Open Thread For January

“2021” looks and sounds completely fictitious if taken as a year AD. I think it’s actually a model number for an old analog synthesiser.

Author: Martin R

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

329 thoughts on “Open Thread For January”

  1. John, and others in the risk group.
    Nature communications if Jan 22nd has an article about rhesus monkey immune responses that may be reproduced with a vaccine.
    I have no idea what “germinal centers” are, so I leave any summary to professional imnunologists.
    .
    University of East Anglia: in a choice between the Oxford and Pfizer vaccine, the former is unlikely to lead to ‘herd immunity’ and it may be necessary to vaccinate almost everyone -even children- with the more effective Pfizer vaccine.
    The recent Moderna vaccine is compareable with the Pfizer vaccine.
    I think India is going with the Oxford vaccine, and for a country with sparse medical resources this would be very bad news.

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  2. A road to a stopgap measure against COVID?
    Sars-cov-2 needs cholesterol to efter cells. It is already known that statins work against some other virus infections, this may be the explanation.
    (statins also influence the immune response, so it is non-trivial to find an optimal approach)

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  3. Good news are hard to find, so I get them wherever they are:
    “Icelandic man received world’s first double arm- and shoulder transplant”
    “The Pinatubo mouse is not extinct”.

    Kobe University has developed a new membrane to get freshwater from seawater, using graphene layers.
    HK, LA and just about every big coastal city might benefit from this. Not every country has as reliable precipitation as northern/western Europe.
    .
    Google threatens to pull the search engine from Australia.
    The Australian PM is not intimidated, and still thinks Australian rules apply to things that happen in Australia. I approve of countries standing up to tech giants.

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  4. Larry King R.I.P.
    He was 87 years old.

    P Z Myers at Pharyngula remarked that the Q anon rubbish has made horror films more plausible.
    When watching a zombie film or a flick with a gentleman wearing a hockey mask, viewers groan at characters who make incredibly stupid decisions putting them on the path to certain death.
    Surely, real people would never be that stupid?
    (scene with crowd chanting “the zombies are a hoax” while a shambling crowd of corpses is approaching)

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  5. Norway is almost closing down Oslo, as the mutated Sars-cov-2 variant pops up.
    .
    It is nearly 30 years since Mt. Pinatubo exploded, dwarfing
    Mt. St Helens by an order of magnitude. A species of mouse, only living on the mountain was recently rediscovered.
    One way, when humans are gone, the world will belong to cockroaches… and this mouse.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s fascinating to think that since a) humans will not be around for ever, b) humans will never be able to sterilise Earth, there will definitely be a post-human species radiation on Earth, like after all the previous mass extinctions.

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  6. Some kind of descendants will be around, but they will have lots of artificial genetic augmentations and may not even look recognisably human.
    Also, if we make it through the next two centuries it is likely that “strong” AI will finally be a reality, in which case the AIs will be our offspring and descendants as surely as any biological offspring.
    At that point, sapient life will be virtually indestructible.
    .
    Re. a meme that has been around since a novel by Clifford B Simak- while the current human brain is not suited for “uploading” there is no limit for how human descendants may change their morphology. So a kind of afterlife in a machine is hypotheticallt possible, only not for us “baseline” humans.
    For a fun read about coexisting with strong AI, I recommend Golem XIV.

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  7. Local COVID news.
    Sweden has passed the 11,000 dead mark. People will not be allowed to travel from Norway to Sweden as of tonight.
    .
    A recent article: the big differences between Sweden and other Nordic countries is not mainly due to different strategies but to different R0: the initial rate of virus spreading. I suspect the details is a matter network math experts will be working on for many years, as there is no obvious analogy to be found in the past. The virus keeps coming up with surprises.
    BTW, Larry King died of COVID19.

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  8. 11 of the 22 miners that have been trapped in a Chinese gold mine for two weeks have been saved.
    .
    Actress and film director Gunnel Lindblom has died.
    .
    Trump still has a strong grip on the Republicans in Florida, no one in the party dares speak out against him since they do not want death threats.

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  9. At Youtube: president Xi adresses WEF Davos agenda, in case you are interested.
    (no working PC, so I cannot Copy and paste the link)

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  10. Journal of Virology: NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) may exacerbate or improve the response against sars-cov-2 depending on timing.
    .
    Review of The Guyver 2 : they are carbon-dating a fossil (falls off chain laughing).

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  11. (spell check turns chair into chain)
    .
    No COVID press conference today. Anti-vaxxers have been “successful” into scaring people from wanting a jab. 😖

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  12. Selection pressure.
    The dangerous new mutations of sars-cov-2 have occurred where there is a large immunity of the due to high infection rates: Manus 70% and Cape Town 45% .
    Can we just ship the anti-evolutionists there for six month or so? So they can experience evolution up close?
    (the ‘snake handling’ religious communities would be exempt, they are already testing Darwinism).

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  13. NB!
    Moderna says their vaccine is effective against the UK and South Africa variants of Sars-cov-2.

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  14. NB: COVID19 treatment?
    ‘Nature Immunology’: L-tyrosine and p- cresol sulfate can be useful for respiratory distress, including COVID19 and asthma.
    L-tyrosine is already used in dietary supplements.
    .
    Isar Aerospace in Munich plans to do test launches from Esrange in Lapland to develop a low-cost launch vehicle for small satellites.
    It will be able to send a payload of 600kg in a polar orbit or 1000 kg in a low Earth orbit with less inclination.
    .
    University of Michigan: Women mentoring men could help solve gender workplace bias and inequality.

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  15. Actors who passed away this week some years ago:
    Gorden Kayne (“Rene’ Artois”) and Benny Hill.

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  16. A 3000-year old fortress has been found in the Golan heights that is contemporary with the legend of king David. It is associated with a group called the Geshureeans. Some of the basalt slabs that made up the wall are 1,5 meters thick.
    .
    The two crania found in Apidima cave, Greece, are somewhat problematic. Apidima 2 is a neanderthal, from 170,000 ya. But Apidima 1 looks like a H. sapiens sapiens, and is from 210,000 ya.
    A later reconstruction suggests it is a hybrid, with some Neanderthal features. The dating was done using the very small amounts of uranium.
    .
    The most ”nerd” comment ever: “Could we please sit through a kaiju film without you having an aneurism over phylogeny and semantics?”
    Also, in the film the lost continent of Mu used… rhunic stones. Meh.

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  17. University of Cambridge examined the remains of 314 individuals from 10-14th centuries, and collected evidence of ‘skeletal trauma’.
    The inequality was clear, but physical trauma was common at all societal levels. 44 % of working people had bone fractures, compared to 32 % in the friary and 27 % of those buried in the hospital.

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  18. Dogs were likely domesticated in Siberia before 23000 years ago, after which people brought them along to America, as well as bringing them west to Europe, says Angela Perri, Dirham University.

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  19. The claim about low efficiency for one of the vaccines that emerged in German media has been debunked- someone mixed up two sets of numbers.
    .
    Latest press conference about the Swedish situation:
    The number of patìents In intensive care has dropped by a tenth since the last release of data.
    The British variant is present in Norway as ‘ cluster’ spreading, the examples in Sweden are mostly people that have been abroad.
    There is a slow improvement but it is important not to relax.
    .
    The claim about the British variant being more deadly and/or more easily spread rests on a small data set.

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    1. His name is a byword for the toxic, neurotic, twisted family relationships he liked to portray on stage. Thus the commonly referenced concept of a “Lars Norén Christmas”.

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  20. From an article Martin just shared on Facebook, archaeological evidence shows at least six immigration events in Scandinavia before the earliest DNA.
    .
    Phrenotopia at Youtube has some very good videos about evolution, and about how alien biospheres might plausibly evolve. Even if you ignore the speculative parts there is lots of information about how organisms evolve. (The episode “Are Cambrian Explosions Universal?” adresses many of the topics the late Stephen Jay Gould discussed in hos books)

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  21. More sad news.
    Britains official death toll hits 100,000.
    Germany- with a larger population- has reached 50,000 which is awful but still a sign they have *some* clue what they are doing.

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  22. Swedish nuclear weapons: https://physicstoday.scitation.org/doi/full/10.1063/PT.3.4293

    Physics Today is the member magazine of the American Physical Society. It has book reviews, articles, opinion pieces, and so on. Normally available only to members/subscribers, all volumes are now available for free if you register. The website is very usable. One can also download PDFs which look just like the original magazine article.

    I don’t know how long it will stay open, so I plan to skim through all the issues, read interesting stuff, and download stuff I want to keep.

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  23. For Tolkien fans, and ‘fictional language’ enthusiasts.
    Artifexian has a video at Youtube about “Creating your own writing system”.
    .
    Ten of the miners in China that were rescued are alive today. One is missing, the rest confirmed dead.

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  24. COVID statistics for Sweden. The new cases are still declining, the increase of hospital cases in Scania may be finally petering off.
    Mortality two weeks back was 80-90 dead per day, the lag time makes it hard to say anything about the present situation.
    There will be a press conference tomorrow, we will see if there are any significant news.

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  25. Philip, thank you for the link to Physics Today.
    I found an article about making a ‘laser’ for terahertz frequences.
    This will be useful when searching for heroin and meth, but should also be able to penetrate some materials that are impervious to georadar.
    I do not know how badly the rays are absorbed by water.
    If you find a dry lump of brittle material, this tech might help to see if it is worth salvaging. Another Antikhyrera mechanism?

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  26. When reading English-language material about textual criticism of the New Testament, a problem is the English forms of names are different from the latin/greek ones (the Swedish forms are usually close to the latin forms).
    För instance, who is “St.Jude” in the NT?

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  27. Early pastoralists in Africa.
    Nature Communications is publishing the discovery of preserved proteins from goat milk on human teeth from Eastern Africa.
    The cemetary site Kadruka 1 in Sudan revealed such traces from ca. 4000 ya. The nearby Kadruka 21 had similar traces from 6000 ya.
    Lukenya Hill in southern Kenya revealed traces from 3200 ya .

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  28. COVID list of mortality.
    Taiwan: 7
    New Zealand: 25
    Singapore: 29
    Australia: 909
    Norway: 550
    Finland: 655
    Sweden: 11,000
    Germany: 50,000
    Britain: 100,000
    MAGAland 400,000

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    1. Of course, what matters is per capita. Germany has about 8 times the population of Sweden, but only 5 times as many deaths per capital. The USA have about 4 times the population of Germany but 8 times as many deaths. So, per capita, Sweden is almost as bad as the USA.

      Norway and Finland each have about half the population of Sweden.

      As always in such statistics, there are also differences in what is classified as a corona death.

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      1. Yes. Sweden got it bad. A preliminary conclusion is that R(0) was very high (lots of travellers from virus-rich places plus a belated realisation of just how bad the situation was).
        Belgium got it worst per capita -smack in the middle of Europe with every single infected person apparently passing through their communication networks before going home to their countries.
        I did not check Iceland, I assume they did very well, being an island with no really big cities. Being situated where it is, the locals hardly went away to Belgium or Italy for a weekend.

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    1. The study you link to arrives by new means to a long-known fact: people who complete longer education programmes have a higher income and procreate less. The latter is partly because it’s difficult to procreate while a student, partly because you don’t need many kids as labour or a pension plan when you’re financially secure.

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      1. It arrives at a lot more than that. It is saying that there is natural selection for lower educational attainment (a proxy for intelligence), people getting fatter and poorer health outcomes, among many other undesirable things, among UK whites.

        It is confirming dysgenics in action.

        That is likely to be absolutely explosive when the mainstream media in the UK get hold of it.

        But there is a counterbalance: On the one hand, what you said. But on the other hand, people who earn more have confidence that they can support a higher number of children. So, because of this, it is not happening as fast as it might otherwise.

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      2. Also, their sample was confined to UK people of European ancestry, so “you don’t need many kids as labour or a pension plan when you’re financially secure” doesn’t apply; not the way that it might in India or Africa.

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    2. The study deals with race/immigration in a way that makes its results hard to evaluate. In order to control for variation in the underlying populations, the authors only look at “white British participants of European descent, as defined by genetic estimated ancestry and self-identified ethnic group”. But England has received huge numbers of global immigrants in the past 300 years, to the level where “whites of European descent” are far from statistically dominant. And more importantly, they are not a closed breeding population. In order to say something about Britain’s genetic future you would have to look at the entire breeding population, not just the possibly rather strange subgroup that has managed to avoid marrying any immigrants in the past 300 years.

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      1. Europeans are genetically homogeneous except at fine scale; e.g. DTC genomics companies are unable to distinguish between French and Germans. Excluding the second half of the 20th Century onwards, migrants to the UK would have been overwhelmingly whites from continental Europe or the British diaspora. So UK whites today can be considered to be a homogenous group, to the nearest approximation, and that group is still statistically dominant. I don’t know why you think it isn’t.

        They needed to exclude groups other than UK whites because: 1. confounding factors, and 2. saying anything about any POC groups or comparisons between groups would have been really explosive. They are already really sticking their necks out saying that natural selection among UK whites is leading to dysgenics.

        Future: whites will mostly marry whites, typically 90%.

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  29. Obligatory reference to the film “Idiocracy” (fortunately, reproduction tends to go down over the generations, so not a reliable prognosis).
    .
    For LOTR language enthusiasts: ”Conlang Critic: Sindarin (featuring Artifexian)”

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    1. “reproduction tends to go down over the generations, so not a reliable prognosis” – No. Think about what you are saying. If you think the Idiocracy is not already here, explain soccer hooligans.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Or QAnon.

        I have been of the opinion that comparing the US under Trump to Idiocracy is unfair to the fictional President Camacho. Camacho at least understood that he was dealing with a crisis that was beyond his skill to solve, so he sought out the smartest person he could find and listened to that person’s advice. Trump has never been able to admit that he is not the world’s greatest expert in whatever area is relevant to the problem at hand.

        Liked by 1 person

  30. You may think I am too early to critisize Biden, but remember that he is a very conservative, conventional politician.
    ”Saagar Enjeti: Biden SCREW UP Of $2k Checks Shows He’s No FDR”

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  31. Latest update.
    Since the last update about numbers of people in hospital, there has been a 10% decrease. The trend is even stronger in Scania that previously had the strongest increase (although some of the patients may have been moved to other regions to prevent overcrowding).
    .
    China: WHO experts have arrived to Wuhan. I can sort of understand why the Chinese were skeptical, they remember Iraq and the “independent” experts looking for signs of weapons of mass destruction.
    With The Idiot going on about the ‘Chinese virus’ and rumors about lab animals causing the mess, no wonder it took time to convince the Chinese this particular delegation had no hidden agenda.

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  32. The WHO team are guaranteed not to have any hidden agenda – all of the team members were pre-approved by the Chinese authorities, and some of them have a history of *very* friendly collaborative research with Chinese scientists, including with China’s famous Bat Lady who heads up the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), which is 11 km from the Huanan Seafood Market. If you want to read into the ‘accidental lab leak’ hypothesis, the leading (or at least most shrilly vocal) proponent is this person Alina Chan who has been working herself up into a lather about it ever since May 2020, when she submitted a paper for publication which claimed that the coronavirus suddenly popped up in Wuhan ‘perfectly adapted’ to infect humans (but then if it was ‘perfectly’ adapted in December 2019, why have mutated strains emerged in the UK, South Africa and Brazil which are even better adapted? – there is no ‘perfectly adapted’), but which she can’t get past peer review (having failed at the first journal she submitted to, she is now trying at a second journal) – *warning* she sprays random stuff all over the place, and has been non-stop – her tweet storm goes back a long way, down multiple rabbit holes; I defy you to try to follow what she has been saying for more than 30 minutes before you have to give up; I have tried and failed. She has also done an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal with one Viscount Matt Ridley, a conservative (with an upper case C) English politician and book writer (and in my opinion a hugely opinionated smug bastard who will hold forth at excessive length on any subject you care to name), and they are currently collaborating on another one. Although in interviews she is keen to push her image as totally objective and just interested at getting to the truth (and how unfairly harassed she has been by other scientists picking holes in her theory and various claims she has made), it’s pretty evident from her frenetic tweeting that she is not ‘pro-China’, particularly in the really quite vicious way she has gone after the Bat Lady, who comes across to me as mild mannered, proper, conscientious, dedicated and undeserving of such vitriol (but then maybe she has just conned me, although I doubt it):

    https://twitter.com/Ayjchan?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

    I’m not saying she is wrong. I don’t know, and I think that an accidental lab leak (they do happen now and again in different countries, after all) has to be one of the possibilities considered (a deliberate leak and engineering of the coronavirus as a bio-weapon can be dismissed out of hand), together with other possibilities, including that the coronavirus jumped directly from bats into people in remote villages in Yunnan Province, initially not well adapted, and then circulated invisibly among the population for maybe months or even years (cases of atypical pneumonia in which the initiating agent cannot be identified do happen – I know, one happened to me at the end of 2010 and made me very sick) until it mutated into a form that could infect humans much more easily, at which point it kind of exploded with an outbreak in Wuhan large enough to gain focused attention and to cause people to worry, and from there the chain reaction was just too fast for them to contain, until they locked down Wuhan on 22 January. Yes, they should have notified the WHO at the point at which they knew they had a potentially big problem on their hands, whenever exactly that was, and no, they didn’t do that until later than they should have. But hindsight is a wonderful thing, especially when applied to situations which evolve very rapidly and involve many different players, and continuing to try to beat up the Chinese for a lapse they committed over a year ago is not particularly useful or helpful at this point.

    So, you could say there are three theories, or actually two main ones: 1. It jumped from animals to humans naturally, either (a) directly from bats to people, or (b) through an intermediate animal – a lot of people seem keen on illegally trafficked pangolins, but I’m not. 2. It leaked accidentally from a lab, possibly at the WIV, possibly carried by an accidentally infected lab worker (maybe having been engineered for research purposes, or maybe not – the Bat Lady has said no to all of that), and maybe even the Chinese are unaware of the leak.

    There is a third theory that Chinese ‘diplomats’ have been megaphoning around, for whatever reason, that it might have emerged first in a different country, or maybe in multiple countries (I don’t see how that could happen), but I think you can discount that as just rather inept push-back against Americans who are demanding that China be made to pay reparations for the pandemic. It is an outside possibility that it could initially have emerged somewhere in SE Asia – bats don’t carry passports or observe national boundaries and neither do some people in remote regions, but I think it can be regarded as a very long shot that it first emerged in Italy or wherever, although the WHO team have said they will consider that along with other theories.

    The WHO team is just going to follow where the data lead them. What is burning Alina Chan’s arse so badly (apart from not being able to get her paper published, and getting criticism from other scientists on Twitter (which is a shit forum for a scientific discussion in any case – inevitably people just end up shouting at each other)) is that the data the WHO team will be following will be provided to them by Chinese scientists. Alina Chan wants the WIV to open up all of their records, including personal records (including sick leave applications and all kinds of other personal stuff) of all of the staff who have worked there, and then leave the WHO team alone with them to pore over them at their leisure. That is never going to happen.

    P.S. I do have to say that, in the knowledge that lab accidents and leaks can occur and have occurred at some of the world’s most secure laboratories, siting something like the WIV in the middle of a central transport hub like Wuhan in a huge country with a population of 1.4 billion people is a really really bad idea, particularly if you are going to get captive live micro-bats and shove Q-tips up their arses. (If someone did that to me with an object of a proportionate scale, I would want to bite them too.) But then, as above, hindsight is a wonderful thing. When the WIV was built, Wuhan was not what it is now, and China’s high speed rail network and domestic air travel was definitely not what it is now.

    And now, not remotely wanting to emulate Viscount Ridley in any way, shape or form, I will shut up.

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  33. The word “perfect” has been rather overused in media…
    .
    I recommend watching “Our funeral home is overwhelmed with bodies” by “ask a mortician” at Youtube.
    And she is living in Los Angeles, in one of the least batshit-crazy parts of USA.
    I can only assume the whole society has been “market liberalised” in honor of that bastard from Chicago, Milton Friedman. So if you get a pandemic, the market will produce guys in medieval garb dragging carts round the neighborhood, chanting “bring out your dead!”.

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