Open Thread For October

But I was thinking of a plan
To dye one’s whiskers green,
And always use so large a fan
That they could not be seen.
So, having no reply to give
To what the old man said,
I cried, “Come, tell me how you live!”
And thumped him on the head.

Lewis Carroll

Author: Martin R

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

363 thoughts on “Open Thread For October”

  1. A spider not endemic to Sweden, clubiona juvenis, has been discovered. Alas, it has no venom, nor does it have an interesting brain like Portia. If we are getting new spiders I want them to have anrifreeze for blood and be able to bring down a reindeer with a bite.


    1. As the comments point out, toxic advisors are not all that rare in the US. Nor are they a new thing: when I was a Ph.D. student there was a story making the rounds about a math graduate student at Stanford who, about two decades into his Ph.D. program, snapped and murdered his advisor.

      One of the professors in my Ph.D. department had a reputation for being difficult to work with. As with the professor in that article, this guy had several students who worked for him for a few months and then switched to a different advisor. I suspect this professor’s inability to retain grad students was a factor in his not getting tenure. Of course, once they do get tenure it is a lot harder to get rid of them.


    2. As said before, whistle blowers always suffer. They always do. Students know that – anyone who blows the whistle on their advisor or supervisor will inevitably suffer. Most choose to struggle on in silence, desperately trying to get through, qualify and escape. Plus they won’t talk about it afterwards because they are afraid it might devalue their qualification.

      How many people do you know who have had toxic supervisors? My daughter has. I have had several, and I mean some of them were really, really toxic, out and out psychos – and I’m big enough and ugly enough to stand up for myself, but it was still almost impossibly difficult for me to deal with. My wife seems to be immune to them – she has natural inbuilt strategies for dealing with them.

      It’s not confined to universities – toxic people happen in all organisations, and it is the very nature of psychopaths that enables them to rise to positions where they are in control of others.

      I don’t know what the answer is.


    1. The thing I don’t get about biofuels – they still involve burning stuff and producing CO2. I understand the arguments about carbon storage in root systems, etc., but ‘carbon neutral’ is no longer enough. Do we need an undernourished and neurologically atypical 16 year old to point out to us that we have gone way past that, and need technologies to remove carbon from the atmosphere? And that we need them fully developed now?


      1. If you burn fossil fuels, then all that carbon goes into the atmosphere. The same happens with bio fuels, but you can grow them again, harvest them again, and burn them again, so it is essentially a zero-sum game.


      2. I already said I understood the point about them being ‘carbon neutral’. You don’t need to repeat it.


      3. Then what do you not get about them?
        No-one claims that they will solve all problems, but they are better than fossil fuels and, to first order, carbon-neutral.


      4. I said it already. I’m not getting dragged into being trolled again – either you understand what I said, or you don’t; I don’t care which.

        We need an energy revolution, now that time has already run out – not just carbon neutral, but carbon ZERO, and technologies that can remove a lot of carbon from the atmosphere as well, and we need that now, not by 2050 or 2025. The energy technology is available; it has been known for a very long time. I wrote my first year undergraduate thesis on the subject more than 50 years ago, and I covered all of the zero carbon energy sources that are still being talked about, and some that have dropped off the radar. I should have got an A+++ for that thesis, but the guy marking it was an idiot, so I didn’t.

        Now the world needs Greta Thunberg to tell the world what I said already >50 years ago. What has happened in the intervening 50 years? The oil companies have suppressed research on carbon zero energy, and nothing else.


      5. “undernourished and neurologically atypical 16 year old”

        Shouldn’t she be judged by what she does and what she says? Why the ad-feminam attack?

        I see no evidence that Greta Thunberg is undernourished. Not obese, of course, but not being obese does not imply being undernourished.

        As she has said herself, perhaps being neurologically atypical (autism) has helped her in her quest; many girls her age are more concerned with fashion (which, by the way, is a big contributor to the planet’s carbon footprint).


      6. Greta is not autistic. If you think that, you have no idea what autistics are like. Most of them are below mean intelligence and totally unable to function socially, or even communicate at all with people. She is somewhere on the Asperger’s spectrum, which means very different things from autism in terms of intelligence and behaviour.

        At least learn what you are talking about before sounding off, if you can tear yourself away from the cartoons long enough.

        If you want to troll, let’s troll, and I will let you have it, both barrels.


      7. I’m not trolling. I still don’t know what you don’t get about bio-fuels. And I don’t know why you often think that I am trolling, especially when apparently no-one else here thinks so.

        I agree with what you say about zero-carbon emissions and removing carbon from the atmosphere.

        As for oil companies suppressing research, of course they have different interests, but if it were suppressed, then no-one would know about it, but apparently people do. Of course they don’t promote it. (A similar example: if the “deep state” were really so powerful and committed to secrecy, why do shock jocks know about it?)


      8. [ …]

        I have two autistic children; I’m sure that I know more about it than almost everyone else on the planet.

        These days, one speaks of an “autistic spectrum”; Aspberger’s syndrome is generally considered to be “on the spectrum”.

        While most autistic people are not geniuses, or even above average in intelligence, most are not completely unable to function socially nor completely unable to communicate.

        In any case, whatever mental illnesses Greta has, they are irrelevant to her work concerning climate change. The ad-feminam attacks against her don’t cast a good light on you.


      9. Regarding mental illness, I believe that this term is usually reserved for e.g. psychosis, while autism-spectrum, Asperger, ADHD are classified as innate neuro-psychiatric disorders.


      10. […]

        I used the term ‘neurologically atypical’, which is very far from the put-down of Greta Thunberg that Helbig was trying to make out I was attempting.


      11. “Regarding mental illness, I believe that this term is usually reserved for e.g. psychosis, while autism-spectrum, Asperger, ADHD are classified as innate neuro-psychiatric disorders.”

        Perhaps true in a formal, technical, clinical context. (I am not a physician, but was mistaken for one by the head of a university medical department based on my comments and questions at a conference.) According to Wikipedia: “A mental disorder, also called a mental illness or psychiatric disorder, is a behavioral or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning.” That is certainly true of my autistic children, who have official disability cards as a result. (They can communicate—in three languages—and while, like with all autistic people, social interaction is impaired, it is not completely absent.) It might not be true for those with Asperger (such as Paul Dirac, who among other accomplishments was awarded a Nobel Prize in physics and, while “a strange man”, didn’t seem to suffer because of this “disorder”).



        PT: What was the response of the astronomy community to that paper?

        BELL BURNELL: There was huge excitement. There was enormous press interest. Tony and I did a lot of interviews.

        It was very revealing the way the pair of us were treated by the press. They’d ask Tony about the astrophysical significance of the discovery. And they’d turn to me for what they called human interest. They’d ask for my bust, waist, and hip measurements. How tall was I? What color was my hair? How many boyfriends did I have? The photographers were asking me to undo more of my blouse buttons.

        PT: How did you react?

        BELL BURNELL: It was very, very uncomfortable. I would have loved to be rude to them. But I was still a graduate student. I hadn’t even started to write my thesis. I needed references from people in my department. I felt I couldn’t rock the boat. But it was horrible.

        Her figure is not relevant for pulsar studies. It doesn’t matter whether it is a positive or negative comment. It is simply irrelevant, like Greta’s shoe size (no jokes about carbon footprints, please).


      13. LMAO. “Perhaps true in a formal, technical, clinical context.” = “Oh, I was wrong. I don’t know what I’m talking about.”


      14. From Wikipedia:

        Asperger syndrome (AS), also known as Asperger’s, is a developmental disorder characterised by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests.[6] As a milder autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it differs from other ASDs by relatively normal language and intelligence.[10] Although not required for diagnosis, physical clumsiness and unusual use of language are common.[11][12] Signs usually begin before two years of age and typically last for a person’s entire life.[6]

        The exact cause of Asperger’s is unknown.[6] While it is largely inherited, the underlying genetics have not been determined conclusively.[11][13] Environmental factors are also believed to play a role.[6] Brain imaging has not identified a common underlying condition.[11] In 2013, the diagnosis of Asperger’s was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), and people with these symptoms are now included within the autism spectrum disorder along with autism and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).[6][14] It remains within the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as of 2019 but as a subtype of autism spectrum disorder.[15][16]

        My emphasis.

        See the Wikipedia article for references.


      15. They are behind the curve. There is a spectrum for Asberger’s, different from the autism spectrum. Two different things. They don’t know that yet. There are other things wrong with what is in Wikipedia on the subject, too numerous to mention, e.g. there are just as many female as male autistics, they just manifest differently.

        I’d say Greta Thunberg is high functioning Aspergic; pretty mildly neuro-atypical; high intelligence. […]


    2. Plus, the thing about electric vehicles is that if you do whole of life accounting, the carbon footprint of electric vehicles is not *that* much less than for vehicles with internal combustion engines. They are effective in reducing roadside air pollution, particularly oxides of nitrogen, but they won’t make that much of a contribution to combating climate change.


  2. The hero dog was less severely injured than first reported, has recovered and is back at work.

    But spot the obvious stupidity in Trump’s tweet – the dog did *not* “capture and kill” al-Baghdadi. He was not captured and killed by anyone or anything, he committed suicide while trying to evade capture. The dog tracked and chased him to the end of the tunnel. He had taken three of his own children with him, presumably to use as a human shield to discourage US soldiers from shooting at him, but that didn’t work on a dog that was just hunting him down.

    The dog is a Belgian Malinois, which are used inter alia for “tracking humans for suspect apprehension in police work”.


    1. Heh. Eagle eyed people on the Internet have spotted the obvious – the hero dog which hunted down al-Baghdadi is a female.


  3. Today, Nature is publishing a big article claiming the “homeland” of modern humans was an area South of the Zambezi river.
    An obvious caveat would be substantial mixture would have happened with other populations.


    1. In short, that paper should never have got past the reviewers. Better still, the authors should have posted a preprint, and all of the people who understand evolutionary biology would have told them what is wrong with the paper, and they could have worked on fixing it before formal publication. To the lay public who don’t take a close interest in evolutionary biology, it is seriously misleading.


  4. The Big Eejit apparently revealed secret military information when he bragged about the death of al-Baghdadi.
    But surely the Republicans in congress will take him to task for endangering the work of US soldiers.
    (sound of crickets)


    1. The soldiers themselves have already said it, in print, and a lot of them were willing to put their names to their comments.


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