nhaliday + the-classics   269

What Peter Thiel thinks about AI risk - Less Wrong
TL;DR: he thinks its an issue but also feels AGI is very distant and hence less worried about it than Musk.

I recommend the rest of the lecture as well, it's a good summary of "Zero to One"  and a good QA afterwards.

For context, in case anyone doesn't realize: Thiel has been MIRI's top donor throughout its history.

other stuff:
nice interview question: "thing you know is true that not everyone agrees on?"
"learning from failure overrated"
cleantech a huge market, hard to compete
software makes for easy monopolies (zero marginal costs, network effects, etc.)
for most of history inventors did not benefit much (continuous competition)
ethical behavior is a luxury of monopoly
ratty  lesswrong  commentary  ai  ai-control  risk  futurism  technology  speedometer  audio  presentation  musk  thiel  barons  frontier  miri-cfar  charity  people  track-record  venture  startups  entrepreneurialism  contrarianism  competition  market-power  business  google  truth  management  leadership  socs-and-mops  dark-arts  skunkworks  hard-tech  energy-resources  wire-guided  learning  software  sv  tech  network-structure  scale  marginal  cost-benefit  innovation  industrial-revolution  economics  growth-econ  capitalism  comparison  nationalism-globalism  china  asia  trade  stagnation  things  dimensionality  exploratory  world  developing-world  thinking  definite-planning  optimism  pessimism  intricacy  politics  war  career  planning  supply-demand  labor  science  engineering  dirty-hands  biophysical-econ  migration  human-capital  policy  canada  anglo  winner-take-all  polarization  amazon  business-models  allodium  civilization  the-classics  microsoft  analogy  gibbon  conquest-empire  realness  cynicism-idealism  org:edu  open-closed  ethics  incentives  m 
18 days ago by nhaliday
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? - Wikipedia
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? is a Latin phrase found in the work of the Roman poet Juvenal from his Satires (Satire VI, lines 347–348). It is literally translated as "Who will guard the guards themselves?", though it is also known by variant translations.

The original context deals with the problem of ensuring marital fidelity, though it is now commonly used more generally to refer to the problem of controlling the actions of persons in positions of power, an issue discussed by Plato in the Republic. It is not clear whether the phrase was written by Juvenal, or whether the passage in which it appears was interpolated into his works.

...

This phrase is used generally to consider the embodiment of the philosophical question as to how power can be held to account. It is sometimes incorrectly attributed as a direct quotation from Plato's Republic in both popular media and academic contexts.[3] There is no exact parallel in the Republic, but it is used by modern authors to express Socrates' concerns about the guardians, _the solution to which is to properly train their souls_. Several 19th century examples of the association with Plato can be found, often dropping "ipsos".[4][5] John Stuart Mill quotes it thus in Considerations on Representative Government (1861), though without reference to Plato. Plato's Republic though was hardly ever referenced by classical Latin authors like Juvenal, and it has been noted that it simply disappeared from literary awareness for a thousand years except for traces in the writings of Cicero and St. Augustine.[6] In the Republic, a putatively perfect society is described by Socrates, the main character in this Socratic dialogue. Socrates proposed a guardian class to protect that society, and the custodes (watchmen) from the Satires are often interpreted as being parallel to the Platonic guardians (phylakes in Greek). Socrates' answer to the problem is, in essence, that _the guardians will be manipulated to guard themselves against themselves via a deception often called the "noble lie" in English_.[7] As Leonid Hurwicz pointed out in his 2007 lecture on accepting the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, one of Socrates' interlocutors in the Republic, Glaucon, even goes so far as to say "it would be absurd that a guardian should need a guard."[8] But Socrates returns to this point at 590d, where he says that _the best person "has a divine ruler within himself," and that "it is better for everyone to be ruled by divine reason, preferably within himself and his own, otherwise imposed from without."_[9]
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27 days ago by nhaliday
Still Italian | West Hunter
The cities were population sinks, and collapsed with the Empire. I doubt if slaves had high birth rates: certainly those working in mines or quarries didn’t. Nor did gladiators. One way or another, the foreigners in Italy, the vast majority of them, disappeared.
west-hunter  scitariat  discussion  history  iron-age  mediterranean  the-classics  conquest-empire  demographics  population  density  urban-rural  migration  within-group  race  judaism  malthus  europe  germanic  gallic  archaeology  gene-flow  architecture  scale  disease 
5 weeks ago by nhaliday
Gladiator Quotes - YouTube
LUCILLA: They care about the greatness of Rome.
COMMODUS: Greatness of Rome? But what is that?
LUCILLA: It's an idea, greatness. Greatness is a vision.
COMMODUS: Exactly. A vision. I will give the people a vision and they will love me for it. They will soon forget the tedious sermonizing of a few dry old men. I will give them the greatest vision of their lives.

GRACCHUS: I think he knows what Rome is. Rome is the mob. He will conjure magic for them and they will be distracted. He will take away their freedom, and still they will roar. The beating heart of Rome is not the marble floor of the Senate, it is the sand of the Colosseum. He will give them death, and they will love him for it.
video  film  history  iron-age  mediterranean  the-classics  conquest-empire  civilization  rot  democracy  antidemos  egalitarianism-hierarchy  sulla  tribalism  illusion  cynicism-idealism  quotes  entertainment  vulgar  leadership  civil-liberty 
6 weeks ago by nhaliday
The Roman Virtues
These are the qualities of life to which every citizen should aspire. They are the heart of the Via Romana--the Roman Way--and are thought to be those qualities which gave the Roman Republic the moral strength to conquer and civilize the world:
Auctoritas--"Spiritual Authority": The sense of one's social standing, built up through experience, Pietas, and Industria.
Comitas--"Humor": Ease of manner, courtesy, openness, and friendliness.
Clementia--"Mercy": Mildness and gentleness.
Dignitas--"Dignity": A sense of self-worth, personal pride.
Firmitas--"Tenacity": Strength of mind, the ability to stick to one's purpose.
Frugalitas--"Frugalness": Economy and simplicity of style, without being miserly.
Gravitas--"Gravity": A sense of the importance of the matter at hand, responsibility and earnestness.
Honestas--"Respectibility": The image that one presents as a respectable member of society.
Humanitas--"Humanity": Refinement, civilization, learning, and being cultured.
Industria--"Industriousness": Hard work.
Pietas--"Dutifulness": More than religious piety; a respect for the natural order socially, politically, and religiously. Includes the ideas of patriotism and devotion to others.
Prudentia--"Prudence": Foresight, wisdom, and personal discretion.
Salubritas--"Wholesomeness": Health and cleanliness.
Severitas--"Sternness": Gravity, self-control.
Veritas--"Truthfulness": Honesty in dealing with others.
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6 weeks ago by nhaliday
The idea of empire in the "Aeneid" on JSTOR
http://latindiscussion.com/forum/latin/to-rule-mankind-and-make-the-world-obey.11016/
Let's see...Aeneid, Book VI, ll. 851-853:

tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento
(hae tibi erunt artes), pacique imponere morem,
parcere subiectis et debellare superbos.'

Which Dryden translated as:
To rule mankind, and make the world obey,
Disposing peace and war by thy own majestic way;
To tame the proud, the fetter'd slave to free:
These are imperial arts, and worthy thee."

If you wanted a literal translation,
"You, Roman, remember to rule people by command
(these were arts to you), and impose the custom to peace,
to spare the subjected and to vanquish the proud."

I don't want to derail your thread but pacique imponere morem -- "to impose the custom to peace"
Does it mean "be the toughest kid on the block," as in Pax Romana?

...

That 17th century one is a loose translation indeed. Myself I'd put it as

"Remember to rule over (all) the (world's) races by means of your sovereignty, oh Roman, (for indeed) you (alone) shall have the means (to do so), and to inculcate the habit of peace, and to have mercy on the enslaved and to destroy the arrogant."

http://classics.mit.edu/Virgil/aeneid.6.vi.html
And thou, great hero, greatest of thy name,
Ordain'd in war to save the sinking state,
And, by delays, to put a stop to fate!
Let others better mold the running mass
Of metals, and inform the breathing brass,
And soften into flesh a marble face;
Plead better at the bar; describe the skies,
And when the stars descend, and when they rise.
But, Rome, 't is thine alone, with awful sway,
To rule mankind, and make the world obey,
Disposing peace and war by thy own majestic way;
To tame the proud, the fetter'd slave to free:
These are imperial arts, and worthy thee."
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6 weeks ago by nhaliday
Rome and China: Comparative Perspectives on Ancient World Empires - Walter Scheidel - Google Books
A commitment to civil law stands as one of Rome’s enduring legacies, the basis
for the rule of law in the countries that preserved Roman legal ideals and practices
long after the empire disappeared. But, as Bauman has noted in his study of crime
and punishment in ancient Rome, the criminal law always operated as the “poor
relation on the Roman legal scene.”‘ Indeed, many textbook surveys of Roman law
devote little attention to penal philosophies and practices. By contrast, observers
of Chinese history who argue that imperial China’s preoccupation with criminal
law continues to hinder legal reform point to the political system that emerged
in Qin and Han times as the source of harsh penal laws designed to guard the
resources of the state rather than the rights of subjects. True, by the time of the
Qin unification in China, as Mark Lewis has shown, a body of mythology, politi-
cal theory, and historical anecdote legitimated the state’s right to monopolize and
manage coercion. But the “grand theory” based on the Confucian ideal of the
“rule of man” that has dominated narratives about the nature of political author-
ity in China obscures the attention that Warring States and Han writers paid to
law as a measure to legitimate institutionalized violence.
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6 weeks ago by nhaliday
Noble lie - Wikipedia
In politics, a noble lie is a myth or untruth, often, but not invariably, of a religious nature, knowingly propagated by an elite to maintain social harmony or to advance an agenda. The noble lie is a concept originated by Plato as described in the Republic.
concept  wiki  reference  history  iron-age  mediterranean  the-classics  big-peeps  philosophy  polisci  government  organizing  elite  egalitarianism-hierarchy  noble-lie  westminster  truth  noblesse-oblige  order-disorder  culture  society  rot  unintended-consequences  instinct  reason  straussian  wisdom 
7 weeks ago by nhaliday
Books 2017 | West Hunter
Arabian Sands
The Aryans
The Big Show
The Camel and the Wheel
Civil War on Western Waters
Company Commander
Double-edged Secrets
The Forgotten Soldier
Genes in Conflict
Hive Mind
The horse, the wheel, and language
The Penguin Atlas of Medieval History
Habitable Planets for Man
The genetical theory of natural selection
The Rise of the Greeks
To Lose a Battle
The Jewish War
Tropical Gangsters
The Forgotten Revolution
Egil’s Saga
Shapers
Time Patrol

Russo: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/12/14/books-2017/#comment-98568
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10 weeks ago by nhaliday
Geography of the Odyssey - Wikipedia
The view that Odysseus's landfalls are best treated as imaginary places is probably held by the majority of classical scholars today.
letters  history  iron-age  mediterranean  the-classics  big-peeps  literature  classic  canon  geography  maps  wiki  reference  article  oceans  fiction 
11 weeks ago 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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12 weeks ago by nhaliday
Why ancient Rome kept choosing bizarre and perverted emperors - Vox
Why so many bizarre emperors were able to run a vast empire
Many of these emperors had extremely small circles of advisers who often did the grunt work of running the vast empire. "The number of people who had direct access to the emperor ... was actually rather small," says Ando. The emperors ruled through networks of officials, and those officials were often more competent. They propped up the insanity at the top.

What's more, most people scattered across the vast Roman Empire didn't pay much attention. "It didn't matter how nutty Caligula was," Ando says, "unless he did something crazy with tax policy." While those living in military provinces could have been affected by an emperor's decree, those in far-flung civilian provinces might have barely noticed the change from one emperor to another.

All that underlines the real truth about imperial power in Rome: yes, there were some crazy emperors, and some of the rumors were probably true. But the most bizarre thing about the Roman Empire wasn't the emperors — it was the political structure that made them so powerful in the first place.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Forgotten Books
"read old books"

they have a copy of G.M. Cookson's Aeschylus translations
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca - Wikipedia
Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca [edita consilio et auctoritate academiae litterarum Regiae Borussicae] (CAG) is the standard collection of extant ancient Greek commentaries on Aristotle. The 23 volumes in the series were released between the years 1882 and 1909 by the publisher Reimer. Many of these commentaries have since been translated into English by the Ancient commentators project.
letters  history  iron-age  mediterranean  the-classics  canon  literature  big-peeps  philosophy  wiki  reference  links  list  foreign-lang  anglo 
november 2017 by nhaliday
The Same Old Story | West Hunter
People often reinterpret past events, recast them in terms of some contemporary ideology. When historians talk about the Monophysites in Byzantine times, they often suggest that those struggle are a mask for a kind of proto-nationalism. Maybe they were: and maybe nobody involved was thinking anything remotely like that. The Communists tried to come up with Marxist interpretations of ancient history, which led them to spend way too much time talking about Mazdakites in Sassanian Persia and the Zealots of Thessalonika . And Spartacus: but at least Spartacus was cool.

Then there are feminist versions of history. Let us never speak of them again.

Generally, this is all crap. But we could at least hope for something new along these lines: bullshit perhaps, but at least fresh bullshit. Obviously the reality underlying both the Punic Wars and the Crusades is the ancient struggle between EEF and ANE.
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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
Fortifications and Democracy in the Ancient Greek World by Josiah Ober, Barry Weingast :: SSRN
- Joshiah Ober, Barry Weingast

In the modern world, access-limiting fortification walls are not typically regarded as promoting democracy. But in Greek antiquity, increased investment in fortifications was correlated with the prevalence and stability of democracy. This paper sketches the background conditions of the Greek city-state ecology, analyzes a passage in Aristotle’s Politics, and assesses the choices of Hellenistic kings, Greek citizens, and urban elites, as modeled in a simple game. The paper explains how city walls promoted democracy and helps to explain several other puzzles: why Hellenistic kings taxed Greek cities at lower than expected rates; why elites in Greek cities supported democracy; and why elites were not more heavily taxed by democratic majorities. The relationship between walls, democracy, and taxes promoted continued economic growth into the late classical and Hellenistic period (4th-2nd centuries BCE), and ultimately contributed to the survival of Greek culture into the Roman era, and thus modernity. We conclude with a consideration of whether the walls-democracy relationship holds in modernity.
study  broad-econ  economics  polisci  political-econ  institutions  government  north-weingast-like  democracy  walls  correlation  polis  history  mediterranean  iron-age  the-classics  microfoundations  modernity  comparison  architecture  military  public-goodish  elite  civic  taxes  redistribution  canon  literature  big-peeps  conquest-empire  rent-seeking  defense  models  GT-101  incentives  urban  urban-rural 
november 2017 by nhaliday
Review of Yuval Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.
https://twitter.com/whyvert/status/928472237052649472
https://archive.is/MPO5Q
Yuval Harari's prominent book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind gets a thorough and well deserved fisking by C.R. Hallpike.

For Harari the great innovation that separated us from the apes was what he calls the Cognitive Revolution, around 70,000 years ago when we started migrating out of Africa, which he thinks gave us the same sort of modern minds that we have now. 'At the individual level, ancient foragers were the most knowledgeable and skilful people in history...Survival in that area required superb mental abilities from everyone' (55), and 'The people who carved the Stadel lion-man some 30,000 years ago had the same physical, emotional, and intellectual abilities we have' (44). Not surprisingly, then, 'We'd be able to explain to them everything we know - from the adventures of Alice in Wonderland to the paradoxes of quantum physics - and they could teach us how their people view the world' (23).

It's a sweet idea, and something like this imagined meeting actually took place a few years ago between the linguist Daniel Everett and the Piraha foragers of the Amazon in Peru (Everett 2008). But far from being able to discuss quantum theory with them, he found that the Piraha couldn't even count, and had no numbers of any kind, They could teach Everett how they saw the world, which was entirely confined to the immediate experience of the here-and-now, with no interest in past or future, or really in anything that could not be seen or touched. They had no myths or stories, so Alice in Wonderland would have fallen rather flat as well.

...

Summing up the book as a whole, one has often had to point out how surprisingly little he seems to have read on quite a number of essential topics. It would be fair to say that whenever his facts are broadly correct they are not new, and whenever he tries to strike out on his own he often gets things wrong, sometimes seriously. So we should not judge Sapiens as a serious contribution to knowledge but as 'infotainment', a publishing event to titillate its readers by a wild intellectual ride across the landscape of history, dotted with sensational displays of speculation, and ending with blood-curdling predictions about human destiny. By these criteria it is a most successful book.
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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.
art  classic  usa  history  early-modern  anglosphere  pre-ww2  wiki  iron-age  mediterranean  the-classics  conquest-empire  gibbon  nihil  civilization  aristos  wisdom 
november 2017 by nhaliday
Brush Up Your Aeschylus
For most of its 100-year heyday, Greek tragedy's preference for the stylized, the abstract and the formal over anything we might think of as naturalistic was reflected both in the circumstances of its production (which, with elaborate masks and costumes and rigidly formalized music and dances, seems to have been a cross between Noh and grand opera) and in the dense, allusive, often hieratic formal language that the tragedians employed, one that fully exploited the considerable suppleness of ancient Greek. Needless to say, this language has posed problems for translators, who usually have to choose between conveying the literal meaning of the Greek -- crucial to understanding tragedy's intellectual and moral themes -- and its considerable poetic allure.

David Grene and Richmond Lattimore, the classicist translators who edited the University of Chicago Press series, which for the past two generations has been the standard American translation, generally opted for clarity of sense -- no doubt in reaction to the flowery, high (and highfalutin) diction that notoriously characterized earlier translations, none more so than the widely consulted Loeb Library translations. (''How camest thou to Earth's prophetic navel?'' the Loeb's Medea inquires of someone returning from Delphi.) The Chicago translations, with their crisp, straightforward and dignified English, manage on the whole to convey the meaning, if not always the varied styles, of the originals.

It is primarily in reaction to cautious translations like Chicago's that the University of Pennsylvania Press has begun its own ambitious new project: the reinterpretation of all the extant Greek drama -- both tragedy and comedy -- not by classics scholars but by contemporary poets, many of whom don't know any Greek at all and achieved their translations by consulting earlier English versions. According to the series' co-editor, David R. Slavitt, its aim is to freshen up the plays, providing the general public with translations that are ''performable, faithful to the texture . . . and the moment on stage, rather than the individual sequence of adjectives.'' Yet even if you accept these versions as interpretations rather than straight translations, as Slavitt invites us to do (ignoring the fact that the Penn versions are presented as ''translations'' that are ''loyal to the Greek originals'' and will become ''the standard for decades to come''), this new series is a disappointment thus far. Six of the projected 12 volumes are now available, and they are extremely uneven, providing neither the intellectual satisfactions of the original nor, it must be said, the compensatory pleasures of really distinguished English poetry. Indeed, the strained and unconvincing efforts at novelty that are this series' distinguishing characteristic suggest that the real goal here was, in the words of the press's director, Eric Halpern, ''to create a publishing event.''
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october 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.
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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
Biopolitics | West Hunter
I have said before that no currently popular ideology acknowledges well-established results of behavioral genetics, quantitative genetics, or psychometrics. Or evolutionary psychology.

What if some ideology or political tradition did? what could they do? What problems could they solve, what capabilities would they have?

Various past societies knew a few things along these lines. They knew that there were significant physical and behavioral differences between the sexes, which is forbidden knowledge in modern academia. Some knew that close inbreeding had negative consequences, which knowledge is on its way to the forbidden zone as I speak. Some cultures with wide enough geographical experience had realistic notions of average cognitive differences between populations. Some people had a rough idea about regression to the mean [ in dynasties], and the Ottomans came up with a highly unpleasant solution – the law of fratricide. The Romans, during the Principate, dealt with the same problem through imperial adoption. The Chinese exam system is in part aimed at the same problem.

...

At least some past societies avoided the social patterns leading to the nasty dysgenic trends we are experiencing today, but for the most part that is due to the anthropic principle: if they’d done something else you wouldn’t be reading this. Also to between-group competition: if you fuck your self up when others don’t, you may be well be replaced. Which is still the case.

If you were designing an ideology from scratch you could make use of all of these facts – not that thinking about genetics and selection hands you the solution to every problem, but you’d have more strings to your bow. And, off the top of your head, you’d understand certain trends that are behind the mountains of Estcarp, for our current ruling classes : invisible and unthinkable, That Which Must Not Be Named. .

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/10/08/biopolitics/#comment-96613
“The closest…s the sort of libertarianism promulgated by Charles Murray”
Not very close..
A government that was fully aware of the implications and possibilities of human genetics, one that had the usual kind of state goals [ like persistence and increased power] , would not necessarily be particularly libertarian.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/10/08/biopolitics/#comment-96797
And giving tax breaks to college-educated liberals to have babies wouldn’t appeal much to Trump voters, methinks.

It might be worth making a reasonably comprehensive of the facts and preferences that a good liberal is supposed to embrace and seem to believe. You would have to be fairly quick about it, before it changes. Then you could evaluate about the social impact of having more of them.

Rise and Fall: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/rise-and-fall/
Every society selects for something: generally it looks as if the direction of selection pressue is more or less an accident. Although nations and empires in the past could have decided to select men for bravery or intelligence, there’s not much sign that anyone actually did this. I mean, they would have known how, if they’d wanted to, just as they knew how to select for destriers, coursers, and palfreys. It was still possible to know such things in the Middle Ages, because Harvard did not yet exist.

A rising empire needs quality human capital, which implies that at minimum that budding imperial society must not have been strongly dysgenic. At least not in the beginning. But winning changes many things, possibly including selective pressures. Imagine an empire with substantial urbanization, one in which talented guys routinely end up living in cities – cities that were demographic sinks. That might change things. Or try to imagine an empire in which survival challenges are greatly reduced, at least for elites, so that people have nothing to keep their minds off their minds and up worshiping Magna Mater. Imagine that an empire that conquers a rival with interesting local pathogens and brings some of them home. Or one that uses up a lot of its manpower conquering less-talented subjects and importing masses of those losers into the imperial heartland.

If any of those scenarios happened valid, they might eventually result in imperial decline – decline due to decreased biological capital.

Right now this is speculation. If we knew enough about the GWAS hits for intelligence, and had enough ancient DNA, we might be able to observe that rise and fall, just as we see dysgenic trends in contemporary populations. But that won’t happen for a long time. Say, a year.

hmm: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/rise-and-fall/#comment-100350
“Although nations and empires in the past could have decided to select men for bravery or intelligence, there’s not much sign that anyone actually did this.”

Maybe the Chinese imperial examination could effectively have been a selection for intelligence.
--
Nope. I’ve modelled it: the fraction of winners is far too small to have much effect, while there were likely fitness costs from the arduous preparation. Moreover, there’s a recent
paper [Detecting polygenic adaptation in admixture graphs] that looks for indications of when selection for IQ hit northeast Asia: quite a while ago. Obvious though, since Japan has similar scores without ever having had that kind of examination system.

decline of British Empire and utility of different components: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/rise-and-fall/#comment-100390
Once upon a time, India was a money maker for the British, mainly because they appropriate Bengali tax revenue, rather than trade. The rest of the Empire was not worth much: it didn’t materially boost British per-capita income or military potential. Silesia was worth more to Germany, conferred more war-making power, than Africa was to Britain.
--
If you get even a little local opposition, a colony won’t pay for itself. I seem to remember that there was some, in Palestine.
--
Angels from on high paid for the Boer War.

You know, someone in the 50’s asked for the numbers – how much various colonies cost and how much they paid.

Turned out that no one had ever asked. The Colonial Office had no idea.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Genetic history of Italy - Wikipedia
The so-called barbarian migrations that occurred on Italian soil following the fall of the Western Roman Empire have probably not significantly altered the gene pool of the Italian people.[23] These migrations generally consisted of relatively small groups of people that either did not remain on the peninsula or settled in densely populated areas of Italy, therefore becoming genetically diluted and assimilated into the predominant genetic population within a relatively short amount of time.[23] Despite the lengthy Goth and Lombard presence in Italy, the I1 haplogroup associated with the Norsemen is present only among 6-7% of mainland Italians,[24] peaking at 11% in the northeast (20% in Udine[25] and 30% in Stelvio[26]). An average frequency of 5% I1 has been detected in Sicily, 8% in the western part and 2% in the eastern.[27]
article  history  iron-age  mediterranean  the-classics  conquest-empire  gene-flow  migration  europe  germanic  nordic  data  genetics  genomics  gibbon  wiki  reference 
september 2017 by nhaliday
WLGR: The Julian marriage laws (nos. 120-123, etc.)
In 18 B.C., the Emperor Augustus turned his attention to social problems at Rome. Extravagance and adultery were widespread. Among the upper classes, marriage was increasingly infrequent and, many couples who did marry failed to produce offspring. Augustus, who hoped thereby to elevate both the morals and the numbers of the upper classes in Rome, and to increase the population of native Italians in Italy, enacted laws to encourage marriage and having children (lex Julia de maritandis ordinibus), including provisions establishing adultery as a crime.

Jus trium liberorum: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jus_trium_liberorum
The ius trium liberorum, meaning “the right of three children” in Latin,[1] was a privilege rewarded to Roman citizens who had borne at least three children or freedmen who had borne at least four children.[2] It was a direct result of the Lex Iulia and the Lex Papia Poppaea, bodies of legislation introduced by Augustus in 18 BC and 9 AD, respectively.[3] These bodies of legislation were conceived to grow the dwindling population of the Roman upper classes. The intent of the jus trium liberorum has caused scholars to interpret it as eugenic legislation.[4] Men who had received the jus trium liberorum were excused from munera. Women with jus trium liberorum were no longer submitted to tutela mulierum and could receive inheritances otherwise bequest to their children.[5] The public reaction to the jus trium liberorum was largely to find loopholes, however. The prospect of having a large family was still not appealing.[6] A person who caught a citizen in violation in this law was entitled to a portion of the inheritance involved, creating a lucrative business for professional spies.[7] The spies became so pervasive that the reward was reduced to a quarter of its previous size.[8] As time went on the ius trium liberorum was granted to those by consuls as rewards for general good deeds, holding important professions or as personal favors, not just prolific propagation.[9] Eventually the ius trium liberorum was repealed in 534 AD by Justinian.[10]

The Purpose of the Lex Iulia et Papia Poppaea: https://sci-hub.bz/https://www.jstor.org/stable/3292043

Did moral decay destroy the ancient world?: http://www.roger-pearse.com/weblog/2014/01/17/did-moral-decay-destroy-the-ancient-world/

hmmm...:
https://www.thenation.com/article/im-a-marxist-feminist-slut-how-do-i-find-an-open-relationship/
https://www.indy100.com/article/worst-decision-you-can-ever-make-have-a-child-science-research-parent-sleep-sex-money-video-7960906

https://twitter.com/tcjfs/status/913087174224044033
https://archive.is/LRpzH
Cato the Elder speaks on proposed repeal of the Oppian Law (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lex_Oppia) - from Livy's History of Rome, Book 34

"What pretext in the least degree respectable is put forward for this female insurrection? 'That we may shine,' they say."

The Crisis of the Third Century as Seen by Contemporaries: https://grbs.library.duke.edu/article/viewFile/9021/4625
"COMPLAINTS OF EVIL TIMES are to be found in all centuries which
have left a literature behind them. But in the Roman Empire
the decline is acknowledged in a manner which leaves no
room for doubt."

Morals, Politics, and the Fall of the Roman Republic: https://sci-hub.cc/https://www.jstor.org/stable/642930

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_historiography#Livy
The purpose of writing Ab Urbe Condita was twofold: the first was to memorialize history and the second was to challenge his generation to rise to that same level. He was preoccupied with morality, using history as a moral essay. He connects a nation’s success with its high level of morality, and conversely a nation’s failure with its moral decline. Livy believed that there had been a moral decline in Rome, and he lacked the confidence that Augustus could reverse it. Though he shared Augustus’ ideals, he was not a “spokesman for the regime”. He believed that Augustus was necessary, but only as a short term measure.

Livy and Roman Historiography: http://www.wheelockslatin.com/answerkeys/handouts/ch7_Livy_and_Roman_Historiography.pdf

Imperial Expansion and Moral Decline in the Roman Republic: https://sci-hub.cc/https://www.jstor.org/stable/4435293
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Early History of Electricity and Magnetism
The ancient Greeks also knew about magnets. They noted that on rare occasions "lodestones" were found in nature, chunks of iron-rich ore with the puzzling ability to attract iron. Some were discovered near the city of Magnesia (now in Turkey), and from there the words "magnetism" and "magnet" entered the language. The ancient Chinese discovered lodestones independently, and in addition found that after a piece of steel was "touched to a lodestone" it became a magnet itself.'

...

One signpost of the new era was the book "De Magnete" (Latin for "On the Magnet") published in London in 1600 by William Gilbert, a prominent medical doctor and (after 1601) personal physician to Queen Elizabeth I. Gilbert's great interest was in magnets and the strange directional properties of the compass needle, always pointing close to north-south. He correctly traced the reason to the globe of the Earth being itself a giant magnet, and demonstrated his explanation by moving a small compass over the surface of a lodestone trimmed to a sphere (or supplemented to spherical shape by iron attachments?)--a scale model he named "terrella" or "little Earth," on which he was able to duplicate all the directional properties of the compass. (here and here)
nibble  org:edu  org:junk  lecture-notes  history  iron-age  mediterranean  the-classics  physics  electromag  science  the-trenches  the-great-west-whale  discovery  medieval  earth 
september 2017 by nhaliday
Ptolemy's Model of the Solar System
It follows, from the above discussion, that the geocentric model of Ptolemy is equivalent to a heliocentric model in which the various planetary orbits are represented as eccentric circles, and in which the radius vector connecting a given planet to its corresponding equant revolves at a uniform rate. In fact, Ptolemy's model of planetary motion can be thought of as a version of Kepler's model which is accurate to first-order in the planetary eccentricities--see Cha. 4. According to the Ptolemaic scheme, from the point of view of the earth, the orbit of the sun is described by a single circular motion, whereas that of a planet is described by a combination of two circular motions. In reality, the single circular motion of the sun represents the (approximately) circular motion of the earth around the sun, whereas the two circular motions of a typical planet represent a combination of the planet's (approximately) circular motion around the sun, and the earth's motion around the sun. Incidentally, the popular myth that Ptolemy's scheme requires an absurdly large number of circles in order to fit the observational data to any degree of accuracy has no basis in fact. Actually, Ptolemy's model of the sun and the planets, which fits the data very well, only contains 12 circles (i.e., 6 deferents and 6 epicycles).
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Atrocity statistics from the Roman Era
General population decline during The Fall of Rome: 7,000,000 [make link]
- Colin McEvedy, The New Penguin Atlas of Medieval History (1992)
- From 2nd Century CE to 4th Century CE: Empire's population declined from 45M to 36M [i.e. 9M]
- From 400 CE to 600 CE: Empire's population declined by 20% [i.e. 7.2M]
- Paul Bairoch, Cities and economic development: from the dawn of history to the present, p.111
- "The population of Europe except Russia, then, having apparently reached a high point of some 40-55 million people by the start of the third century [ca.200 C.E.], seems to have fallen by the year 500 to about 30-40 million, bottoming out at about 20-35 million around 600." [i.e. ca.20M]
- Francois Crouzet, A History of the European Economy, 1000-2000 (University Press of Virginia: 2001) p.1.
- "The population of Europe (west of the Urals) in c. AD 200 has been estimated at 36 million; by 600, it had fallen to 26 million; another estimate (excluding ‘Russia’) gives a more drastic fall, from 44 to 22 million." [i.e. 10M or 22M]

also:
The geometric mean of these two extremes would come to 4½ per day, which is a credible daily rate for the really bad years.

why geometric mean? can you get it as the MLE given min{X1, ..., Xn} and max{X1, ..., Xn} for {X_i} iid Poissons? some kinda limit? think it might just be a rule of thumb.

yeah, it's a rule of thumb. found it it his book (epub).
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Why was the Catholic Church so opposed to heliocentrism (for example, in the Renaissance)? Why did they not simply claim that God lived in the Sun, so we go around Him? - Quora
The main reason the Catholic Church opposed the teaching of heliocentrism as a fact was that it was contrary to the science of the time.

Amongst the modern myths about early science is the persistent idea that the opposition to heliocentrism was one of "science" versus "religion". According to this story, early modern astronomers like Copernicus and Galileo "proved" the earth went around the sun and the other scientists of the time agreed. But the Catholic Church clung to a literal interpretation of the Bible and rejected this idea purely out of a fanatical faith, insisting that the earth had to be the centre of the cosmos because man was the pinnacle of all creation. Pretty much everything in this popular story is wrong.
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Medicine as a pseudoscience | West Hunter
The idea that venesection was a good thing, or at least not so bad, on the grounds that one in a few hundred people have hemochromatosis (in Northern Europe) reminds me of the people who don’t wear a seatbelt, since it would keep them from being thrown out of their convertible into a waiting haystack, complete with nubile farmer’s daughter. Daughters. It could happen. But it’s not the way to bet.

Back in the good old days, Charles II, age 53, had a fit one Sunday evening, while fondling two of his mistresses.

Monday they bled him (cupping and scarifying) of eight ounces of blood. Followed by an antimony emetic, vitriol in peony water, purgative pills, and a clyster. Followed by another clyster after two hours. Then syrup of blackthorn, more antimony, and rock salt. Next, more laxatives, white hellebore root up the nostrils. Powdered cowslip flowers. More purgatives. Then Spanish Fly. They shaved his head and stuck blistering plasters all over it, plastered the soles of his feet with tar and pigeon-dung, then said good-night.

...

Friday. The king was worse. He tells them not to let poor Nelly starve. They try the Oriental Bezoar Stone, and more bleeding. Dies at noon.

Most people didn’t suffer this kind of problem with doctors, since they never saw one. Charles had six. Now Bach and Handel saw the same eye surgeon, John Taylor – who blinded both of them. Not everyone can put that on his resume!

You may wonder how medicine continued to exist, if it had a negative effect, on the whole. There’s always the placebo effect – at least there would be, if it existed. Any real placebo effect is very small: I’d guess exactly zero. But there is regression to the mean. You see the doctor when you’re feeling worse than average – and afterwards, if he doesn’t kill you outright, you’re likely to feel better. Which would have happened whether you’d seen him or not, but they didn’t often do RCTs back in the day – I think James Lind was the first (1747).

Back in the late 19th century, Christian Scientists did better than others when sick, because they didn’t believe in medicine. For reasons I think mistaken, because Mary Baker Eddy rejected the reality of the entire material world, but hey, it worked. Parenthetically, what triggered all that New Age nonsense in 19th century New England? Hash?

This did not change until fairly recently. Sometime in the early 20th medicine, clinical medicine, what doctors do, hit break-even. Now we can’t do without it. I wonder if there are, or will be, other examples of such a pile of crap turning (mostly) into a real science.

good tweet: https://twitter.com/bowmanthebard/status/897146294191390720
The brilliant GP I've had for 35+ years has retired. How can I find another one who meets my requirements?

1 is overweight
2 drinks more than officially recommended amounts
3 has an amused, tolerant atitude to human failings
4 is well aware that we're all going to die anyway, & there are better or worse ways to die
5 has a healthy skeptical attitude to mainstream medical science
6 is wholly dismissive of "a|ternative” medicine
7 believes in evolution
8 thinks most diseases get better without intervention, & knows the dangers of false positives
9 understands the base rate fallacy

EconPapers: Was Civil War Surgery Effective?: http://econpapers.repec.org/paper/htrhcecon/444.htm
contra Greg Cochran:
To shed light on the subject, I analyze a data set created by Dr. Edmund Andrews, a Civil war surgeon with the 1st Illinois Light Artillery. Dr. Andrews’s data can be rendered into an observational data set on surgical intervention and recovery, with controls for wound location and severity. The data also admits instruments for the surgical decision. My analysis suggests that Civil War surgery was effective, and increased the probability of survival of the typical wounded soldier, with average treatment effect of 0.25-0.28.

Medical Prehistory: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/medical-prehistory/
What ancient medical treatments worked?

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/medical-prehistory/#comment-76878
In some very, very limited conditions, bleeding?
--
Bad for you 99% of the time.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/medical-prehistory/#comment-76947
Colchicine – used to treat gout – discovered by the Ancient Greeks.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/medical-prehistory/#comment-76973
Dracunculiasis (Guinea worm)
Wrap the emerging end of the worm around a stick and slowly pull it out.
(3,500 years later, this remains the standard treatment.)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebers_Papyrus

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/medical-prehistory/#comment-76971
Some of the progress is from formal medicine, most is from civil engineering, better nutrition ( ag science and physical chemistry), less crowded housing.

Nurses vs doctors: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/nurses-vs-doctors/
Medicine, the things that doctors do, was an ineffective pseudoscience until fairly recently. Until 1800 or so, they were wrong about almost everything. Bleeding, cupping, purging, the four humors – useless. In the 1800s, some began to realize that they were wrong, and became medical nihilists that improved outcomes by doing less. Some patients themselves came to this realization, as when Civil War casualties hid from the surgeons and had better outcomes. Sometime in the early 20th century, MDs reached break-even, and became an increasingly positive influence on human health. As Lewis Thomas said, medicine is the youngest science.

Nursing, on the other hand, has always been useful. Just making sure that a patient is warm and nourished when too sick to take care of himself has helped many survive. In fact, some of the truly crushing epidemics have been greatly exacerbated when there were too few healthy people to take care of the sick.

Nursing must be old, but it can’t have existed forever. Whenever it came into existence, it must have changed the selective forces acting on the human immune system. Before nursing, being sufficiently incapacitated would have been uniformly fatal – afterwards, immune responses that involved a period of incapacitation (with eventual recovery) could have been selectively favored.

when MDs broke even: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/nurses-vs-doctors/#comment-58981
I’d guess the 1930s. Lewis Thomas thought that he was living through big changes. They had a working serum therapy for lobar pneumonia ( antibody-based). They had many new vaccines ( diphtheria in 1923, whopping cough in 1926, BCG and tetanus in 1927, yellow fever in 1935, typhus in 1937.) Vitamins had been mostly worked out. Insulin was discovered in 1929. Blood transfusions. The sulfa drugs, first broad-spectrum antibiotics, showed up in 1935.

DALYs per doctor: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/dalys-per-doctor/
The disability-adjusted life year (DALY) is a measure of overall disease burden – the number of years lost. I’m wondering just much harm premodern medicine did, per doctor. How many healthy years of life did a typical doctor destroy (net) in past times?

...

It looks as if the average doctor (in Western medicine) killed a bunch of people over his career ( when contrasted with doing nothing). In the Charles Manson class.

Eventually the market saw through this illusion. Only took a couple of thousand years.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/dalys-per-doctor/#comment-100741
That a very large part of healthcare spending is done for non-health reasons. He has a chapter on this in his new book, also check out his paper “Showing That You Care: The Evolution of Health Altruism” http://mason.gmu.edu/~rhanson/showcare.pdf
--
I ran into too much stupidity to finish the article. Hanson’s a loon. For example when he talks about the paradox of blacks being more sentenced on drug offenses than whites although they use drugs at similar rate. No paradox: guys go to the big house for dealing, not for using. Where does he live – Mars?

I had the same reaction when Hanson parroted some dipshit anthropologist arguing that the stupid things people do while drunk are due to social expectations, not really the alcohol.
Horseshit.

I don’t think that being totally unable to understand everybody around you necessarily leads to deep insights.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/dalys-per-doctor/#comment-100744
What I’ve wondered is if there was anything that doctors did that actually was helpful and if perhaps that little bit of success helped them fool people into thinking the rest of it helped.
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Setting bones. extracting arrows: spoon of Diocles. Colchicine for gout. Extracting the Guinea worm. Sometimes they got away with removing the stone. There must be others.
--
Quinine is relatively recent: post-1500. Obstetrical forceps also. Caesarean deliveries were almost always fatal to the mother until fairly recently.

Opium has been around for a long while : it works.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/dalys-per-doctor/#comment-100839
If pre-modern medicine was indeed worse than useless – how do you explain no one noticing that patients who get expensive treatments are worse off than those who didn’t?
--
were worse off. People are kinda dumb – you’ve noticed?
--
My impression is that while people may be “kinda dumb”, ancient customs typically aren’t.
Even if we assume that all people who lived prior to the 19th century were too dumb to make the rational observation, wouldn’t you expect this ancient practice to be subject to selective pressure?
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Your impression is wrong. Do you think that there some slick reason for Carthaginians incinerating their first-born?

Theodoric of York, bloodletting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvff3TViXmY

details on blood-letting and hemochromatosis: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/dalys-per-doctor/#comment-100746

Starting Over: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/23/starting-over/
Looking back on it, human health would have … [more]
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august 2017 by nhaliday
GALILEO'S STUDIES OF PROJECTILE MOTION
During the Renaissance, the focus, especially in the arts, was on representing as accurately as possible the real world whether on a 2 dimensional surface or a solid such as marble or granite. This required two things. The first was new methods for drawing or painting, e.g., perspective. The second, relevant to this topic, was careful observation.

With the spread of cannon in warfare, the study of projectile motion had taken on greater importance, and now, with more careful observation and more accurate representation, came the realization that projectiles did not move the way Aristotle and his followers had said they did: the path of a projectile did not consist of two consecutive straight line components but was instead a smooth curve. [1]

Now someone needed to come up with a method to determine if there was a special curve a projectile followed. But measuring the path of a projectile was not easy.

Using an inclined plane, Galileo had performed experiments on uniformly accelerated motion, and he now used the same apparatus to study projectile motion. He placed an inclined plane on a table and provided it with a curved piece at the bottom which deflected an inked bronze ball into a horizontal direction. The ball thus accelerated rolled over the table-top with uniform motion and then fell off the edge of the table Where it hit the floor, it left a small mark. The mark allowed the horizontal and vertical distances traveled by the ball to be measured. [2]

By varying the ball's horizontal velocity and vertical drop, Galileo was able to determine that the path of a projectile is parabolic.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/author/stillman-drake/

Galileo's Discovery of the Parabolic Trajectory: http://www.jstor.org/stable/24949756

Galileo's Experimental Confirmation of Horizontal Inertia: Unpublished Manuscripts (Galileo
Gleanings XXII): https://sci-hub.cc/https://www.jstor.org/stable/229718
- Drake Stillman

MORE THAN A DECADE HAS ELAPSED since Thomas Settle published a classic paper in which Galileo's well-known statements about his experiments on inclined planes were completely vindicated.' Settle's paper replied to an earlier attempt by Alexandre Koyre to show that Galileo could not have obtained the results he claimed in his Two New Sciences by actual observations using the equipment there described. The practical ineffectiveness of Settle's painstaking repetition of the experiments in altering the opinion of historians of science is only too evident. Koyre's paper was reprinted years later in book form without so much as a note by the editors concerning Settle's refutation of its thesis.2 And the general literature continues to belittle the role of experiment in Galileo's physics.

More recently James MacLachlan has repeated and confirmed a different experiment reported by Galileo-one which has always seemed highly exaggerated and which was also rejected by Koyre with withering sarcasm.3 In this case, however, it was accuracy of observation rather than precision of experimental data that was in question. Until now, nothing has been produced to demonstrate Galileo's skill in the design and the accurate execution of physical experiment in the modern sense.

Pant of a page of Galileo's unpublished manuscript notes, written late in 7608, corroborating his inertial assumption and leading directly to his discovery of the parabolic trajectory. (Folio 1 16v Vol. 72, MSS Galileiani; courtesy of the Biblioteca Nazionale di Firenze.)

...

(The same skeptical historians, however, believe that to show that Galileo could have used the medieval mean-speed theorem suffices to prove that he did use it, though it is found nowhere in his published or unpublished writings.)

...

Now, it happens that among Galileo's manuscript notes on motion there are many pages that were not published by Favaro, since they contained only calculations or diagrams without attendant propositions or explanations. Some pages that were published had first undergone considerable editing, making it difficult if not impossible to discern their full significance from their printed form. This unpublished material includes at least one group of notes which cannot satisfactorily be accounted for except as representing a series of experiments designed to test a fundamental assumption, which led to a new, important discovery. In these documents precise empirical data are given numerically, comparisons are made with calculated values derived from theory, a source of discrepancy from still another expected result is noted, a new experiment is designed to eliminate this, and further empirical data are recorded. The last-named data, although proving to be beyond Galileo's powers of mathematical analysis at the time, when subjected to modern analysis turn out to be remarkably precise. If this does not represent the experimental process in its fully modern sense, it is hard to imagine what standards historians require to be met.

The discovery of these notes confirms the opinion of earlier historians. They read only Galileo's published works, but did so without a preconceived notion of continuity in the history of ideas. The opinion of our more sophisticated colleagues has its sole support in philosophical interpretations that fit with preconceived views of orderly long-term scientific development. To find manuscript evidence that Galileo was at home in the physics laboratory hardly surprises me. I should find it much more astonishing if, by reasoning alone, working only from fourteenth-century theories and conclusions, he had continued along lines so different from those followed by profound philosophers in earlier centuries. It is to be hoped that, warned by these examples, historians will begin to restore the old cautionary clauses in analogous instances in which scholarly opinions are revised without new evidence, simply to fit historical theories.

In what follows, the newly discovered documents are presented in the context of a hypothetical reconstruction of Galileo's thought.

...

As early as 1590, if we are correct in ascribing Galileo's juvenile De motu to that date, it was his belief that an ideal body resting on an ideal horizontal plane could be set in motion by a force smaller than any previously assigned force, however small. By "horizontal plane" he meant a surface concentric with the earth but which for reasonable distances would be indistinguishable from a level plane. Galileo noted at the time that experiment did not confirm this belief that the body could be set in motion by a vanishingly small force, and he attributed the failure to friction, pressure, the imperfection of material surfaces and spheres, and the departure of level planes from concentricity with the earth.5

It followed from this belief that under ideal conditions the motion so induced would also be perpetual and uniform. Galileo did not mention these consequences until much later, and it is impossible to say just when he perceived them. They are, however, so evident that it is safe to assume that he saw them almost from the start. They constitute a trivial case of the proposition he seems to have been teaching before 1607-that a mover is required to start motion, but that absence of resistance is then sufficient to account for its continuation.6

In mid-1604, following some investigations of motions along circular arcs and motions of pendulums, Galileo hit upon the law that in free fall the times elapsed from rest are as the smaller distance is to the mean proportional between two distances fallen.7 This gave him the times-squared law as well as the rule of odd numbers for successive distances and speeds in free fall. During the next few years he worked out a large number of theorems relating to motion along inclined planes, later published in the Two New Sciences. He also arrived at the rule that the speed terminating free fall from rest was double the speed of the fall itself. These theorems survive in manuscript notes of the period 1604-1609. (Work during these years can be identified with virtual certainty by the watermarks in the paper used, as I have explained elsewhere.8)

In the autumn of 1608, after a summer at Florence, Galileo seems to have interested himself in the question whether the actual slowing of a body moving horizontally followed any particular rule. On folio 117i of the manuscripts just mentioned, the numbers 196, 155, 121, 100 are noted along the horizontal line near the middle of the page (see Fig. 1). I believe that this was the first entry on this leaf, for reasons that will appear later, and that Galileo placed his grooved plane in the level position and recorded distances traversed in equal times along it. Using a metronome, and rolling a light wooden ball about 4 3/4 inches in diameter along a plane with a groove 1 3/4 inches wide, I obtained similar relations over a distance of 6 feet. The figures obtained vary greatly for balls of different materials and weights and for greatly different initial speeds.9 But it suffices for my present purposes that Galileo could have obtained the figures noted by observing the actual deceleration of a ball along a level plane. It should be noted that the watermark on this leaf is like that on folio 116, to which we shall come presently, and it will be seen later that the two sheets are closely connected in time in other ways as well.

The relatively rapid deceleration is obviously related to the contact of ball and groove. Were the ball to roll right off the end of the plane, all resistance to horizontal motion would be virtually removed. If, then, there were any way to have a given ball leave the plane at different speeds of which the ratios were known, Galileo's old idea that horizontal motion would continue uniformly in the absence of resistance could be put to test. His law of free fall made this possible. The ratios of speeds could be controlled by allowing the ball to fall vertically through known heights, at the ends of which it would be deflected horizontally. Falls through given heights … [more]
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august 2017 by nhaliday
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