May Pieces Of My Mind #3

First race of the year. Sunshine and a high wind!
  • I want a hoodie with the word HODIE across the back.
  • Cycling home last night at 11 I interrupted two young roebucks fighting in a suburban parking lot. Long, wickedly sharp antlers. They weren’t particularly afraid of me, but watched me with interest, then went back to trying to gore the shit out of each other. Scraping the ground with a front hoof.
  • Started my new job today. I’m coordinating the Labour / Social Democrat Party’s vote canvassing efforts in Nacka in the lead-up to the September 9 election. Nacka is an affluent and populous municipality adjacent to urban Stockholm where Labour hasn’t held power in almost half a century. Let’s see what we can do!
  • For two decades academia kept telling me that my presence didn’t matter and my opinions were of no account. An important motivation for me getting involved in politics is that here people say “We can really use someone like you, and we’d like you to take part in shaping policy”.
  • Cremated remains of Clyde Tombaugh who discovered Pluto are on the New Horizons probe that mapped the planet.
  • Love a scifi con at cycling distance! I’m doing a talk on Medieval castles and a panel on fictional empires. Also moderating a panel on Ursula LeGuin.
  • Florence (of The Machine) writes “So I like to keep my issues strong / But it’s always darkest before the dawn”. I’ve fixed the rhyme for her: “But it’s always darkest before the dong”.
  • The Men Who Stare At Goats by Jon Ronson is shelved under “War and Conflict” at Sickla public library in suburban Stockholm. In English and Swedish.
  • This summer I want to: ride a steam train and study the engine, and go kayaking, hiking and skinnydipping.
  • Sent my 7th book off to the graphic designer! Do you want all the gritty details about life at Swedish Medieval strongholds? Then I’m your Huckleberry.
  • Given the popularity of cheese burgers, I suggest that Hamburg’s inhabitants rename their city Käseburg.
  • Ishmael and Samuel have the same etymology, “hear” + “god”.
  • Why is the list of languages in LibreOffice’s spellchecker so damn long? Has the software suite even got dictionaries for Teke-Eboo and Nganasanic?
  • Sabbat’s 1987 single “Blood for the Blood God” mentions 10 million orc & goblin feet, that is, only 5 million orcs & goblins. So relax everyone.
  • The Latin word for nightingale, luscinia, is applied as a species surname to the thrush nightingale common in Linnaeus’s native Sweden. Not to the common nightingale that the Romans knew.
  • Why is wifi disconnection on a cell phone such a slow process?
  • The 8th century is known as the time of the Blue Ladies, because the Scandinavian bead market was dominated by blue and a few green bead types. Now the Danes are excavating yet another one of the workshops in Ribe that created these beautiful wares.
  • My grandparents were born in the 1910s. Cling film must have been completely futuristic to them.
  • Listened to a Coldplay song just to check if I still liked it. I did not. Then it got stuck in my head.
  • Reached the point in a really bad cold when you suddenly realise, hey, it’s been quite a while since I had to blow my nose!
  • My Chinese wife instructed me to make chlodnik, a cold Polish soup based on beetroot and kefir that was previously unknown to me. Yet I do not feel culturally threatened. What is wrong with me?!



Author: Martin R

Dr. Martin Rundkvist is a Swedish archaeologist, journal editor, skeptic, atheist, lefty liberal, bookworm, boardgamer, geocacher and father of two.

181 thoughts on “May Pieces Of My Mind #3”


    Serious question: what avenues are available to Americans to remove or at least immobilize a President when it becomes obvious to a sufficient majority of citizens that he is dangerously unbalanced, has already inflicted very major damage on the USA, and is poised potentially to do huge damage both to America and to the world? I realize impeachment is not a practical option – much too slow, and can’t possibly work during this term. Is there anything else, that doesn’t involve something criminal? I’m wondering if there is anything legal and legitimate, because it is needed sooner rather than later. The need is becoming urgent.

    Or is the USA and the world stuck with him until the end of his first term? And then what happens – do either the Dems or the GOPs have any viable candidates who could be competent Presidents? Is there a risk of Trump being re-elected?

    I realize these are hard questions, but I am becoming very seriously worried, even more than when he was first elected. I’m clearly not the only one (see recent comments by Macron, Trudeau and others). I see the Germans, French and others all moving in the direction of China, and the post-Brexit UK has previously made some strong overtures to the Chinese. On the face of it, that’s no bad thing, but it begins to look worrying like the development of a new axis of powers to oppose America under Trump. Not a bad thing, you think, but that can quickly become a global economic war, that could then quickly become a hot war (although I think the Chinese would be very strongly resistant to that, but they would defend if attacked). Macron actually said that. Plus there are the wild cards of Russia, North Korea and Iran, and Syria is not over yet.

    An animal is most dangerous when it is cornered, and that applies equally to human animals. If you come home and surprise an intruder in your house, leave an escape route open for him. Is there an escape route for Trump, and is there anyone capable of persuading him he needs to take it? From everything I have read about him, that looks very unlikely.


    1. For ordinary Americans, the only remedy is the ballot box.

      The Cabinet (via the 25th amendment) and the Congress (via impeachment) can in theory remove him, but in practice they are unlikely to do so. Conviction following impeachment requires 2.3 of Senators, which is 18 more than are currently in opposition (and it is mathematically impossible for that margin to be overcome in November). The 25th Amendment is a temporary measure; renewing it requires 2/3 majorities in both House and Senate.

      Not that there is anyone significantly better in the succession queue as it currently stands. Should Trump die or be removed before completing his term, Vice President Mike Pence would become President. After the Vice President comes the Speaker of the House (currently Paul Ryan), the President Pro Tempore of the Senate (currently Orrin Hatch), and then the Cabinet secretaries in order of the creation of their departments (they would have to skip Elaine Chao because she was born in Taiwan). Your best hope here is that (1) Democrats win a House majority in the November elections and (2) sometime after the new Congress convenes, both Trump and Pence are removed, either simultaneously or before they get a Vice President nominated and approved by Congress. In that scenario Nancy Pelosi, who would presumably become Speaker in the new Congress, would become President.

      Let’s not talk about Trump’s re-election chances. They are greater than zero, which makes them too high. It’s too early to say who the Democratic candidate might be; it will take at least a year for the field to establish itself. Hilary Clinton may have been the obvious Democratic nominee at this point in 2014, but I would not have guessed at this point in any other previous cycle who either party’s nominee would be unless they were either running for reelection, or the Vice President when the President was retiring due to term limits.


  2. This afternoon I will be traveling to an undisclosed location near Washington-IAD. I am not at liberty to go into details as it involves proposal reviews.


  3. “…..putting yourself into the minds of the perpetrators and understanding why it happened is necessary for prevention of recurrence in a multitude of different guises.”
    Which of course, require that we admit the holocaust is understandable, and may exist on a scale of increasing atrocities, instead of being some mysterious cataclysm.
    The Israeli natiionalists (and the far-right-pro-israeli lobby in USA) emphasize the unique elements about the holocaust, and oppose attemps to set it into the context of the many genocides during the colonial era, or the genocide of the Armenians. The widespread belief in “lower” and “higher” races used to justify conquests, mixed with the new, secular anti-semitism and the hierarchic nature of German society where obedience and fulfilment of duty were among the highest virtues, this all played in.
    But politicians like Netanyahu see an advantage in playing on the guilt over the holocaust as a way to distract from policies that clearly cannot be justified as “self-defence”.
    Putting it in a wider context of how “in” groups mistreat “out” groups is a certain way to trigger anger among Israeli lobbyists, at least here in Sweden. The holocaust must be described as unique in every way.
    A decade ago, there was an inflamed debate after a historian dared put the holocaust in the same context as the extermination of the Pampas indians. The differences of the two genocides are obvious, but the similarities were somehow a taboo subject..


  4. BTW, I should add there is a vigorous debate in Germany about the historical causes behind Hitler’s machtubernahme, that tries to adress the details beyond the obvious factors (the defeat, hyperinflation, the great depression) and the dynamics that led to war as well as genocide.
    Unfortunaterly I do not speak Geman and have not been keeping up.


  5. Hm. Channel 12 shows “Noah”. I prefer Utnapishtim’s original.
    And the bible leaves out the part where the lemurs and the kangaroos build their own two arks.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Noah was a crap movie anyway. Numerous things in the Old Testament derive from ancient Mesopotamian mythology. Jordan Peterson has mapped out a lot of this, if you can stay awake long enough to wade through it. I made several
    attempts to read his first book Maps of Meaning, but gave up – impossibly impenetrable, and seemed to me like a descent into insanity. His lecture series based on the book was a lot more intelligible, but you need stamina to sit through >100 hours of Youtube videos to watch it all, but I did. More than 125 million people have done it, which is pretty amazing.

    LMAO. Daughter has a female Jewish colleague who refers to her hair as a “Jewfro”; it’s like an Afro but it’s a Jewfro; it becomes most rampant and uncontrollable in wet, very humid weather, as now. I would love to get her genotyped to get her ancestry results.


      1. I’m willing to bet that my daughter’s Jewish colleague would be found to have substantial north-east African ancestry.

        I wonder if people with Jewfros ever get attacked for perceived cultural appropriation – probably not anywhere outside America, plus it ceased to be fashionable there before the cultural appropriation thing erupted. Art Garfunkel had what could reasonably be called a Jewfro. White guys with dreadlocks get physically knocked around a fair bit there, it seems.

        ‘Negritos’ in SE Asia and Melanesians confused early Anthroplogists, who thought they must be closely related to subSaharan Africans. The dark skin + fuzzy hair fooled them. Nope, among modern populations they are genetically most closely related to East Asians.

        I noticed that the Afro hairstyle was banned in Tanzania during the 1970s because it was seen as a symbol of neocolonialism and part of American cultural invasion. I had a Tanzanian friend in the late 60s/early 70s, but he kept his hair fairly close-cropped – maybe a wise choice.

        My daughter had an African friend when she was an undergraduate who braided her hair some special tribal way – I got some long winded explanation about what that girl had to do to wash her hair (not often), but I got lost in the details. She also had a Papuan friend (still in touch I think) whose hair was Afro.


  7. The Cultural Brain Hypothesis: How culture drives brain expansion, underlies sociality, and alters life history.

    They suggest some reasons for why human brains have been shrinking in size (as measured by cranial capacity) over the past 10,000 to 20,000 years. One possible explanation is that humans have been getting smaller (more gracile). Another possibility, which they and other authors seem to like is that it seems to coincide with a switch from asocial learning (so, something like learning to make tools by trial and error, rather than learning how from someone else) to social learning.


  8. No evidence that mate choice in humans is dependent on the MHC.

    MHC regulates, inter alia, natural body odour.

    I’m a bit sceptical – the way females smelt to me was always important for me. They could be visually attractive, but if their faint natural body odour didn’t smell right, it was a ‘deal breaker’ – it overrode purely visual appearance. OK, maybe I’m not ‘normal’, but it was also evidently important to my wife, after i first met her, that I ‘smell right’ – she’s got a nose like a bloodhound, and kept sniffing me to make sure I was the ‘right one’. Evidently I was; safe enough to breed with, anyway.

    I’d like to see replication across different samples before I accept their findings. Maybe Dutch people are different, somehow – all smell of Gouda or something.

    I have also noticed many times that with humans, aural cues tend to over-ride visual cues. When my daughter opens her mouth and talks for the first time to strangers, their attitudes and behaviour toward her clearly instantly change. She is well aware of this – happens to her in HK and the Mainland all the time. When she was studying in Australia, she deliberately cultivated speaking English with an Australian accent she normally totally lacks, then dropped it again when she returned to live in HK. She said it noticeably affected how open and receptive people were to her.

    I worked for several years with an Australian born Chinese guy; his family had been in Australia since the days of the gold rushes. He was culturally Australian, and had a strong Australian accent (including when he spoke Cantonese). Although he was 100% Chinese ancestry, I never saw him as Chinese, because the aural and cultural cues overrode the visuals.



    1. I never saw him as Chinese, because the aural and cultural cues overrode the visuals.

      Probably depends on where you live but I have seen this in Canada. Accent, in particular, seems key though some cultural clues such as body language may also have an effect.

      I remember, many years ago as an intern, sitting in the office and thinking about an article in the Toronto Globe & Mail about the lack of racial diversity. Yeah, they were right!

      Our small consulting firm was totally lily-white. I was going to mention it to my fellow intern at the desk across the room when I noticed that he was a 180cm/200kg Chinese Canadian from Northern Alberta.


  9. I know a liberal politician from Scania who was adopted from Korea as an infant. The broad scanian accent completely dominates the impression he makes.


  10. The polynesians of Mangareva combine binary and decimal maths.

    During the national day, we have – quite appropriately- chilly and overcast weather, with gusts of wind.
    – –
    Scientists have used “deep learning” AI to learn how atoms behave at the very small scales of grain interfaces in materials (quantum effects make previous methods useless). This will be very important for creating new materials with novel properties.


  11. For a look into Texas politics, check “The Texas Conscience” with Samantha Bee.
    – – –
    I foolishly took a day off, and mostly ended up seeking warmth indoors.
    — –
    The SF novel “Autononous” by Annalee Newitz” has received a lot of praise from luminaries like William Gibson and Neal Stephenson.
    – – –
    Sweden is not strongly affected by Brexit, but I hope enough British MP s get disenchanted with the party line to stop what increasingly looks like a disaster unfolding.
    Apart from Nigel Farage, everybody loses with Brexit.


  12. The June 8 issue of Science has reports of improved genomic comparisons of chimps and orangutans.
    I cannot process all the information, but it shows there was some gene duplications ten million years ago that boosted the chances for mutations deleting and altering genes.
    In addition, there is a clearer picture of which genes are down-regulated or up-regulated during brain formation in humans compared to apes.


  13. “The SF novel “Autononous” by Annalee Newitz” – You appear to have suffered a loose consonant movement, Birger. Better than a loose vowel movement, I suppose.

    We are currently enjoying a tropical storm that just *won’t* go away – not strong enough to give everyone a day off work, just enough to make life soggy. At the beginning of the month, local organic vegetable growers were complaining about lack of rain (fair observation – May was a lot drier than average). Now their vegetable gardens will be underwater. Where we are, we’ve had about 150mm in the last 24 hours, which is not really up there, but it’s wet. Yesterday (midnight to midnight) some places a bit further north got >300mm. I’m seeing a lot of school kids trudging around looking like unhappy but uncomplaining drowned rats – they’re accustomed from an early age to periodic drenching.


  14. Most of the time, owning a private car here is an extravagant self indulgence, but in this weather it makes a case for itself. (Then, beyond a certain point, being out on the roads at all becomes hazardous.) Old HK saying: “All of the taxis disappear in the rain.” True – I think they must be water-soluble or something.

    I’m seeing news reports of the discovery of a chariot and copper weapons in NW India 2000-1800 BCE that are *not* Indus Valley Civ.

    I experimented with making copper weapons when I was a kid. They were bloody useless. Not surprising that there was a thriving trade in tin around the Med. prior to the collapse.


  15. Chariots were the blitzkrieg of the ancient world right up until they weren’t. The first time some guy with a recurved bow and mounted on a fast horse figured out all he had to do was ride up behind one and pick off the guys on the chariot from their undefended rear, chariots went from being a terror weapon to being totally redundant.

    In the case of the find in NW India, you can bet a lot of people will be thinking ‘Indo-Aryan Invasion’. The timing is right.


  16. The virtual keypad on my Samsung is designed for the market in Liliput.
    You are supposed to use special sticks to hit the right key.
    – – –
    G 7 countries meet today. MG7GA ?


    1. I’ve got one of those because I had finger issues with my older, smaller iPhone – pretty handy, it has a rubber pad (stylus) on one end and a pen on the other. Cost me next to nothing. But since I got my big screen iPhone I don’t need it.


  17. People need more protein as they get older, not less.

    My wife knew that. Don’t know how she knew, given all of the noise by the vege nuts that gets undeserved prominence in the news, but she did. She’s a clever girl.


  18. Oldest bubonic plague genome sequenced from a 3800 year old double burial in the Samara region in Russia.
    – – –
    Too bad funeral practices in india favor cremation. It would be interesting to see if the steppe peoples brougt pandemics to the region, and if this could have finished off the already stressed Indus valley civilisation.


    1. I have reservations. There was no massive population turnover like there was in Britain; it looks more like elite male replacement without much disruption to the substrate. In the case of the NW subcontinent, there was connectivity and evidence of people to-ing and fro-ing.


  19. Yes, I know. No spell check, remember.
    – – –
    Yet another multiple planet system found orbiting a red dwarf star. Such stars have too intense fulare
    events to be hospitable, but it demonstrates it is easy for Earth-sized planets to form. In this case ca. 1.1 times the diameter of Earth.


  20. Have I Got a Bit More News For You S55 E 9 manages to avoid mentioning Trump. Thank you!
    – – –
    Concerns about possible bribes when Sweden sold combat aircraft to South Africa. The arnament industry involves so much money, it has a strongly corrupting influence.


  21. Birger, I am also reminded why you don’t provide links.

    This is the ape genome paper you mentioned:

    I know a Sri Lankan novelist who lives in HK. I read all of his published books, which are full of mistakes. In an email exchange once, as a friendly gesture, I offered to proof read his manuscripts for him free of charge before he sends them to his publisher. His reaction was to be deeply offended – threatened his snowflake ego or something. I suppose it didn’t help that his English wife is an English teacher and probably proof reads his manuscripts, badly.

    Martin never makes a mistake. Have you noticed? I can’t recall a single typo or auto-correct misadventure in all the years of reading. Such proof reading perfection should be a marketable skill.

    People don’t seem to bother much about errors any more. Books and papers I read are full of mistakes. For prolific bloggers like Razib Khan, who is writing long posts about complex science topics, while juggling a full time job, his own prodigious reading of books and papers, and three young kids, it’s sort of forgivable, I suppose; it’s just a blog. I did once offer to proof read his stuff with quick turnaround, but got no response.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you John! You know more than most about My writing errors, having proofed three books for me. My professional life has always been an attempt to subsist on non-marketable skills rather than to use the marketable ones on my repertoire. Proofing is a drag though…


    2. I saw what you did there, inserting an error for me to spot!

      Some things I just do because I want to, because I think the author deserves any help I can offer, however small. (This applied in your case.) It’s altruism, pure and simple. And not a drag, because the subject matter was new to me and interesting, even exciting, particularly the last book. I joked about putting it on my CV – well, no, I wouldn’t do that, but a few times I have had fun with it; when people have asked me patronising questions like: “What do you do with your spare time, now that you are semi-retired?” I have taken mischievous pleasure in responding: “I have proof read a few books on Scandinavian archaeology.” “Oh.” I just enjoy the looks on people’s faces when I say that, and the ensuing puzzled silence.

      I had one English boss I liked a lot (and who liked me a lot, for inexplicable reasons) who had the perfect conversation stopper – when he was having a drink at a party or some other social gathering, and some nitwit would ask him: “Do you have any hobbies?” he would answer: “Yes, actually, I’m very interested in Islamic architecture.” “Oh, that’s…” Silence. It happened to be true, he was.

      But yes, most of the time proofing is a real drag.

      Liked by 2 people

  22. English evolutionary biologist W.D. Hamilton, regarded as one of the giants in the field, who died prematurely in 2000, apparently from something associated with malaria after a field trip to the Congo, recorded his wishes concerning disposal of his remains after death, which I reproduce here verbatim for the sheer hell of it:
    “I will leave a sum in my last will for my body to be carried to Brazil and to these forests. It will be laid out in a manner secure against the possums and the vultures just as we make our chickens secure; and this great Coprophanaeus beetle will bury me. They will enter, will bury, will live on my flesh; and in the shape of their children and mine, I will escape death. No worm for me nor sordid fly, I will buzz in the dusk like a huge bumble bee. I will be many, buzz even as a swarm of motorbikes, be borne, body by flying body out into the Brazilian wilderness beneath the stars, lofted under those beautiful and un-fused elytra which we will all hold over our backs. So finally I too will shine like a violet ground beetle under a stone.”

    Liked by 4 people

  23. John, when using the phone I have no means to copy the links.
    – – –
    I prefer the phone as PC is in need of professional debugging.
    Which reminds me, the election campaign in Sweden is about to start.


  24. There is a new Netflix series made by Vox titled Explained, which I definitely won’t be watching. The first episode is on monogamy. The Australian science journalism online magazine Quillette, praised by Richard Dawkins and Steven Pinker among others, has published a very good critique of the episode – in fact, they demolish it.

    In short: “The central arguments, as I understand them, are that monogamy didn’t exist until after the invention of agriculture, marrying for love didn’t exist until roughly 1700 AD, and the concept of sexual selection was developed by Victorian scientists like Charles Darwin in part to justify traditional gender roles.” All of that is horse manure and easily disproven.

    Sexual selection was observed by Darwin in some birds and animals, but it doesn’t happen in humans. Sexual selection is what is happening when a peahen chooses to mate with the peacock with the biggest, shiniest tail. All of the male peacocks with less impressive tails miss out, and might never get the chance to mate. That doesn’t happen with humans – most people everywhere manage to find a mate, and most of those manage or choose to reproduce, so nothing is being selected for sexually, whereas it is sexual selection that has driven the evolution of the extravagant tails of peacocks, which are actually disadvantageous to them in terms of survival and energy requirements.

    What happens with humans is not just random mating, obviously, it is ‘assortative mating’. That sort of sounds like sexual selection, but it isn’t. To illustrate, let me take a purely fictitious (!) handsome man who is a bookworm who likes to hang out in libraries a lot. And because he does, our purely fictitious (!) hero meets an equally fictitious (!) attractive lady who is also a bookworm who likes to hang out in libraries. They find that they have a lot in common, with the result that they get on well and find each other interesting and enjoyable to be with, and so they are drawn to each other by their natural attraction plus their shared interests. That’s assortative mating, not sexual selection.

    So anyway, nuts to Vox – they are full of it. And more power to Quillette for calling them out on it.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Old HK saying: “All of the taxis disappear in the rain.”

    Not limited to Hong Kong; New York City taxis have the same reputation.

    The review panel wasn’t bad as those things go. It was easy to pick the five that most deserved it, and they expected in the announcement to fund four or five proposals from this batch. We could even tell them which one to drop if they could only fund four. There was occasional vigorous debate, but no fisticuffs.

    Loudoun County, Virginia, however, has many of the worst features of American suburbia. We stayed in a complex consisting of two hotels and a few restaurants (one of which, luckily, is a decent pho shop). Nothing else is within walking distance–not that you would want to attempt walking anywhere, as this complex is on a road with three travel lanes in each direction, posted speed limit 45 MPH (about 70 km/h) and no sidewalk provided, that is not even a major highway. Heavy traffic is as much of a problem as it is closer to the city center (some 50 km to the east); the county has seen significant population growth over the last 20 years, the primary road network has not been expanded by a proportional amount, and there is as yet no practical alternative to driving in almost the entire county (there is a Metro line to IAD under construction, but even that will pretty much only serve the airport and points east).


    1. Hangzhou’s taxi drivers change shifts, moronically, between 5 and 6 pm. So at that time all taxis speed towards an exchange point and refuse to take fares.


    2. To spoil the story, of course what actually happens is that when it is pouring with rain, people will hail any passing taxi and jump into it to get out of the rain, rather than doing what most of them do when it is not raining, which is walk to or wait for cheaper public transport. So that’s why when it is raining heavily you can’t find a vacant taxi. I imagine the same applies in New York.

      Taxi drivers in HK get up to tricks, like charging inflated fares during typhoons, which is illegal, and they spin a story that their insurance does not cover them during typhoons (which might or might not be true – could be) but I don’t begrudge them that – they are out there taking a risk, so it seems reasonable to me that they should earn more for it.

      Yeah, driver shift changes are a pain. I think in HK now they must stagger the shift changes so you don’t have a period any time of the day when no taxis are available. It used to be 3.30-4.30pm when it was impossible to find a taxi driver willing to take a fare (so they did actually have the brains to avoid the peak hours), but that doesn’t seem to happen any more.


  26. I read about the “funeral” requirements for Hamilton in Nature, back then.
    Myself, I want my carcass trussed on to the next North Korean test nuke. If you want to go out with a bang, go out with a bang.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Warning – rant coming.
    This story is so full of bullshit that I don’t know where to start. I won’t repeat the simple analysis that shows it is physically impossible for every man, woman and child of all ages from birth to death and in all income groups to eat that much meat per capita. So I’ll try to lay out some of the other bits of ridiculous bullshit.

    No, when you walk into any restaurant in HK, you do not see tables laden with a load of meat dishes and only one vegetable dish. None of the many regional Chinese cuisines is like that – meat dishes vs vegetable dishes. Yes, each of them has a few dishes that are solely meat – maybe a dish of barbecued pork, or goose, or chicken, but they are served sliced into small portions, and each diner will take a couple of slices. No one eats a whole dish of barbecued pork. Trust me, if you ate a whole dish of roast goose by yourself, you would be throwing up afterwards. By far the large majority of ‘meat’ dishes in Chinese cuisines are small pieces of meat cooked together with a lot of vegetables. And then there are dishes which are solely vegetables. So typically what you will see in a Chinese restaurant is a number of dishes, some of which will comprise small pieces of meat with a lot of vegetables, and fish with vegetables, and squid with vegetables, and prawns with vegetables, and bean curd with vegetables, and just vegetables. And the ‘meat’ will most likely be pork; there are really very few beef dishes in Chinese cuisines, and none of them are just a plate of beef.

    “even when people dine at home, many will eat lots of meat and few vegetables with little or no rice” – pure unadulterated horse shit. HK has a truly excellent person called the Government Statistician, who has a department with an army of diligent and very busy bees collecting data on just about anything you can think of, and they publish these data every year – they are publicly available, and you can get them, no problem. Also, most of HK’s food is imported, and food imports are carefully monitored and checked by health inspectors, so you can get the data on what kinds of food are imported into HK, how much of each and where it comes from. I have seen these data. HK imports a shitload of vegetables from the Mainland, plus some from other countries, and a lot of fruit from a lot of different countries. It also imports veritable mountains of rice. Rice is the only foodstuff that the government classifies as a ‘strategic commodity’ and stockpiles in case of some emergency – they don’t classify any other food that way. They classify oil as a strategic commodity and stockpile it, and a very few other things. But the only food they stockpile is rice.

    You can walk into any market or supermarket in HK, and you will see big stacks of big bags of rice, of multiple different brands and countries of origin. HK shopkeepers are not actually morons, and commercial space is very expensive – they would not be stocking these big stacks of rice if no one was buying them. I can go further – at the service station where I fill my car with petrol, they have a deal where you get awarded points depending on how much petrol you buy, and you can redeem these points to get stuff. What kind of stuff? Well, one of the things you can get for your points is rice – big bags of rice. You can see them stacked up inside the service station building. And you can see all the motorists redeeming their points for bags of rice and putting them into their cars to drive home.

    So, if HK people are eating little to no rice at home, what in hell are they doing with it all? Stuffing it up their arses to act as ballast, to prevent them from being blown away in typhoons? Using it as ballast in their luxury yachts? Occam’s Razor suggests that they are actually cooking and eating the stuff, along with the shitload of vegetables that HK imports every year.

    I have to report that, for all the many Chinese cuisines have much to recommend them, Chinese desserts are crap. They really are – they are remarkably few, and very uninspiring. This is because Chinese people prefer to finish a meal with some fresh fruit. The poor, ignorant, deluded fools somehow got the idea that eating fresh fruit is good for their health, whereas sweet desserts are not so good, so they eat mountains of fresh fruit, and bother very little with desserts.

    I could go on almost endlessly, but I don’t want to outstay my welcome, so I’ll just point to something in that story that is a flashing red light – they got a cardiologist to talk about risk factors in colorectal cancer. Last time I checked, cardiologists are doctors who know about matters relating to the heart and circulatory system. If you want an authoritative statement on risk factors in colorectal cancer, you ask people who are called gastroenterologists. You can trust me on this – I know far more about the subject than I ever wanted to.

    Well, one final thing – HK has a population of 7 million people. Even if every living soul in HK was stuffing his/her pie hole with nothing but beef for every single meal, it would make a miniscule difference to global warming. And the truth is, they don’t. That story is a load of very obviously fabricated garbage.

    Rant over.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wonder why they picked on HK in particular.? I’ve seen similar stories about the increase in meat eating in China and other East Asian countries, and there may be a kernel of truth in them (in that it would be better if those of us with meat heavy diets would be better off reducing our consumption to average Chinese levels than vice versa, both for health and environmental reasons), but that’s rather more people, confining your discussion to HK just seems odd unless there is an agenda behind the article that I am not aware of.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. That is a very interesting question, Jazz. It’s really two questions: 1. Why are these ‘researchers’ spinning bare faced lies that can be demolished with data which can be obtained effortlessly and a modicum of critical thinking? Answer: they have an agenda. It’s not really profitable use of time to ponder and unravel what that agenda is exactly. 2. Why are they targeting little Hong Kong with its 7 million, when there are 1.4 billion culturally similar people right on the doorstep? I am still trying to think my way through that, but I think the short answer is that it is a ‘soft target’; Mainland China isn’t. They are because they can. It is pretty surprising just how many people swallow headlines and empty opinionating, and how few look at real, hard data and think critically about what they mean, even when getting the data is a guaranteed right and effortless, as is the case in HK. Mainlanders are a lot more cynical than HKers – they are long used to being told lies by their own government, so why should they believe anyone else?

      As for China (Mainland, as opposed to HK and Macau), it is true that the consumption of animal protein has risen a lot over the past 20 years as people have become more affluent, starting from a very low base compared to Western countries. But *all* of that increase has been in consumption of pork, chicken and fish. Beef consumption, which was at a very low level 20 years ago, hasn’t changed at all, not even a tiny bit. And consumption of sheep meat in China is so low that it doesn’t even register. You keep seeing stories about how it will be unsustainable when the Chinese start consuming steaks as much as Americans (and Australians, even more). The only thing wrong with that line is that ‘when’ should be replaced by ‘if’ – demonstrably, it hasn’t happened, not at all, and there is no evidence at all that it will.

      Why is that significant? When it comes to both generation of green house gases and use of arable land, pig and chicken farming are both a small fraction of the concern that grazing of cattle and sheep are.

      You can generalize that pretty well to all of East Asia. The scare story that keeps replaying about the disaster that will happen when East Asians are all adopting Western diets high in red meat consumption is no more than that – it hasn’t happened on any significant scale, and it won’t.

      As for India, obviously beef consumption is not an issue (although they do have a lot of farting cows and a fair amount of dairy consumption), and a majority of Hindus are functional vegetarians, at least most of the time. Plus people who predict that India will become the next big economic power house are overlooking some important data: Chinese have a mean IQ of 106; Indians have a mean IQ of 85-90. Indian infrastructure is appallingly bad. 50% of all domestic premises in India still lack an indoor sanitary toilet. It’s hard to generalize India, because it has a huge population with a lot of population substructure due to at least 2,000 years of strict endogamy within castes and jatis, and with very big differences in basic things like literacy rates between different states, but people who think that India will soon be a major global economic power are deluding themselves. So, I don’t think that a big increase in animal protein consumption in India is on the cards at all.

      Liked by 1 person

  28. I am told traditional south/east asian cuisine is actually close to optimal for your health.
    Rice, vegetables and just a bit of meat.
    Up here, it was cholesterol all over, until maybe the sixties, when doctors realised a diet good for heavy physical work was not a good idea once people could lead easier lives.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, people will tell you that the traditional home cooked southern Chinese diet of rice, green vegetables and a little bit of pork or fish is optimal for health. People claim a lot of things. It’s not – it won’t make you fat or diabetic, but it is deficient in protein and some other nutrients like Vitamin D, which doesn’t matter in southern China but matters a lot to people living in high latitudes, and also deficient in calcium. You see really a lot of old Chinese people with osteoporosis, particularly women. Some of them are bent over almost double. There’s a reason my clever wife now drinks a glass of milk every day, when she never had it as a kid.

      The energy balance equation is really simple, and I don’t know why it should take such a long time for people to figure it out – the more energy you expend, the more you need to take in. If you take in more than you expend consistently over a long time period, you will become obese. It isn’t *quite* as simple as that, human biology is insanely complex, but it’s a good enough first approximation.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I don’t think it’s that most people really don’t understand the energy balance equation, it’s that as in so many areas of life they want a short cut, ideally one that means they can cheat the equation in some way, combined with our incredible capacity for decieving ourrselves. People know ‘if it sounds too good to be true then it isn’t true’ they just don’t want that to be true! Then you get people who are geneticly favoured coming along and selling some miracle diet and it looks to others like there might be a way to cheat the equation after all, which they want so badly that they fool themsleves it could work. It’s just another example of people preferring to believe what they want to be true rather than accepting the cold hard facts.


  29. In colder climates, a lot also depends on how much time you spend outdoors: the colder it is, the more energy your body consumes just to keep you warm. A typical adult male in a temperate climate needs about 2000-2500 kcal per day. Have that same man winter over in Antarctica, and he will need more like 7000 kcal. I know people who have wintered over, and this is consistent with their observations. It’s also consistent with what I observed in Fairbanks: unlike in the conterminous 48 states, large restaurant portions actually make sense in Alaska. When I was up there I would eat a local specialty called a dredgeburger: about 250 g of beef (twice as much as in a typical large burger), topped with a slab of ham and a thick slice of cheese, plus French fries on the side. That’s way too big a dinner where I live, but not in interior Alaska in winter.

    In addition, fresh vegetables tend to be scarce in Arctic and sub-Arctic climates. That’s not as true nowadays, because you can have a supply flown in (at considerable expense), but in the days before airplanes most Inuit, Sami, etc., would rarely if ever have seen a fresh vegetable. Those things are much easier to obtain in tropical and temperate climates, at least in places that get a respectable amount of rainfall.

    Rice is not universally consumed in China, either: northern cuisines tend to use wheat instead. My understanding is that if you can only get one grain crop per year, wheat is the better choice because you get more nutrition per crop. But you can never get more than one wheat crop per year, whereas if your climate is sufficiently warm and moist you can get a second, or even a third, rice crop. I am told that China has a zone of exclusively rice cultivation in the south and a zone of exclusively wheat cultivation in the north, separated by a transition zone about 10 km wide.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I nearly gagged at ‘dredgeburger’.

      Helps to explain why southern China is a lot more populous than northern China – double-cropping of rice enabled them to grow a lot more food.


    1. And Canada is one country with which USA has a trade *surplus*, making his reasoning fractally wrong, introducing a new level of error when you go deeper….

      Liked by 2 people

  30. The Swedish liberal party leader used his slot at television to criticize the wild swings in attitudes to refugees, from very welcoming to very restrictive. He mainly criticized the social denocrats but afterwards added it also applied to the conservatives. These swings have contributed to legitimizing the SD populist party.


  31. I have been browsing Youtube for a bit of fun.
    “Cross and Crown Radio” has a logo that looks like an ankh which is either unintentionally pagan, or a recognition that the Osiris cult inspired the resurrection.
    – – –
    “Where is Allah” adresses disagreements among muslim scholars. Is he above his throne, on his throne or adjusting his throne?
    Was he before creation, or is he and his throne inside creation?
    Is he everywhere? Or is his throne separate from creation? Is he in the bathroom?
    – – –
    I have solved it for them. Allah has his throne in a fractal dimension with dimensionality of ca. 0.5. This allows him to be 50% in our cosmos, and 50% outside.
    As for the time factor, he is in a separate time dimension orthogonal to ours.
    Whether he is on or above the throne depends on the angle from which you observe time.
    – – –
    For the matter of resurrection, I refer you to the SF novels of the “Riverworld” series by P J Farmer. He inspired parts of the Matrix.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Tossed up about trying to summarize this for a while, but I just can’t, so I’ll post the link to Razib’s whole piece. Never mind the less interesting stuff at the beginning – he’s just using that to explain what effective population size means, and the difficulty of projecting census population size from effective population size. It gets a lot more interesting later, with some predictions at the end, some of which really surprised me; e.g. I would not expect him to predict that Homo naledi contributed ancestry to modern southern African populations. I’m astonished, actually, and sceptical about it. It’s a bit like the old question (with apologies to the film Prizzi’s Honor): do I mate with it, or kill and eat it?


    1. Simple example – if people speaking Indo-European languages came to ‘dominate’ India, why do so many Indian people today still speak Dravidian languages?

      Apart from anything else, there are obvious problems with conflating a language group with a genetically identifiable group of people (however you might do that), and then trying to track the spread of those languages and conflating that with spread of those people. It throws up all sorts of problems; e.g. why do Basques have Y haplogroups identifiable with people of the Yamnaya culture on the Pontic-Caspian Steppe, but speak a non-Indo-European language? Why do Sardinians speak an Indo-European language, but exhibit little evidence of Yamna Y haplogroups, and are the closest modern proxy for Anatolian farmers, who had zero Steppe ancestry?

      Similar problems occur when you conflate a genetic grouping of people (however you might do that) with a particular material culture. This is where archaeologists can get very pissed off with geneticists (with substantial grounds). The perfect illustration of this is the Bell Beaker Culture, which looks like it developed in Iberia before people with Steppe ancestry even got there, and which looks like it spread into Central Europe largely by cultural dissemination, rather than any kind of invasion, male mediated or otherwise. But when Bell Beaker culture spread to Britain, it resulted in >90% population turnover there; but that was no big male-mediated armed invasion; the population replacement was a process that took hundreds of years. Question is why. Good question.

      What people have done is track Y haplogroups from people of the Yamnaya culture on the Pontic-Caspian steppe, and mapped where and when they moved. But genetically, those people of the Yamnaya culture were already an amalgum of Eastern European hunter-gatherers, Anatolian farmers and Ancient North Eurasians (hunter-gatherers who ranged widely across northern Eurasia). The most common Y haplogroup markers that people look for are R1a and R1b. But the extent to which people carrying those male lineages became ‘dominant’ in Europe varies quite a bit – more in the north, a fair bit less in the south. So, showing ‘Indo-Europeans’ spreading into Greece the way they have on that video is just bullshit. OTOH, R1b is *very* highly represented in Britain and Ireland, and can be fairly said to be dominant there. So R1b came to be associated with Bell Beaker culture, but there were other people in Europe who had Bell Beaker culture but no R1b.

      Likewise in India – there is R1a in India, but you can hardly say that ‘Indo-European people became dominant in India’ – that’s just not even wrong. It’s screwy. It’s not *the* dominant Y haplogroup in India; nowhere close.

      I’m rambling and flailing, but I hope you can see what I am trying (ineptly) to get at.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Considering the disease-mediated depopulation of the Americas, is there even any other hypothesis than disease that comes close to explaining the British population turnover? No volcanos, no sudden climate change.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Such high population turnover does look very much like disease. Even the onslaught of wholesale warfare doesn’t extinguish people to the extent of >90% replacement, and Pontus Skoglund makes clear that the arrival of people with Bell Beaker Culture was nothing like that.

        But there seems to be some evidence that farming populations in Britain were already in decline and maybe even plummeted in population before people with Bell Beaker Culture began migrating in, possibly due to some regional climate downturn that impacted on farming.

        So it’s hard to know. People practising agro-pastoralism would be more resilient to climate changes than people relying solely on growing crops. Dare I speak the words? Yeah, I will: There’s strength in diversity!!!


  33. Speculative but interesting:

    What did hybrids look like, as in hybrids between archaic humans and anatomically modern humans?

    It’s kind of a dumb question. Genes are discrete, not blending, so hybrids will look like some mosaic of their parents’ features, but each mosaic is different and unique, even between siblings within a single nuclear family of modern humans.


  34. “Sexual selection was observed by Darwin in some birds and animals, but it doesn’t happen in humans. Sexual selection is what is happening when a peahen chooses to mate with the peacock with the biggest, shiniest tail. All of the male peacocks with less impressive tails miss out, and might never get the chance to mate. That doesn’t happen with humans – most people everywhere manage to find a mate, and most of those manage or choose to reproduce, so nothing is being selected for sexually, whereas it is sexual selection that has driven the evolution of the extravagant tails of peacocks, which are actually disadvantageous to them in terms of survival and energy requirements.”

    Really? Why do women have permanent breasts? Why do men have the largest penis among primates (not just in relation to body weight, but in absolute terms)? Why do gentlemen prefer blonds? There are many characteristics which, at least today, have zero or even negative survival value, but are highly desirable.

    Yes, your description of human mating applies today, but that is relatively recent. Until quite recently (say, 1960s; think of Brian Jones) desirable men had many more children than did undesirable men. And rich men had concubines. After this was socially frowned upon, they were disguised, for example as domestic servants. No Victorian millionaire needed that many servants, especially not female servants. French-maid costume, anyone?


    1. Trying to be equally ridiculous, if gentlemen prefer blondes, why do the very large majority of humans alive today have black hair? Being less ridiculous, why has the frequency of blonde hair in Europe neither increased nor decreased with time? The tiny minority of anthropologists who argue for sexual selection in modern human populations with variegated hair colours (which basically means Europe, and only over the past 5,000 years), argue in favour of ‘novelty’ in hair and eye colours, not blondism. They have no evidence to support their theory – random mating would explain the frequencies of hair colours equally as well.

      Which characteristics in humans are you talking about that are desirable but have negative ‘survival value’ (if there is such a term)?

      I think you are confusing historical birth rates with survival of children to adulthood, and you seem to be taking a Eurocentric view. For avoidance of doubt, most humans don’t live in Europe and never have. For most of human pre-history, most humans lived in Africa. Poor Irish farmers had very large families – just one example from Europe, which you seem fixated on; the availability of the potato with the Columbian exchange resulted in an explosion in the population of Irish subsistence farmers mono-cropping, and we know how that worked out. The population of Ireland today is smaller than it was prior to the Famine. Are you familiar with the term Malthusian Limit? What happened in Europe after the Black Death? 10,000 years ago, all humans everywhere were nomadic hunter-gatherers. Surviving hunter-gatherer populations are typically notably egalitarian and live in small groups, and have very strict rules regarding marriage, evidently to avoid in-breeding as much as possible.

      Breasts signal age of reproduction – that’s a prevalent theory, anyway. Preference for larger breasts is not a human universal; they confer no reproductive advantage. If a penis is too long, it can easily bump against the cervix, which is very painful for the woman. No one actually knows why human penis size is as it is – there are theories, but there is no evidence for anything. Female preference depends on who you ask.


      1. “why do the very large majority of humans alive today have black hair?”

        Presumably because (ignoring recent migration) they live in sunnier climes, which requires dark skin, and dark skin but blond hair is rare.

        “Being less ridiculous, why has the frequency of blonde hair in Europe neither increased nor decreased with time?”

        Presumably the first people in the north had black hair, so it has increased with time. (It is now decreasing due to immigration.) It is not required: many northern people have dark hair (I mean those who have been there for thousands of years), so it doesn’t seem to be an environmental response, making sexual selection more likely.

        “The tiny minority of anthropologists who argue for sexual selection in modern human populations with variegated hair colours (which basically means Europe, and only over the past 5,000 years), argue in favour of ‘novelty’ in hair and eye colours, not blondism.”

        But that is still sexual selection.

        “Which characteristics in humans are you talking about that are desirable but have negative ‘survival value’ (if there is such a term)?”

        “I think you are confusing historical birth rates with survival of children to adulthood, and you seem to be taking a Eurocentric view.”

        Huge breasts, for example. Like the peacock’s tail, an expensive investment which hampers normal activities, but attractive to the opposite sex, presumably because it is conspicuous consumption.

        “Breasts signal age of reproduction – that’s a prevalent theory, anyway. Preference for larger breasts is not a human universal; they confer no reproductive advantage.”

        Right, they confer no reproductive advantage, which again makes sexual selection more likely. It is no problem to note whether a female is of reproductive age even without looking at her breasts: hair other than on the head is a pretty good indication. Also, other animals don’t seem to need this signal.


      2. No – the modern European phenotype (pale skin, variegated eyes and hair) only emerged within the past 5,000 years. Since then, the frequency of blonde hair, and red hair, in Europeans (not migrants) has neither increased nor decreased. There is nothing adaptive in hair colour. Arguments have been made that blue eyes might be adaptive in highly reflective snow environments (more resistant to snow blindness), but they are purely speculative.

        Which part of me saying that the large majority of anthropologists do NOT accept the pure speculation that this was sexual selection did you miss?

        Which part of me saying that preference for large breasts is NOT universal did you miss? Which part of me saying that men find waist to hip ratio the most attractive body trait did you miss? This signals both good health and reproductive age. But this is NOT sexual selection – a very large proportion of young women have waist to hip ratio within the attractive range. You appear not to understand what sexual selection is.


      3. Sorry, forgot to reply to this:

        “I think you are confusing historical birth rates with survival of children to adulthood, and you seem to be taking a Eurocentric view.”

        The point is that, until very recently (because of advances in birth control—successful men still have sex with more women), successful men tended to have a large number of children. This has nothing to do with the size of families, survival rates of children, etc.


      4. Which part of me telling you that you are wrong about this did you miss? Did you get what I said about poor Irish farmers having large families? Did you get the part about how Europe had hit the Malthusian Limit before the Black Death, because everyone was having large families? Did you get the part where life improved for the peasant class after the Black Death because there was more food to go around and because shortage of farm labourers caused their wages to increase? All of this is documented.


      5. No one knows why the blonde and red hair variants emerged – random mutations happen. Once they happen, they don’t go away again, as long as the carriers of the mutations successfully reproduce.

        Variegated eye colours emerged independent of variegated hair colours. The first modern hunter gatherers in Europe whose genes have survived down to the present day had dark skin, dark hair and blue eyes. Probably just random mutation. I guess you missed the Cheddar Man story, although it was pretty hard to miss.


      6. “Which part of me telling you that you are wrong about this did you miss? Did you get what I said about poor Irish farmers having large families? Did you get the part about how Europe had hit the Malthusian Limit before the Black Death, because everyone was having large families? Did you get the part where life improved for the peasant class after the Black Death because there was more food to go around and because shortage of farm labourers caused their wages to increase? All of this is documented.”

        Got it all, and it is just a total non-sequitur with respect to Brian Jones.


      7. Look, I know this is hard, but do a rough mental calculation – just dead rough – how many Brian Joneses are there in the world, and how many people are there in the world who are living at subsistence level? Why is population explosion now happening in Africa and pretty much nowhere else? Do you think they’re all rich rock stars? It’s not the ‘successful men’ who have the highest number of children in Africa, it’s the guys married to women who never got to go to school. The poorer Indian states with lower literacy rates are still reproducing above replacement, but outside of Africa, very few other places are now – as affluence rises, birth rates plummet. This has happened everywhere in the world.


  35. Penis diameter probably just trails vaginal gauge which in turn is strongly selected for by the increased skull diameter over time in the genus Homo.


      1. That piece is pure horse manure. Sperm competition doesn’t happen in humans – that theory has been thoroughly debunked since that piece was written in 2012. It has also got penis dimensions wrong – human penises are thicker than chimpanzee penises, but the same average length.

        Human mating patterns are totally different from chimpanzee mating patterns, which are in turn totally different from gorilla mating patterns. Try reading about them, because I’m damned if I’m going to try to explain it all to you, or relative sexual dimorphism in different species, or evidence for the emergence of monogamy in humans and why it did, or anything else relevant.

        If that’s the best you can dredge up, I have much better things to do.


      2. “human penises are thicker than chimpanzee penises, but the same average length”

        When erect. When not erect, humans’ are longer. It is presumably the non-erect state which would be important in sexual selection.

        Looking at the numbers, I’ve also learned that I’m far above average. 🙂


    1. Continuing:

      Several independent studies in America have reported that white men find East Asian females the most physically attractive, followed by white females, with black females last. So much for gentlemen preferring blondes. Obviously, these findings do not play well to the less preferred groups. Who people actually marry, rather than who they find most physically attractive, is strongly mediated by family and social pressures. But among mixed marriages in America, which are on a pretty strongly rising trend since the 1960s, the largest group by far is white males marrying East Asian females. The groups who miss out the most are East Asian males and black females. I feel sympathy for black females, who always seem to be on the losing end of everything. The high rate of incarceration of young black males, the so called ‘missing black men’ syndrome, does them no favours.

      Several independent studies on female attractiveness have found that the most influential trait is waist to hip ratio – maybe a proxy for reproductive fitness. That seems to be a human universal. So, not hair colours, and not breasts. Female facial attractiveness seems to relate to symmetry and clear skin, maybe as proxies for good health. Also, preference for youth – maybe a proxy for more reproductive years and lower risk of defective children.

      Another universal seems to be a male preference for more pale skinned females (on balance – humans are never 100% on anything); this could have some evolutionary basis – something to do with folate during pregnancy vs Vitamin D synthesis (Nina Jablonski witters on about this at every available opportunity and has done since the 1990s, but I fall asleep – I never quite got the folate thing she talks about). Among any population, including very dark skinned Africans, females tend to be lighter skinned than males. They just come out that way – seems like evolutionary selection (not sexual selection), so Jablonski is probably onto something. Preferences in East and South Asia are for more pale skinned females, but these things are strongly culturally mediated. This is most pronounced in India. It also happens among Brazilians, who are tri-hybrids with varying levels of admixture.

      Meta-studies on modern North Americans, so large sample sizes and reproducibility, show that females choose husbands on the basis of equal or higher socio-economic status, whereas males choose wives on the basis of equal or lower SES (necessarily so, or not many people would get married). This is assortative mating, not sexual selection. The lowest SES males either miss out or get the left-overs.

      Star phylogenies have been a feature since the late Neolithic onwards: Steppe R1a and R1b, Niall of the Nine Hostages, Genghis Khan and his male heirs, the ‘three grandfathers of the Han’, but these were all strongly patriarchal and patrilineal, militarily powerful people, and female choice was not a factor, to put it nicely.

      So when it comes to ‘studies’, you pays your money and you makes your choice about what you choose to believe. Very many studies have used small sample sizes (psychology PhDs and post-docs tend to do studies on captive cohorts of other students because they can, so you get the WEIRD effect (samples confined to “Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic”, from which broad inferences are drawn about human behaviour in general, which is a major methodological flaw).

      Cherry-picking imaginary Victorian millionaires and dead rock stars doesn’t establish anything. Victorian millionaires had eagle eyed Victorian wives who served as head of the household, hiring and firing the female help, so I’m sceptical about such claims.

      Culture has a very big influence on preferences and mating patterns. You can find isolated groups that engage in various unusual practices, but they are not normative for humans as a whole.

      One thing is clear and has been found to be universal, rock star groupies notwithstanding: females produce a finite number of eggs in their lifetimes, and reproduction carries huge physical costs for them, while males produce infinite numbers of sperm and reproduction costs them nothing aside from parental investment; consequently males are far more willing to mate promiscuously and indiscriminately than females, who are far more choosy, and they base their choices on factors that don’t look like sexual selection – far more on consideration of physical protection, support and survival of offspring. Of course you get variation and outliers. One thing that has got some attention – humans and orcas are among very few animals where females survive long past menopause. Grandmothers seem to play an important role in survival of offspring, which could have selected for female survival long past reproductive age, when in most species that doesn’t happen. But that’s a tangent; just thought I’d mention it.

      In all of the studies and literature that I have scanned over a long period now, I have found no compelling evidence anywhere for sexual selection as a dominant or even significant factor in human evolution. It tends to be a popular default assumption in the absence of an explanation for anything – “it must be sexual selection”, but no one can provide any compelling evidence for it outside of cherry-picked anecdotes.

      You could try reading this, as a sample of how culture dictates – this form of cultural behaviour has previously been documented among other groups in other parts of the world over different time periods.
      “Cultural Innovations influence patterns of genetic diversity in Northwestern Amazonia.”


      1. “Several independent studies in America have reported that white men find East Asian females the most physically attractive, followed by white females, with black females last. So much for gentlemen preferring blondes.”

        This was just an example. As you note, perhaps novelty is what people go for. Of course, preferences are conditioned by culture as well.


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