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  • Dangerous Minds points readers to Cindy Sherman's Instagram account. ("_cindysherman_", if you are interested.)

  • Language Hat takes note of a rare early 20th century Judaeo-Urdu manuscript.

  • Language Log lists some of the many, many words and phrases banned from Internet usage in China.

  • The argument made at Lawyers, Guns and Money about Trump's many cognitive defects is frightening. How can he be president?

  • The LRB Blog <"a href="https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2017/08/03/lynsey-hanley/labour-and-traditional-voters/">notes that many traditional Labour voters, contra fears, are in fact willing to vote for non-ethnocratic policies.

  • The NYR Daily describes a book of photos with companion essays by Teju Cole that I like.

  • Of course, as Roads and Kingdom notes, there is such a thing as pho craft beer in Vietnam.

  • Peter Rukavina notes
  • Towleroad notes a love duet between Kele Okereke and Olly Alexander.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy seems unconvinced by the charges against Kronos programmer Marcus Hutchins.

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  • The New York Times is but one news source to observe the findings of archeologists and geneticists that the Canaanites were not slaughtered. Was the claimed Biblical genocide a matter of thwarted wish-fulfillment?

  • At Wired, David Pierce mourns the standalone iPod, an innovative music-changing technology in its time now being phased out.

  • Catherine McIntyre at MacLean's describes how birding is becoming hip among young urbanites, in Toronto and across Canada.

  • Open Democracy looks at how Estonia is pioneering e-residency and virtual citizenship schemes.

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  • Global News notes one study suggesting coffee can extend human lives. My morning pot is worthwhile, then!

  • National Geographic features an interview with Ben Mezrich talking about how cloning and genetic engineering can bring back the mammoth.

  • CBC News reports on the discovery of ultra-cool dwarf star EBLM J0555-57Ab, smaller than TRAPPIST-1, even.

  • Jacobin Magazine has a stirring essay by Nick Levine calling space colonization and space resources to be shared equitably.

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  • Anthropology.net looks at the genetics of how the Inuit have adapted to cold weather.

  • 'Nathan Smith's Apostrophen shares the author's plans for the coming year.

  • Beyond the Beyond's Bruce Sterling shares Margaret Atwood's commitment to fighting for freedom of expression.

  • Crooked Timber asks its readers for recommendations in Anglophone science fiction.

  • D-Brief notes the discovery of the human mesentery.

  • The Dragon's Gaze looks at the protoplanetary disk of LkCa 15 disk.

  • Far Outliers looks at some lobsters imported to Japan from (a) Christmas Island.

  • Joe. My. God. notes Janet Jackson has given birth.

  • Language Hat examines the contrast often made between indigenous and immigrant languages.

  • Language Log looks at the names of the stations of the Haifa subway.

  • Steve Munro notes Bathurst Station's goodbye to Honest Ed's.

  • The Planetary Society Blog examines the Dawn probe's discoveries at Ceres in the past year.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at how the permafrost of the Russian far north is melting and endangering entire cities, and contrasts the prosperity of the Estonian city of Narva relative to the decay of adjacent Ivangorod.

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  • The Big Picture shares photos of motorbike racing in South Africa.

  • Centauri Dreams considers the stellar weather that planets of red dwarf stars might encounter.

  • Dead Things looks at two genetic studies which complicate the narrative of humanity's spread.

  • Dangerous Minds shares the infamous anti-disco night of 1979 that spelled the end of the genre in North America.

  • The Everyday Sociology Blog considers how one makes a home among strangers.

  • Joe. My. God. notes that the UKIP MP claims the sun is responsible for the bulk of the Earth's tides not the moon, and reports on a Kentucky judge who says gays ruined straight men's ability to hug.

  • Language Log looks at changing patterns of language usage in Japanese.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money mocks the cosmic perspective of Gary Johnson.

  • The LRB Blog reports from devastated Lesbos.

  • Maximos62 maps the smoke from this year's Indonesian fires.

  • The NYRB Daily shares vintage photos from mid-1960s Cuba.

  • The Planetary Society Blog reports on a recent tour of NASA facilities.

  • Window on Eurasia reports on a call for a single Circassian alphabet, suggests a Russian initiative to use sufism to unite Russian Muslims will end badly, and argues that Russian criticism of language policy in post-Soviet countries is linked to geopolitics.

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  • Antipope's Charlie Stross considers the question of how to build durable space colonies.

  • blogTO notes that the musical Hamilton might be coming to Toronto.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes that European populations are descended from Anatolian farmers, not local hunter0-gatherers.

  • Far Outliers notes the plight of Czech and Slovak migrants in Russia following the outbreak of the First World War.

  • Language Log looks at new programs to promote the learning of Cantonese, outside of China proper.

  • Towleroad notes the sad story of a Belgian man who wants euthanasia because he's ashamed of being gay.

  • The Financial Times' The World worries about the possible spread of illiberal democracy to Croatia.

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  • Bloomberg notes concern in Asia regarding Brexit, and reports on a Taiwanese call to China to heal from Tiananmen.

  • CBC notes a shocking proposal to assemble a human being using an artificial genome.

  • io9 notes the interest of the Chinese government in setting up a local science fiction award.

  • MacLean's notes Russian crime gangs are blackmailing gay men.

  • The National Post observes one suggestion that Stonehenge was originally Welsh, and reports on a Wildrose parliamentarian in Alberta who compared a carbon tax to the Ukrainian genocide.

  • Open Democracy examines English identity in the context of Brexit and reports on South America's Operation Condor.

  • The Toronto Star reports on an African grey parrot that may be a murder witness and notes Trudeau's statement that preserving indigenous languages is key to preventing youth suicides.

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  • The BBC notes a study suggesting that the bombardment of the early Moon by comets gave it water.

  • Bloomberg View criticizes red tape in Greece, and notes that the salts of Australia will be drawing solar cell manufacturers to that country.

  • The Guardian notes Jeremy Corbyn's claims of BBC bias against him.

  • The Inter Press Service examines the vulnerability of young women in Africa to HIV.

  • MacLean's notes the struggles of a prominent Inuit family, the Tootoos, with alcohol.

  • National Geographic notes an exciting archeological dig into the heart of Roman London and reports on signs of activity on Pluto.

  • New Scientist notes that, among the orcas, evolution is driven by culture, with culturally distinctive groups also being genetically distinctive.

  • The Toronto Star reports that Mossack-Fonseca, the law firm at the heart of the Panama Papers, is shuttering offices.

  • Wired notes Switzerland's Gotthard tunnel and warns that Flint is not the worst bit of American infrastructure in decay.

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  • blogTO notes that the Canadian government has prevented Conrad Black from selling his Forest Hill mansion on account of taxes.

  • Dangerous Minds shares a beautiful 1981 live performance by The Church.

  • Language Log notes the inclusion of Singaporean and Hong Kong English words into the OED.

  • The Map Room Blog notes the four Italian nuns who helped the Vatican map prt of the sky.

  • Marginal Revolution notes the increasing concentration of the Quakers in Kenya, and by extension other Christian denominations in Africa.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer looks at the success of solar energy in Mexico.

  • Strange Maps notes the history of Middle Eastern migration into Europe.

  • Torontoist looks at a Kensington Market project displaying graffiti from around the world.

  • Towleroad notes Donald Trump's refusal to reveal his tax returns.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at the role played by Vladimir Zhirinovsky in Russian politics.

  • Zero Geography links to a paper co-authored by the blogger looking at the online representation of Jerusalem.

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    view.com/articles/2016-04-21/malaysia-s-immigration-mess">examines immigration controversies in Malaysia.
  • CBC notes that Manulife is now providing life insurance for HIV-positive people.

  • Gizmodo reports from the Pyongyang subway.

  • The Guardian notes the sequencing of Ozzy Osbourne's DNA.

  • The National Post reports that Québec NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau might well be considering a run for the NDP leadership.

  • Newsweek reports on the decision of the Wall Street Journal to run an ad denying the Armenian genocide.

  • Finally, there has been much written after the death of Prince. Some highlights: The Atlantic looks at how he was a gay icon, Vox shares 14 of his most important songs, the Toronto Star notes his connection to Toronto, Dangerous Minds shares videos of early performances, The Daily Beast explains Prince's stringent control of his content on the Internet, and In Media Res mourns the man and some of his songs.

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  • Bloomberg reports on how the weakening yen is hurting some Hong Kong retailers, notes how Chinese are visiting Hong Kong in the search for approved vaccines, and observes Brexit may not change British immigration much.

  • MacLean's notes a court ruling which states the Confederate flag is inherently anti-American, and reports on the Swedish Tourist Association's new campaign which offers people around the world the chance to talk to a random Swede.

  • Juan Cole at The Nation reports the exceptional unpopularity of Egypt's transfer of two islands in the Gulf of Aqaba to Saudi Arabia.

  • National Geographic considers the concept of dam removal in parts of the United States.

  • Open Democracy examines the awkward position of Russian culture in the Ukrainian city of L'viv.

  • Science Daily notes findings suggesting that the genes which influence homosexuality are found in most people in the world, explaining why homosexuality is common.

  • The Toronto Star reports on a thankfully foiled, but still horrifying, suicide pact involving 13 young people in Attawapiskat, and notes Denmark's turn against even people who help refugees.

  • Wired describes Yuri Milner's proposal to use powerful lasers to launch very small probes to Alpha Centauri.

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  • Antipope Charlie Stross speculates about really good sexbots.

  • blogTO notes the opening of Toronto's first Uniqlo in October.

  • Centauri Dreams looks at the proposal for a laser-launched flyby probe to Alpha Centauri.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes evidence for the collision of planetesimals around HD 61005.

  • The Dragon's Tales links to a study suggesting deer on the outer islands of Scotland were purposefully transplanted there in the Neolithic.

  • Joe. My. God. reports on Paul Ryan's categorical exclusion of any interest in the Republican nomination.

  • Language Hat reports on the discovery of ancient Chinese manuscripts written in bamboo dating back 2500 years.

  • The Planetary Society Blog notes stunning comet photos taken by Rosetta.

  • Towleroad notes that the governor of Mississippi has a gay son who left the state after being gay-bashed.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at the background of leaders of frozen conflict situations like the Donbas.

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  • Bloomberg notes how an economic boom will let Sweden postpone hard decisions, looks at the popularity of the Korean Wave in China, suggests that subsidies are going to be a big issue for cash-short Arab governments, looks at the investigation in Bulgaria of groups which arrest refugees, and looks at the long-term problems of the Russian economy.

  • CBC reports on a Saskatchewan woman who has a refuge for pet rats.

  • Global News illustrates the dire social conditions in the Ontario North, hitting particularly strongly First Nations groups.

  • The Guardian reports on speculation that Neanderthals may have died in significant numbers from African diseases brought by human migrants.

  • MacLean's notes a study of handwriting styles in ancient Israel which suggest that literacy was reasonably common.

  • The Mississauga News reports on a new PFLAG support group for South Asians in Peel.

  • National Geographic notes the strong pressures on island birds towards flightlessness.

  • Science Mag notes subtle genetic incompatibilities between human women and male Neanderthals which would have hindered reproduction.

  • The USA Today network has a story examining the recent HIV outbreak in Indiana.

  • Vice reports on the huge cleavages within the NDP, something also examined at the CBC.

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  • The Inter Press Service suggests climate change is contributing to a severe drought in Nicaragua.

  • Reuters notes China's plan to implement sanctions against North Korea.

  • Atlas Obscura explores the now-defunct medium of vinyl movies.

  • Science goes into detail about the findings that many pre-contact American populations did not survive conquest at all.

  • CBC notes evidence that salmon prefer dark-walled tanks.

  • Universe Today notes the discovery of a spinning neutron star in the Andromeda Galaxy.

  • Vice's Motherboard notes how Angolan users of free limited-access internet sites are sharing files through Wikipedia.

  • MacLean's notes how an ordinary British Columbia man's boudoir photos for his wife have led to a modelling gig.

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  • Anthropology.net reports on a study suggesting that ritual human sacrifice paved the way for complex societies.

  • Beyond the Beyond's Bruce Sterling shares an essay skeptical about the idea of a sharing economy.

  • D-Brief and The Dragon's Tales reports on a study of some South American mummies suggesting that the vast majority of populations in the pre-Columbian Americas did not survive the conquest.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper examining conditions on 55 Cancri e.

  • The Everyday Sociology Blog considers how access to abortion can be limited by simply making it difficult to access.

  • Marginal Revolution wonders how bad the effects of the upcoming shutdown of the D.C. Metro will be.

  • Noel Maurer continues to look at the prospects of a Venezuelan default, looking at oil exports.

  • Spacing Toronto explores the history of the Toronto Sculpture Garden.

  • Torontoist explains inclusionary zoning to its readers.

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  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly wonders why people read at all in the 21st century world.

  • D-Brief notes how chickens have been modified to have dinosaur-like legs.

  • Dangerous Minds shares 19th century photos taken of Native Americans in their traditional and ceremonial wear.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper predicting exoplanets orbiting HD 202628 and HD 207129 based on gaps in the debris disks of those stars.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes that the director-general of the ESA asked China to opt to contribute to the International Space Station.

  • Joe. My. God. notes that the lesbian subtext of Xena will be made explicit in the remake.


  • Language Log looks at odd names, in the Chinese world and in the wider world.

  • Marginal Revolution links to a paper speculating that future economic growth will be absorbed entirley by life extension.

  • pollotenchegg maps changing birth rates across Ukrainian regions from 1960 on.

  • Towleroad quotes lesbian comedian Joy Behar on her incredulity about Caitlyn Jenner's professed politics.

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The Dragon's Tales linked to this press release, which does indeed seem to suggest a lack of substantial Indian migration five millennia ago to Australia. It could be that, if contact with India was an issue, perhaps simple cultural diffusion was responsible. Might it also be that the reproductively successful migrants were women, not men?

The first complete sequences of the Y chromosomes of Aboriginal Australian men have revealed a deep indigenous genetic history tracing all the way back to the initial settlement of the continent 50 thousand years ago, according to a study published in the journal Current Biology today (25th February 2016).

The study by researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and collaborators at La Trobe University in Melbourne and several other Australian institutes, challenges a previous theory that suggested an influx of people from India into Australia around 4-5 thousand years ago. This new DNA sequencing study focused on the Y chromosome, which is transmitted only from father to son, and found no support for such a prehistoric migration. The results instead show a long and independent genetic history in Australia.

Modern humans arrived in Australia about 50 thousand years ago, forming the ancestors of present-day Aboriginal Australians. They were amongst the earliest settlers outside Africa. They arrived in an ancient continent made up of today's Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea, called Sahul, probably thousands of years before modern humans arrived in Europe.

Five thousand years ago, dingos, the native dogs, somehow arrived in Australia, and changes in stone tool use and language around the same time raised the question of whether there were also associated genetic changes in the Australian Aboriginal population. At least two previous genetic studies, one of which was based on the Y chromosome, had proposed that these changes could have coincided with mixing of Aboriginal and Indian populations about 5 thousand years ago.

Anders Bergstrom, first author on the paper at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, said: "We worked closely with Aboriginal Australian communities to sequence the Y chromosome DNA from 13 male volunteers to investigate their ancestry. The data show that Aboriginal Australian Y chromosomes are very distinct from Indian ones. These results refute the previous Y chromosome study, thus excluding this part of the puzzle as providing evidence for a prehistoric migration from India. Instead, the results are in agreement with the archaeological record about when people arrived in this part of the world."
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  • Apostrophen's 'Nathan Smith updates readers on his writing projects and points them to anthologies looking for new submissions.

  • blogTO talks about the origins of Bay Street.

  • Centauri Dreams notes new discoveries about the origins of mysterious "fast radio bursts".

  • The Dragon's Tales notes how a genetic study of Panama's population showed the impact of colonization.

  • Joe. My. God. notes Germany's opening of a centre for LGBT refugees.

  • Language Log notes controversy over simplified characters in Hong Kong and poor fluency in kanji in Japan.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the controversies surrounding the commemoration of the death of Scalia at Georgetown University.

  • Steve Munro looks at various routes for a relief line in the east of the city.

  • North's Justin Petrone talks about teaching his daughter who ran Estonia during the Soviet era.

  • Strange Maps maps Europe divided into city-states.

  • Window on Eurasia notes Kazakhstan's plan to shift to Latin script for Kazakh and looks at ethnic Russian converts to Islam.

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  • Centauri Dreams considers gravitational waves.

  • Discover's D-Brief notes our Neanderthal genetic legacy.

  • The Dragon's Gaze looks at an inflated hot Neptune.

  • The Dragon's Tales considers how much sulfur dioxide Mars had.

  • Joe. My. God. notes Dan Savage's criticism of Log Cabin Republicans.

  • Marginal Revolution considers ways to be happy.

  • The Planetary Society Blog looks at Ok Go's new zero-gravity music video.

  • pollotenchegg notes trends in urban population growth in Ukraine, the Donbas faring particularly badly.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer wonders, after Ross Douthat, about the durability of stereotypes of American militarism and European pacifism.

  • Strange Maps notes a map of xenophobia, tracking rumours.

  • Torontoist notes that Drake got the keys to the city of Toronto.

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Drawing on recent papers simulating ancient demographics and Neanderthal cognition, Adam Benton at EvoAnth describes how easily Neanderthals could have been driven into extinction by human beings, even if they were as capable as us.

A series of computer models have shown how even if humans and Neanderthals were equally smart, we still could have beaten them.

It all boils down to our technological advantage. Humans rolled up to the Neanderthal club with some very fancy tools. We would both have hunted the same prey; so whoever had the best tools for the job would outcompete the others. Crucially, this new study shows that this would happen even if the Neanderthals outnumbered the first humans (which they likely did, given it was their home turf). And if humans only had a small technological advantage. Even a slight edge would allow us to reproduce a little bit better, soon allowing us to outnumber the Neanderthals. We could really give them a good kick whilst they were down.

Now to be fair, the Neanderthals had those fancy tools too. However, they seemed to produce them a lot less frequently. In some cases they only seem to have adopted them a few thousand years after humans arrived in the joint (which has led some to speculate they stole them from humans). Thus, even if Neanderthals were as smart as us and making the same tools as us; we brought the better tools to more parties. This would have given us the advantage in hunting resources, allowing us to outcompete the Neanderthals.

Of course, this points rest on the idea that our tools were actually better for hunting than theirs’. Sure they were fancier, but how much does that translate into better hunting ability? Can we really quantify the technological level of the two groups? We can measure a lot of variables about these tools. Some were a more efficient use of raw materials. Others could be repaired quicker. Which of these variables, if any, is the one that gave us the edge? These simulations don’t really tell the answer.

[. . .]

These simulations also identified some other ways that a small group of humans could have gained an advantage over the Neanderthal.

The most significant of these was learning ability. If it turns out we were a bit smarter than Neanderthals (or at least, a bit better at learning) then we could drive them extinct in almost any scenario. No matter how many Neanderthals were living in the region initially, or how few humans turned up, if we could learn better they would all go extinct.

This ultimately works for the same reason that having better culture works. If we can learn we can adapt, innovate, and gain that same cultural edge that would have allowed us to outcompete the Neanderthals.

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