Friday, July 31, 2009

Do warm climates shrink your brain?

The latest scientific findings on the evolution of the brain below. In my usual totally "incorrect" way, I am going to point out that modern-day data confirm the hypothesis too. Africa is a generally warm place and African heads tend to be noticeably smaller. Some of the East Africans (Sudanese etc.) that I see around Brisbane could almost be classified as microcephalic. And, as the article below implies and as modern research confirms, there is a connection between brain size and general intellectual ability. Now that I have pointed out the connection, I think we will see the research finding below vanish from sight

It is one of the biggest mysteries in human evolution. Why did we humans evolve such big brains, making us the unrivalled rulers of the world? Some 2.5 million years ago, our ancestors' brains expanded from a mere 600 cubic centimetres to about a litre. Two new studies suggest it is no fluke that this brain boom coincided with the onset of an ice age. Cooler heads, it seems, allowed ancient human brains to let off steam and grow.

For all its advantages, the modern human brain is a huge energy glutton, accounting for nearly half of our resting metabolic rate. About a decade ago, biologists David Schwartzman and George Middendorf of Howard University in Washington DC hypothesised that our modern brain could not have evolved until the Quaternary ice age started, about 2.5 million years ago. They reckoned such a large brain would have generated heat faster than it could dissipate it in the warmer climate of earlier times, but they lacked evidence to back their hypothesis.

Now hints of that evidence are beginning to emerge. Climate researcher Axel Kleidon of the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, Germany, modelled present-day temperature, humidity and wind conditions around the world using an Earth-systems computer model. He used these factors to predict the maximum rate at which a modern human brain can lose heat in different regions. He found that, even today, the ability to dissipate heat should restrict the activity of people in many tropical regions (Climatic Change, vol 95, p 405).

If keeping cool is a problem now, Kleidon says, it would have been even more challenging - perhaps too challenging - 2 or 3 million years ago when temperatures were a few degrees warmer than today and air-conditioning units were harder to come by.

A new study by Schwartzman and Middendorf suggests that a small drop in global temperatures may have made a big difference. The pair used basic equations of heat loss to estimate how fast the small-brained Homo habilis would have been able to cool off. Assuming overheating limited the size of H. habilis's brain, they then calculated what drop in air temperature would have been needed for Homo erectus to be able to support its bigger brain (see diagram). They found that a drop in air temperature of just 1.5 °C would have done the trick (Climatic Change, vol 95, p 439).

Given the timescales involved, it may be near-impossible to match definitively the onset of an ice age with speciation, but a 1.5 °C drop is consistent with the cooling climate of the time, says Middendorf.

"In principle, I'm receptive to the hypothesis," says Dean Falk, a palaeoanthropologist at Florida State University in Tallahassee, "but I need the data." She says that if measurements showed that people living in tropical countries today have smaller brains relative to their body size than people in temperate climates, this would go against expectation and lend support to Kleidon's model.

Being able to cool bigger brains can only be part of the story, however. It would have lifted the brakes on expansion, says psychologist David Geary at the University of Missouri in Columbia, but there has to be something driving the increase.

Over the years, researchers have come up with three broad reasons why bigger brains might have been advantageous: to give their owners the ability to cope with changing climates by exploiting technologies such as shelter, fire and clothing; to deal with the cognitive demands of hunting and gathering; or to help people outsmart their neighbours.

To help narrow this down, Geary collected data from 175 fossil hominin skulls, from 1.9 million to 10,000 years old. Then he looked to see whether brain size was best correlated with climatic variability - a crude measure of biodiversity which could indicate the complexity of hunting and gathering - or the human population size at the time, which could reflect the complexity of social interactions.

Geary's analysis found that population size was the best predictor of brain size, suggesting that our ancestors' need to outcompete their neighbours in order to survive may have been the strongest driver of brain growth (Human Nature, vol 20, p 67).

The case is far from closed - Geary's study does not demonstrate cause and effect, for one thing - but the picture beginning to emerge suggests that an ice age set the stage for a socially driven brain boom. And from that time on, it was the brainiacs who stole the show.



The iron law of bureaucratic expansion

An excerpt from the recently reprinted article on "Parkinson's Law"

It would be interesting to follow the further progress by which the 8,118 Admiralty staff of 1935 came to number 33,788 by 1954. But the staff of the Colonial Office affords a better field of study during a period of Imperial decline. The relevant statistics are set down below. Before showing what the rate of increase is, we must observe that the extent of this department's responsibilities was far from constant during these twenty years. The colonial territories were not much altered in area or population between 1935 and 1939. They were considerably diminished by 1943, certain areas being in enemy hands. They were increased again in 1947, but have since then shrunk steadily from year to year as successive colonies achieve self-government.

It would be rational, prior to the discovery of Parkinson's Law, to suppose that these changes in the scope of Empire would be reflected in the size of its central administration. But a glance at the figures shows that the staff totals represent automatic stages in an inevitable increase. And this increase, while related to that observed in other departments, has nothing to do with the size—or even the existence—of the Empire. What are the percentages of increase? We must ignore, for this purpose, the rapid increase in staff which accompanied the diminution of responsibility during World War II. We should note rather the peacetime rates of increase; over 5.24 per cent between 1935 and 1939, and 6.55 per cent between 1947 and 1954. This gives an average increase of 5.89 per cent each year, a percentage markedly similar to that already found in the Admiralty staff increase between 1914 and 1928.

Further and detailed statistical analysis of departmental staffs would be inappropriate in such an article as this. It is hoped, however, to reach a tentative conclusion regarding the time likely to elapse between a given official's first appointment and the later appointment of his two or more assistants. Dealing with the problem of pure staff accumulation, all the researches so far completed point to an average increase of about 5¾ per cent per year.

Much more HERE


Liberals Support Crime, Not Punishment

The New Duranty Times devoted nearly an entire Sunday op-ed page to l'affaire Henri-Louis Gates and Barack Hussein Soetoro's reprehensible grandstanding. They chose to feature the thoughts of Professor Glenn Loury, an economist on the faculty of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Professor Loury devoted 1500 words to his basic conclusion:
I believe we should be pursuing far-reaching reforms in our criminal justice system. We should invest more in helping the troubled people — our fellow citizens — caught in the law enforcement web to find a constructive role in society, and less in punishing them for punishment’s sake.

Notice the way he describes robbers, rapists, murderers, dope dealers, burglars, carjackers, thieves, and wife-batterers:
troubled people caught in the law enforcement web

As if the police, the courts, and the community were predatory spiders catching innocent flies.

Of course, the opposite of what Professor Loury imagines is in fact the case. Criminals are not innocent victims of the law enforcement system, they are willful predators, who prey on the weak and the innocent in order to satisfy their own desires. And the purpose of incarcerating them is not punishment for punishment's sake, the purpose of incarceration is not punishment at all -- its purpose is simply to keep them off the street so that their innocent victims can have some respite time from their depredations.

Professor Loury, of course, is a racialist. His major concern with the administration of criminal justice in the United States is that it appears to affect his own race more than he thinks it should:
Another inescapable fact is that most of those incarcerated are black and Hispanic men. (They constitute approximately two-thirds of those being held in state prisons and municipal jails.)

And in typical antinomian fashion, this Gramscian apologist for murderers, rapists, and doppe dealers thinks that imprisonment causes the crimes for which the imprisoned are incarcerated:
Overrepresentation of blacks among lawbreakers is the result as much as it is the cause of our overrepresentation among the imprisoned — a fact about which the conventional racial narrative has too little to say. Nevertheless, this is a principal source of the tension in interactions between the police and black men like me.

And what were Professor Loury's interactions with the police? He describes them:
Readers should know that I have had my own run-ins with the law. Twenty-two years ago a former girlfriend accused me of assault. While the charges were dropped, I had to endure the indignity of being “processed” by the police and judged in the press. Later that year, I was caught in possession of a controlled substance, spent the night in jail, and was required to enroll in a drug treatment program for my sins. My interest in the issues of race and law enforcement reflects more than academic curiosity.

Readers should also realize that in neither of those two episodes, including one that involved a "controlled substance," was Professor Loury incarcerated. And the "controlled substance" was (according to a contemporaneous article in the New Duranty Times) marijuana and cocaine. He just can't bring himself to name it in the Times, because to do so would give the lie to his claim that we need to go about "ratcheting down the federal penalties for low-level drug trafficking." Yet he still has the audacity to claim that:
We should seriously consider that many of our sentences are too long — “three strikes” laws may be good politics, but they are an irrational abomination as policy. We should definitely consider decriminalizing most drug use. We need to reinvent parole.

On the contrary, my dear Professor. "Reinventing" parole and shortening sentences will do nothing but increase the population of criminals in the community, and the crimes they commit will worsen the plague. "Three strikes" laws are designed to take incorrigible criminals off the streets, and prevent them from committing more crimes.

What I find particularly offensive about Professor Loury's advocacy on behalf of rapists, murderers, carjackers, thieves, and dope dealers is that most of the victims of the criminals whose cause he champions are in fact members of the same black community that Professor Loury claims to be supporting. The victims murdered by the black murderers who are let off the hook by black urban juries are overwhelmingly other black men. It is the black community in which, as Professor Loury phrases it, "drug trafficking and gang activity are important parts of the social economy of the inner city."

Professor Loury should spend a few minutes to consider that the black criminals whose careers he would facilitate are not in fact victims of the criminal justice system, but victimizers of their own community. Unfortunately, the inner city black communities have come to tolerate a level of lawlessness which the hard-working, church-going, family-raising black men and women who migrated from the deep South would never have allowed.

And there you have the problem in a nutshell. The black family survived slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, World Wars I & II, and the Depression. But the black family could not survive the liberal wrecking ball of the Great Society programs that facilitated illegitimacy and idleness. A once proud community of men and women whose seemingly infinite capacity for backbreaking work made them sought-after by industrial employers in the Northern cities, has been reduced to dependency by liberal politicians who created a socialistic plantation where docile, reliable Democratic voters were used to perpetuate their own helplessness. And reduced to a condition of tolerating the crime and mayhem that is tearing it apart.

Such is the America that socialistic liberals wish for us all.




Is there any better way to boost the cosmetic surgery business in Mexico?: "The Democrats are still scrounging to figure out more ways to tax the tar out of Americans in order to fund their government healthcare scheme. The latest idea they are said to be considering is a 10% excise tax on cosmetic surgery .. face-lifts, tummy tucks, hair transplants, etc. It would use the tax code as a means of enforcement. Not only would procedures prohibited under Section 213 of the tax code not be deductible, but they would be subject to a new tax. Well .. here we go again. This is more of the same from the Democrats - go after those evil, disgusting high-achieving rich people by taxing the stuff that they do with their money. That ought to bring them down to size. The middle class isn't out there getting face lifts ... so they won't complain about the new tax. I told you yesterday that sooner or later the Democrats will find a way to tax pretty much anything that high-achievers can do by virtue of their higher earnings. That will include special taxes on nicer homes, better cars and more exciting vacations. Think I'm kidding? Just wait ... and you have a chance to put more of these dangerous people in office next year, go for it."

China/Taiwan relations improving: "The leaders of China and Taiwan have communicated directly with each other for the first time in the 60 years since Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan with the remnants of his army. The outreach followed Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou being elected president of the Kuomintang (Nationalists) on Sunday, with 92.5 per cent of the 300,000 votes cast -- although the turnout was low at 58 per cent of party members. It enabled China's President, Hu Jintao, to send a message to Mr Ma from one party leader to another, rather than having to acknowledge that Mr Ma also holds the leading role in the government of a state whose sovereignty Beijing does not recognise. This news was acclaimed in China, leading the country's main 7pm China Central TV news bulletin, which is relayed throughout the country. The latest warming of relations marks another historic step of the rapid thawing which has taken place since Mr Ma replaced Chen Shui-bian as president 14 months ago. Since then, direct communications have been established by air, sea and post, and Chinese businesses have been permitted to begin investing in Taiwan, and Chinese tourists to visit the island state. The countries have also advanced, to October, talks towards a form of free trade agreement similar to that between China and Hong Kong. [Now that China and Taiwan are both doing well economically, China can afford to recognize Taiwan without losing face]

TX: Police can use force to compel hurricane evacuation: “A new state law will allow police to arrest people who don’t leave town under mandatory evacuation orders. As it stands, officials cannot compel people to evacuate, only warn that those who stay behind won’t have any emergency services at their disposal. The new law gives county judges and mayors the power to authorize use of ‘reasonable force’ to remove people from the area. The law, passed this year, takes effect Sept. 1, in the heart of hurricane season in Texas. It also applies to other disasters, such as fires or floods.”

Obituary: The Episcopal Church in the United States (1789-2009) Cause of Death: Suicide: "The Episcopal Church in the United States took another major step toward ensuring its own demise last week, by adopting a resolution endorsing the ordination of homosexuals as clergy and bishops. The resolution was widely interpreted as abandoning a moratorium on the ordination of homosexual bishops that was adopted after the furor surrounding the appointment of Gene Robinson, a homosexual man, as the Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. Several branches of the worldwide Anglican Communion, particularly the more conservative churches in Africa, rejected the decision to elevate Robinson. In the U.S., a number of Episcopal parishes and dioceses have already left the Episcopal Church altogether, and they recently organized as the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA)... Most observers believe that this year’s resolution may be the last straw that results in a complete rupture of relationships between the Episcopal Church and most other worldwide Anglicans... In addition to a break with worldwide Anglicans, the Episcopal Church action is likely to lead to further erosion here in the United States as well. News about the release of the American Religious Identification Survey earlier this year focused on the 10% drop since 1990 in the percentage of Americans who identify as Christians (from 86% to 76%), without noting that almost all of the decline occurred in the 1990’s. But they also failed to highlight that the biggest drop in Christian self-identification has come among the more liberal “mainline” Protestant bodies—such as the Episcopal Church, which dropped from 3.5 million adherents in 2001 to only 2.4 million in 2008."

Spinning has been stimulated anyway: " How much are politicians straining to convince people that the government is stimulating the economy? In Oregon, where lawmakers are spending $176 million to supplement the federal stimulus, Democrats are taking credit for a remarkable feat: creating 3,236 new jobs in the program's first three months. But those jobs lasted on average only 35 hours, or about one work week. After that, those workers were effectively back unemployed, according to an Associated Press analysis of state spending and hiring data. By the state's accounting, a job is a job, whether it lasts three hours, three days, three months, or a lifetime. "Sometimes some work for an individual is better than no work," said Oregon's Senate president, Peter Courtney. With the economy in tatters and unemployment rising, Oregon's inventive math underscores the urgency for politicians across the country to show that spending programs designed to stimulate the economy are working — even if that means stretching the facts. At the federal level, President Barack Obama has said the federal stimulus has created 150,000 jobs, a number based on a misused formula and which is so murky it can't be verified."


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


1 comment:

Robert said...

An idea came to me while reading the Economist article on the incentives of bureaucrats to hire subordinates and grow the bureaucracy - let the head of the bureaucracy personally keep all money from the budget plus per-customer fees not spent. You can bet he will have great incentive to limit the workers he supervises to only what is necessary under such a scheme when he stands to profit personally from limiting the size of his bureaucracy. And if his pay goes up with every customer served, he faces pretty much the same incentives as a private business.