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New extinct in China!

Not everyday a gets to name a Genus(!) but that is exactly what PDRA D…
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june 2018 by ebuchholtz
Information Processing: Remarks on the Decline of American Empire
1. US foreign policy over the last decades has been disastrous -- trillions of dollars and thousands of lives expended on Middle Eastern wars, culminating in utter defeat. This defeat is still not acknowledged among most of the media or what passes for intelligentsia in academia and policy circles, but defeat it is. Iran now exerts significant control over Iraq and a swath of land running from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean. None of the goals of our costly intervention have been achieved. We are exhausted morally, financially, and militarily, and still have not fully extricated ourselves from a useless morass. George W. Bush should go down in history as the worst US President of the modern era.

2. We are fortunate that the fracking revolution may lead to US independence from Middle Eastern energy. But policy elites have to fully recognize this possibility and pivot our strategy to reflect the decreased importance of the region. The fracking revolution is a consequence of basic research from decades ago (including investment from the Department of Energy) and the work of private sector innovators and risk-takers.

3. US budget deficits are a ticking time bomb, which cripple investment in basic infrastructure and also in research that creates strategically important new technologies like AI. US research spending has been roughly flat in inflation adjusted dollars over the last 20 years, declining as a fraction of GDP.

4. Divisive identity politics and demographic trends in the US will continue to undermine political cohesion and overall effectiveness of our institutions. ("Civilizational decline," as one leading theoretical physicist observed to me recently, remarking on our current inability to take on big science projects.)

5. The Chinese have almost entirely closed the technology gap with the West, and dominate important areas of manufacturing. It seems very likely that their economy will eventually become significantly larger than the US economy. This is the world that strategists have to prepare for. Wars involving religious fanatics in unimportant regions of the world should not distract us from a possible future conflict with a peer competitor that threatens to match or exceed our economic, technological, and even military capability.

However, I'm not sure that OBOR (One Belt One Road) and a focus on the "world island" of Eurasia will be a winning strategy for China. Mackinder's dream of a unified or even fully economically integrated world island will have to overcome the limitations (in human capital, institutions, culture, etc.) of the under-developed middle...

The belt-and-road express: China faces resistance to a cherished theme of its foreign policy:

The staggering scale of China's Belt and Road initiative:
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Open Thread, 11/26/2017 – Gene Expression
A few days ago there was a Twitter thing about top five books that have influenced you. It’s hard for me to name five, but I put three books down for three different reasons:

- Principles of Population Genetics, because it gives you a model for how to analyze and understand evolutionary processes. There are other books out there besides Principles of Population Genetics. But if you buy this book you don’t need to buy another (at SMBE this year I confused Andy Clark with Mike Lynch for a second when introducing myself. #awkward)
- The Fall of Rome. A lot of historical writing can be tendentious. I’ve also noticed an unfortunate tendency of historians dropping into contemporary arguments and pretty much lying through omission or elision to support their political side (it usually goes “actually, I’m a specialist in this topic and my side is 100% correct because of obscure-stuff where I’m shading the facts”). The Fall of Rome illustrates the solidity that an archaeological and materialist take can give the field. This sort of materialism isn’t the final word, but it needs to be the start of the conversation.
- From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life. To know things is important in and of itself. My own personal experience is that the returns to knowing things in a particular domain or area do not exhibit a linear return. Rather, it exhibits a logistic curve. Initially, it’s hard to make sense of anything from the facts, but at some point comprehension and insight increase rapidly, until you reach the plateau of diminishing marginal returns.

If you haven’t, I recommend you subscribe to Patrick Wyman’s Tides of History podcast. I pretty much wait now for every new episode.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Religion in ancient Rome - Wikipedia
Religious persecution in the Roman Empire:
The religion of the Christians and Jews was monotheistic in contrast to the polytheism of the Romans.[16] The Romans tended towards syncretism, seeing the same gods under different names in different places of the Empire. This being so, they were generally tolerant and accommodating towards new deities and the religious experiences of other peoples who formed part of their wider Empire.[17] This general tolerance was not extended to religions that were hostile to the state nor any that claimed exclusive rights to religious beliefs and practice.[17]

By its very nature the exclusive faith of the Jews and Christians set them apart from other people, but whereas the former group was in the main contained within a single national, ethnic grouping, in the Holy Land and Jewish diaspora—the non-Jewish adherents of the sect such as Proselytes and God-fearers being considered negligible—the latter was active and successful in seeking converts for the new religion and made universal claims not limited to a single geographical area.[17] Whereas the Masoretic Text, of which the earliest surviving copy dates from the 9th century AD, teaches that "the Gods of the gentiles are nothing", the corresponding passage in the Greek Septuagint, used by the early Christian Church, asserted that "all the gods of the heathens are devils."[18] The same gods whom the Romans believed had protected and blessed their city and its wider empire during the many centuries they had been worshipped were now demonized[19] by the early Christian Church.[20][21]

Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire:
"The exclusive sovereignty of Christ clashed with Caesar's claims to his own exclusive sovereignty."[4]:87 The Roman empire practiced religious syncretism and did not demand loyalty to one god, but they did demand preeminent loyalty to the state, and this was expected to be demonstrated through the practices of the state religion with numerous feast and festival days throughout the year.[6]:84-90[7] The nature of Christian monotheism prevented Christians from participating in anything involving 'other gods'.[8]:60 Christians did not participate in feast days or processionals or offer sacrifices or light incense to the gods; this produced hostility.[9] They refused to offer incense to the Roman emperor, and in the minds of the people, the "emperor, when viewed as a god, was ... the embodiment of the Roman empire"[10], so Christians were seen as disloyal to both.[4]:87[11]:23 In Rome, "religion could be tolerated only as long as it contributed to the stability of the state" which would "brook no rival for the allegiance of its subjects. The state was the highest good in a union of state and religion."[4]:87 In Christian monotheism the state was not the highest good.[4]:87[8]:60


According to the Christian apologist Tertullian, some governors in Africa helped accused Christians secure acquittals or refused to bring them to trial.[15]:117 Overall, Roman governors were more interested in making apostates than martyrs: one proconsul of Asia, Arrius Antoninus, when confronted with a group of voluntary martyrs during one of his assize tours, sent a few to be executed and snapped at the rest, "If you want to die, you wretches, you can use ropes or precipices."[15]:137


Political leaders in the Roman Empire were also public cult leaders. Roman religion revolved around public ceremonies and sacrifices; personal belief was not as central an element as it is in many modern faiths. Thus while the private beliefs of Christians may have been largely immaterial to many Roman elites, this public religious practice was in their estimation critical to the social and political well-being of both the local community and the empire as a whole. Honoring tradition in the right way — pietas — was key to stability and success.[25]
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november 2017 by nhaliday
The Science of Roman History: Biology, Climate, and the Future of the Past (Hardcover and eBook) | Princeton University Press
Forthcoming April 2018

How the latest cutting-edge science offers a fuller picture of life in Rome and antiquity
This groundbreaking book provides the first comprehensive look at how the latest advances in the sciences are transforming our understanding of ancient Roman history. Walter Scheidel brings together leading historians, anthropologists, and geneticists at the cutting edge of their fields, who explore novel types of evidence that enable us to reconstruct the realities of life in the Roman world.

Contributors discuss climate change and its impact on Roman history, and then cover botanical and animal remains, which cast new light on agricultural and dietary practices. They exploit the rich record of human skeletal material--both bones and teeth—which forms a bio-archive that has preserved vital information about health, nutritional status, diet, disease, working conditions, and migration. Complementing this discussion is an in-depth analysis of trends in human body height, a marker of general well-being. This book also assesses the contribution of genetics to our understanding of the past, demonstrating how ancient DNA is used to track infectious diseases, migration, and the spread of livestock and crops, while the DNA of modern populations helps us reconstruct ancient migrations, especially colonization.

Opening a path toward a genuine biohistory of Rome and the wider ancient world, The Science of RomanHistory offers an accessible introduction to the scientific methods being used in this exciting new area of research, as well as an up-to-date survey of recent findings and a tantalizing glimpse of what the future holds.

Walter Scheidel is the Dickason Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Classics and History, and a Kennedy-Grossman Fellow in Human Biology at Stanford University. He is the author or editor of seventeen previous books, including The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century (Princeton).
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november 2017 by nhaliday
The Course of Empire (paintings) - Wikipedia
The series of paintings depicts the growth and fall of an imaginary city, situated on the lower end of a river valley, near its meeting with a bay of the sea. The valley is distinctly identifiable in each of the paintings, in part because of an unusual landmark: a large boulder is precariously situated atop a crag overlooking the valley. Some critics believe this is meant to contrast the immutability of the earth with the transience of man.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Measles and immunological amnesia | West Hunter
A new paper in Science , by Michael Mina et al,  strongly suggests that measles messes up your immunological defenses for two or three years. This is the likely explanation for the fact that measles inoculation causes much greater decreases in child morbidity and mortality than you’d expect from preventing the deaths directly due to measles infection. The thought is that measles whacks the cells that carry immunological memory, leaving the kid ripe for reinfections.  I think there can be a similar effect with anti-cancer chemotherapy.

If correct, this means that measles is much nastier than previously thought. It must have played a significant role in the demographic collapse of long-isolated peoples (such as the Amerindians). Its advent may have played a role in the population decrease associated with the decline of the Classical world.  Even though it is relatively new (having split off from rinderpest a couple of thousand years ago) strong selection for resistance may have  favored some fairly expensive genetic defenses (something like sickle-cell) in Eurasian populations.

We already know of quite a few complex side effects of infectious disease, such the different kind of immunosuppression we see with AIDs, Burkitt’s lymphoma hitting kids with severe Epstein-Barr infections followed by malaria, acute dengue fever that requires a previous infection by a different strain of dengue, etc: there may well be other important interactions and side effects, news of which has not yet come to Harvard.
west-hunter  scitariat  discussion  ideas  commentary  study  summary  org:nat  epidemiology  bio  health  immune  disease  parasites-microbiome  unintended-consequences  cancer  medicine  long-short-run  usa  farmers-and-foragers  age-of-discovery  speculation  nihil  history  iron-age  mediterranean  the-classics  demographics  population  gibbon  rot  harvard  elite  low-hanging  info-dynamics  being-right  heterodox 
october 2017 by nhaliday
Farm (revenue leasing) - Wikipedia
Tax farming was originally a Roman practice whereby the burden of tax collection was reassigned by the Roman State to private individuals or groups. In essence, these individuals or groups paid the taxes for a certain area and for a certain period of time and then attempted to cover their outlay by collecting money or saleable goods from the people within that area.[5] The system was set up by Gaius Gracchus in 123 BC primarily to increase the efficiency of tax collection within Rome itself but the system quickly spread to the Provinces.[6] Within the Roman Empire, these private individuals and groups which collected taxes in lieu of the bid (i.e. rent) they had paid to the state were known as publicani, of whom the best known is the disciple Matthew, a publicanus in the village of Capernaum in the province of Galilee. The system was widely abused, and reforms were enacted by Augustus and Diocletian.[7] Tax farming practices are believed to have contributed to the fall of the Western Roman Empire in Western Europe.[8]
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Americans Used to be Proud of their Universities | The American Conservative
Some Notes on the Finances of Top Chinese Universities:
A glimpse into the finances of top Chinese universities suggests they share more than we might have imagined with American flagship public universities, but also that claims of imminent “catch up” might be overblown
news  org:mag  right-wing  reflection  history  early-modern  pre-ww2  mostly-modern  europe  germanic  britain  gibbon  trends  rot  zeitgeist  usa  china  asia  sinosphere  higher-ed  academia  westminster  comparison  analogy  multi  org:edu  money  monetary-fiscal  data  analysis  pro-rata  cs  tech  realness  social-science  the-world-is-just-atoms  science  innovation  is-ought  truth  identity-politics 
october 2017 by nhaliday

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