David McKay and Bradley Crowder, from Austin, Texas are scheduled to go on trial in Minnesota on Jan. 26, and are facing a possible 30 years in jail if convicted on all counts.


Norm Coleman’s Chances of Winning the Minnesota Senate Seat

…. via his court challenge of the recount that places Al Franken ahead are assessed by Eric Kleefeld:

The complaint ignores the existence of counter-evidence, employs one maneuver when it is self-benefiting and opposes the same maneuver when it goes against them, attacks not just the recount but votes that were counted for Franken all along, and overall throws everything against the wall to see what sticks.

Which is what I’ve been saying all along.

Have a look at Eric’s point by point analysis.

New Primate Research

I have had a lot of students of whom I’m very proud because of their accomplishments both in research and generally. One of these students is Mark Foster, who is one of a very small number of undergraduates to engage in significant research at some of the key East African chimpanzee research sites. Unfortunately for me, I can’t take a lot of credit for Mark’s excellent research, because I played a much smaller role in working with him than did others, but I am still very happy with his successes.

I’ve got a peer reviewed paper by Mark that I’ll be reviewing soon. In the mean time, have a look at this piece from Nature News

Researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Jane Goodall Institute Center for Primate Studies have now collated ten years of behavioural data on three male chimpanzee in Gombe National Park, Tanzania. Chimpanzees within the park have been routinely weighed by park staff, allowing Mark Foster and his team from the institute to work out which tactics chimpanzees of dramatically different sizes used both before and after they became alpha males….

The findings … are the first to suggest that physically smaller males make up for their reduced physical characteristics by using grooming to make allies who will aid them when their time comes to try and achieve alpha-male status, says Foster….

“It’s kind of like when I was a teenager and the football team’s quarterback lost the school’s popularity poll to a wimpy, unassuming fellow who was also quick-witted. The latter fellow was able to make friends through his sense of humour and charisma, and in turn achieved a kind of alpha status over the brutish quarterback,” he says.

You can probably access the story here.

Yellowstone Earthquakes Return

Just as unexpectedly as when the last swarm started, and just as unexpectedly as when the last swarm stopped, there is a new swarm. Verifying my initial statement: At least at some levels, the experts don’t have much of a clue about these things. Not their fault. It’s just that there is not that much data and there has not been enough study.
Continue reading Yellowstone Earthquakes Return

People acting squirrelly


So the other day, my sister and brother in-law were visiting from California, and at one point got talking about these people who were dressing in “squirrel suits” and jumping off buildings and some of the cliffs out there.

So, I imagined what I would think most people imagined. Crazy people dressing up as giant squirrels (maybe some of them dressed up as chipmunks or rabbits or whatever) and climbing around and jumping off things. Like squirrels do.

But apparently they were talking about something else. Something that you have to be a bit squirrelly to do, but not exactly squirrel-looking. They were talking about this:

Continue reading People acting squirrelly

Teachers Be Warned

And Public School Administrators, too.

There is a message being sent out, by the Discovery Institute (a non profit creationist ‘think’ tank) encouraging creationist students and teachers to “Suit Up, Sign Up, Show UP, Act Up and Start Up” (whatever that all means) on February 12, which of course, is Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday.

Continue reading Teachers Be Warned