SciTech Roundup 1

Fourni

doublegreek

 

 

 

The ship ‘graveyard’ at Fournoi which hit the news late last year continues to produce a remarkable number of ancient shipwrecks:

The team carrying out the investigation, The Fourni Underwater Survey, previously found 22 wrecks in the same area, bringing the total number of finds in a nine month period to 45.

The project, an exciting joint Greek-American venture, is exploring the coastline of a group of islands east of mainland Greece which may contain one of the largest concentrations of ancient shipwrecks in the world, hidden beneath the waves.

Peter Campbell, of the University of Southampton and the US based RPM Nautical Foundation says: “The concentration of the shipwrecks and the large area remaining to be explored leaves every indication that there are many more sites to discover. We expect more seasons like these first two. The data we have recorded offers great insight into ancient navigation and trade.”

The area doesn’t seem to have been particularly dangerous but it’s location in the Aegean meant it saw a great deal of sustained traffic from merchant ships (and others) throughout history:

Fouri

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Classical Greece to Medieval Times

The sunken ships discovered in June 2016 span more than 2,000 years of Greek maritime history. The earliest shipwreck dates to roughly 525 B.C., while the most recent is from the early 1800s. The other wrecks range across the centuries, with cargoes from the Classical period (480-323 B.C.), the Hellenistic period (323-31 B.C.), the Late Roman period (300-600 A.D.), and the Medieval period (500-1500 A.D.) Cooking pots, plates, bowls, storage jars, a palm-size lamp, and black-painted ceramic fine-ware are among the artifacts recovered from the wrecks so far.


Nasafire

In the aftermath of the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona, which killed 19 firefighters, NASA has been trying to adapt some of it’s technology for use by firefighters stateside:

NASA Technology May Help Protect Wildland Firefighters

NASA research into flexible, high-temperature space materials may some day improve personal fire shelter systems and help wildland firefighters better survive dangerous wildfires.

NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service to see if flexible thermal protection system technology being developed for space entry vehicles could also work to protect firefighters caught in a raging forest fire.

This follows a well established tradition over the last coule of decades whereby technology developed by NASA being modified and adopted for use by fire services:

In the late 1990s, the Houston Fire Department took a trip down to the local NASA office to see what they could do to help them develop a better helmet, which hadn’t changed much since the 1800s. The discussion began, and soon a partnership developed that had them rethinking the entire suit. In 2000, NASA unveiled this newfirefighter suit, developed with the Houston Fire Department, the Department of Defense and Lockheed Martin [source: Petty].

Other developments include the adoption of satellites and drones to monitor fires and co-ordinate response.


CorneaTransplans

The significance of patient gender in transplant outcomes is well established – both with regards to longterm prognosis for males vs females as well as the impact of gender difference/matching between organ donor and recipient – but recent research has shown women who receive cornea transplants from men do worse than those who have a gender-matched donor:

She Has His Eyes: Does Gender Matter in Cornea Transplants?

Doctors who transplant corneas have always thought of the vision-saving surgery as gender-neutral, but a new study in the United Kingdom has found that female patients do better if they get their new corneas from other women rather than men.

The study of more than 18,000 British patients found that female transplant recipients were more likely to have successful transplants if they got a woman’s cornea—but there was no gender difference in failure rates for men receiving women’s tissue. With one corneal disease, called Fuchs endothelial dystrophy, women’s transplants were 40 percent less likely to fail if they received another woman’s cornea instead of a man’s, according to the study published Thursday in the American Journal of Transplantation.


Despite their considerable historical influence, comparatively little is known about the Phoenician people. Most historical sources which deal with them tend to come from their enemies; particularly Rome, which famously acted on Cato’s consistent advice that Carthago delenda est

While their worldview, language and culture, may be lost forever the advances in archaeology and genomics have led to the first sequencing of Phoenician DNA:

DNA Captured From 2,500-Year-Old Phoenician

Researchers have sequenced the complete mitochondrial genome of a 2,500-year-old Phoenician, showing the ancient man had European ancestry.

This is the first ancient DNA to be obtained from Phoenician remains.

Known as “Ariche,” the young man came from Byrsa, a walled citadel above the harbor of ancient Carthage. Byrsa was attacked by the Roman general Scipio Aemilianus “Africanus” in the Third Punic War. It was destroyed by Rome in 146 B.C.

Ariche’s remains were discovered in 1994 on the southern flank of Bursa hill when a man planting trees fell into the ancient grave.

Analysis of the skeleton revealed the man died between the age of 19 and 24, had a rather robust physique and was 1.7 meters (5’6″) tall. He may have belonged to the Carthaginian elite, as he was buried with gems, scarabs, amulets and other artifacts.

Which allowed the reconstruction of what ‘Ariche’ looked like:


And research into the cause of individual musical taste has reached the unsurprising conclusion that preferences are formed due to upbringing rather than being biologically rooted:

 

 

 

 

Some people like to listen to the Beatles, while others prefer Gregorian chants. When it comes to music, scientists find that nurture can trump nature.

Musical preferences seem to be mainly shaped by a person’s cultural upbringing and experiences rather than biological factors, according to a study published on 13 July in Nature1.

“Our results show that there is a profound cultural difference” in the way people respond to consonant and dissonant sounds, says Josh McDermott, a cognitive scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and lead author of the paper. This suggests that other cultures hear the world differently, he adds.

The study is one of the first to put an age-old argument to the test. Some scientists believe that the way people respond to music has a biological basis, because pitches that people often like have particular interval ratios. They argue that this would trump any cultural shaping of musical preferences, effectively making them a universal phenomenon.

Ethnomusicologists and music composers, by contrast, think that such preferences are more a product of one’s culture. If a person’s upbringing shapes their preferences, then they are not a universal phenomenon.

Though I’m not sure what part of my childhood I can blame for this abomination being the first pop single I ever bought:

 

China, Florence, India: Social mobility and stalled history

I’ve just come across another reference to the recent study on social mobility in Florence since the Middle Ages:

The top earners among the current taxpayers were already at the top of the socioeconomic ladder six centuries ago – they were lawyers or members of the wool, silk, and shoemaker guilds; their earnings and wealth were always above the median. In contrast, the poorest surnames had less prestigious occupations, and their earnings and wealth were below the median in most cases.

Which contrasts very interestingly with articles I read yesterday by the always excellent Steve Sailer which (among other things) covered the comparatively incredible levels, and longevity, of social mobility or ‘social darwinism’ within Imperial China:

Feudalism had ended in China a thousand years before the French Revolution, and nearly all Chinese stood equal before the law.[14] The “gentry”—those who had passed an official examination and received an academic degree—possessed certain privileges and the “mean people”—prostitutes, entertainers, slaves, and various other degraded social elements—suffered under legal discrimination. But both these strata were minute in size, with each usually amounting to less than 1 percent of the general population, while “the common people”—everyone else, including the peasantry—enjoyed complete legal equality…

…The vast majority of Chinese might be impoverished peasants, but for those with ability and luck, the possibilities of upward mobility were quite remarkable in what was an essentially classless society. The richer strata of each village possessed the wealth to give their most able children a classical education in hopes of preparing them for the series of official examinations. If the son of a rich peasant or petty landlord were sufficiently diligent and intellectually able, he might pass such an examination and obtain an official degree, opening enormous opportunities for political power and wealth….

…However, the flip-side of possible peasant upward mobility was the far greater likelihood of downward mobility, which was enormous and probably represented the single most significant factor shaping the modern Chinese people. Each generation, a few who were lucky or able might rise, but a vast multitude always fell, and those families near the bottom simply disappeared from the world. Traditional rural China was a society faced with the reality of an enormous and inexorable downward mobility: for centuries, nearly all Chinese ended their lives much poorer than had their parents…

…Furthermore, the forces of downward mobility in rural Chinese society were greatly accentuated by fenjia, the traditional system of inheritance, which required equal division of property among all sons, in sharp contrast to the practice of primogeniture commonly found in European countries.

And also Anatoly Karlin, who discusses why he thinks projections of India matching and potentially surpassing China are hugely overblown – with reference to the damage done by the caste system and it’s millenia long enforcement of separate, non intermarrying, ethnic groups as opposed to the comparative social mobility and homogeneity of China – and covers what he thinks is the likelier route for both giganations as they attempt to industrialise and develop.

Instead of buying into their own rhetoric of a “India shining”, Indians would be better served by focusing on the nitty gritty of bringing childhood malnutritionDOWN to Sub-Saharan African levels, achieving the life expectancy of late Maoist China, and moving up at least to the level of a Mexico or Moldova in numeracy and science skills. Because as long as India’s human capital remains at the bottom of the global league tables so will the prosperity of its citizens.

The Puzzle of India: A Nation of Gypsies and Jews

What I conclude from this is that in terms that would be familiar to Westerners:India is a nation of Gypsies and Jews.

Over the centuries, Brahmins have been selected for intelligence. They were expected to master requisite texts and those who couldn’t handle it dropped away. These selective pressures did not apply to the lower castes who made up the vast majority of the population.

The reason for why India split along caste lines was because of Hinduism and its origins as a religion/ideology to hold society together under the boots of the conquering light-skinned Aryans who brought down the original Harappan civilization (indeed 4 millennia on Bollywood still glamorizes lighter-skinned actors and this is not very controversial within Indian society). These invaders became the Kshatriya military caste, and the Brahmins became their spiritual apologists and enablers. (The Kshatriya were also the one major caste that was allowed to eat meat to build up muscles. Quite logical). The darker skinned aborigines had to continue tilling the soil for their new masters.

I’ll give a final shoutout to the research that uncovered, a few years ago, that Britons with Norman surnames continue to be richer on average than those with traditionally Anglo-Saxon surnames – and I would expect to see similar results with regards to Celtic vs Germanic/Norman surnames in Scotland, Ireland and Wales:

Surnames which indicated nobility and wealth in medieval times are still richer even today, research has suggested.

‘Moneyed’ surnames, such as Darcy, Percy, Baskerville and Mandeville continue to have more cash than those with ‘poor’ names, such as Smith, Mason and Cooper.

The research, which uses university admissions, probate records and official information going as far back as the Domesday Book, tracked what happened to those whose surnames suggest their forebears were either aristocratic or ‘artisans’ from the working class.

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