morning 03.07.17

I accidentally blew off posting yesterday for reasons I don’t recall. Half the day was spent out at Tickfaw State Park. (Lower Livingston Parish is still absolutely fucked from last year’s floods. The poor dumb bastards have more Confederate flags flying down there than American ones too. This has been the only place that I’ve seen Trump yard signs- and yes, they’re still up. Angry, desperate, abandoned people down there.) The rest of the day was spent puttering about in yard until the rains came. I finally read a little more of Anders Rydell’s  The Book Thieves.

Evidence of introgression in early modern humans in China. Ear structure and back of skull suggests Neandertal introgression. More:

In the new study, scientists analyzed fragments of two human skulls that lead study author Zhan-Yang Li, an archaeologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, unearthed during fieldwork in the city of Xuchang in central China between 2007 and 2014. The fossils are about 105,000 to 125,000 years old, the researchers said.

Record of cultivated plants in the Amazon extends 8,000  years. Surprise! Not really.

Study suggests complex life was present on Earth 2.33 billion years ago. Eukaryotes emerged during the Great Oxidation Event.

Cornel West on why James Baldwin matter more than ever.

A giant neuron found wrapped around entire mouse brain. “…a ‘crown of thorns’ shape stemming from a region linked to consciousness.” Nice imagery there. Poetic.

Theoretical physicists have confirmed that it’s not just the information coded in our DNA that shapes who we are—it’s also the way DNA folds itself that controls which genes are expressed inside our bodies. Well, fucking duh. I recall reading in the ’90s dummies who wrote about “junk” DNA and how we can seize the future and our destiny now with aggressive editing and rewriting. Transhumanists, I reckon. I wrote a very sloppy paper arguing against it. I still remember fondly my professor who called me into the office to defend it and instead shot the shit about the 1975 Rollerball and other ’70s dystopian films. In 1993, he totally agreed that there was more information in DNA than we could currently identify, probably in its structure than the actual coding. (This is probably the 4th or 5th time I’ve written this anecdote on this blog.)

Bill Paxton, William Burroughs, ‘Blade Runner’ and the making of ‘Taking Tiger Mountain’. What a peculiar pedigree of a project. The thing about these celebrity deaths is that sometimes they get me in tune with shit that I just had no connection with. I’ve mentioned before that I had this bizarre lacuna when it came to Paxton. I cannot pretend I was a fan of any kind of his work because he kept slipping straight out of my memory, no matter how great his performances were. Anyway, listening to his interview on Maron’s WTF1 it was odd Paxton ruminated about the life and death of his father at length.

For a few months a few years ago, Temples Sun Structures seemed like a fun listen. I queued up their new album Volcano and it’s big booming pop. It’s not all that far removed from Sun Structures, which had more jangle. It’s just that this is nothing I feel like listening to. Not their debut album either. Moving on…

U.S. Republicans unveil plan to dismantle Obamacare, critics pounce. Anyone else get the feeling that there is no way that this piece of shit is intended to pass? It probably can’t make it through the Senate. There are too many Republican senators who can catch serious blowback on this. Sync it with the new version of the travel ban EO being quietly rolled out and it may very well be an actual distraction, an over-used accusation.

It looks like we’ve moved on from Jeff Sessions perjuring himself during his Senate hearings. Oh well. The Democrats obsessed on Russians instead of the actual lie. (Then again, I’m the weirdo who obsesses on the fact that Hillary did indeed commit perjury and obstruction of justice in that email server mess.) Trump jumped onto wild accusations about FISA and Obama ordering wiretaps. Poof. Now the issue is just another embarrassment with no consequences. Trump is a fat oaf with dementia and he will be president forever. Our country is so sick and corrupt that this incompetent buffoon and his staff of cartoonishly deranged villains can shrug off anything.

Comey hasn’t been fired yet despite his request for the Justice Deptment to reject Trump’s wiretapping claim. I was half-expecting that last night. The accelerationist streak I’ve been nurturing is disappointed.

  1. The other podcasts I listen to hate Maron so fucking much, which I get as his tics are exasperating, but I still think about quite a few of the handful of episodes I’ve listened to, like the John Lurie one. []

mid-morning 01.10.17

Oldest Evidence of Silk Found in 8,500-Year-Old Tombs. Jiahu in the middle of Henan Province in central China. Revealed by chemical analysis of silk proteins. The previous oldest silk was 5,000 years old.

The wild, extinct supercow returning to Europe. Yeah! Bring back the aurochs! Tauros programme using selective breeding on the Maronesa cow.

“Alien megastructure” signal may be due to star eating a planet. How pedestrian.

The Search for Aliens Has Become a Grassroots Movement for Billionaires. The usual suspects: Yuri Milner, Elon Musk, Robert Bigelow. I need to create alerts to keep up with these guys and their space junk. Milner is the one I miss the most news on. In all of the election turmoil, I’d missed this altogether: China Powers Up World’s Largest Radio Telescope To Begin Search For Alien Life. Five Hundred Metre Aperture Spherical Telescope. (FAST.) Three years just to calibrate? Damn.

Earliest Human Presence in North America Dated to the Last Glacial Maximum: New Radiocarbon Dates from Bluefish Caves, Canada. Humans occupied the site as early as 24,000 ago. “The results offer archaeological support for the ‘Beringian standstill hypothesis’, which proposes that a genetically isolated human population persisted in Beringia during the LGM and dispersed from there to North and South America during the post-LGM period.”

Kurt Eichenwald is a creepy nut and no one should listen to him. Sadly, he might be an excellent example of cancer that has devoured the Democratic Party. Neoliberalism hollowed the party out to leave broken creatures like Eichenwald with outsized presences.

80,000 year old Homo spaiens teeth in South Asia

The breathless reporting that these 80,000 year old Homo sapiens teeth from China changing everything was getting on my nerves this week. Fortunately, this Scientific American article puts the news into perspective, noting that Petraglia has been saying the 60k Out of Africa date is obsolete for years, linking several previous stories.

It’s definitely interesting that introgression from Neandertals in western Asia still stands at 60k though. The detail about the cavities in these teeth is intriguing too. What the hell were they eating?

Rise domestication at Baligang site in Nanyang Basin in China 8,300 years ago

Rise domestication at Baligang site in Nanyang Basin in China 8,300 years ago.

They have confirmed, based on morphological characteristics of the rice, that rice had been domesticated in the region before 6300 BCE, although a lack of evolution in grain shape suggests that the people there were still a long way off from forming an agricultural economy.

They’re hoping for more details from other sites in future to figure out how much earlier gathering rice switched to domestication.

20,000 year old pottery identified in China

Some pottery found in south China in excavations from previous decades has been dated to 20,000 years ago. The site was Xianrendong cave in south China’s Jiangxi province. The conclusion they’re reaching is that pottery was developed before agriculture was.

Of course I’m going to be that fringe character that has to ask, maybe this means they need to look harder for earlier evidence of agriculture. Water and…. Lard? Bone beads? Grains?

The whole thing seems weird. Wonderful, but weird… and probably destined to get a lot weirder.  My hunch in the years to come that origin of agriculture will be pushed back if the date on these pottery shards are true.

Red Deer Cave people

Human Remains from the Pleistocene-Holocene Transition of Southwest China Suggest a Complex Evolutionary History for East Asians.

Mysterious Chinese Fossils May Be New Human Species.

‘Red Deer Cave people’ may be new species of human.

I’d seen mention of the Red Deer people for a few years now. After the Denisovans turned up, I failed to remember them, although I eagerly anticipated some interesting fossils that had already been discovered in China being re-examined in this new context. The new paper states that no genetic material has been recovered from these bones. All that is know so far is that these bones have archaic features that are unusual for that time and region. They might be Denisovans, have Denisovan admixture, or have a different lineage altogether.

The most remarkable part is that these bones are between 14,300 and 11,500 years old, which is really damned recent.