Cave dweller menus were limited by what’s available – from Woolly rhino to mushrooms

❝ Eating like a caveman meant chowing down on woolly rhinos and sheep in Belgium, but munching on mushrooms, pine nuts and moss in Spain. It all depended on where they lived, new research shows.

❝ Scientists got a sneak peek into the kitchen of three Neanderthals by scraping off the plaque stuck on their teeth and examining the DNA. What they found smashes a common public misconception that the caveman diet was mostly meat. They also found hints that one sickly teen used primitive versions of penicillin and aspirin to help ease his pain.

The dental plaque provides a lifelong record of what went in the Neanderthals’ mouths and the bacteria that lived in their guts, said study co-author Alan Cooper, director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA in Adelaide.

“It’s like a fossil,” he said.

❝ While past studies showed varied Neanderthal diets, genetic testing allowed researchers to say what kind of meat or mushrooms they ate, Cooper said. The 42,000-year-old Belgian Neanderthal’s menu of sheep and woolly rhino reflected what roamed in the plains around the Neanderthal’s home, he said. The research is in Wednesday’s journal Nature…

There were no signs of meat in the diet of the two 50,000-year-old Spanish Neanderthals, but calling them vegetarians would be a stretch, Cooper said. Their own bones showed that they were eaten by cannibals.

I don’t doubt that the politicians, priests and pundits of the time provided believable reasons for every part of life – from diet to ritual – even if they were crap. Part of the job description that hasn’t changed.

Advertisements

A Republican solution for Potholes? Go Back to Gravel Roads


One of those roads turned to gravel – and more potholes

❝ After living more than 40 years along a road plagued by potholes, Jo Anne Amoura was excited to see city crews shred her block of Leavenworth Street into gravel.

“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is great. We’re going to get a new street,’” Ms. Amoura recalled. “And then we waited and waited and waited.”

Fresh pavement never arrived. Only after the asphalt had been ripped out almost three years ago did Ms. Amoura and her neighbors learn that their street had been “reclaimed,” Omaha City Hall’s euphemism for unpaving a road…

❝ As in many big cities, the infrastructure here is crumbling, a problem exacerbated by decades of neglect and a network of residential roads, including Ms. Amoura’s, that have never met code. But Omaha’s solution is extreme: grinding paved streets into gravel as a way to cut upkeep costs…

❝ While President Trump has called for extensive investments in infrastructure, federally funded efforts are likely to go to decaying interstate highways and airports and dams. Some experts estimate that $1 trillion is needed to repair roads, bridges and rail lines over the next decade.

But infrastructure is also decaying at the most local levels — on cul-de-sacs and in neighborhood playlots unlikely ever to see federal funding. So cities like Omaha have resorted to unusual solutions…

“This isn’t something that happened over one year or two years,” said Brooks Rainwater, a senior executive and the director of the Center for City Solutions at the National League of Cities. “This has been decades of not investing in our infrastructure.”

Thing is, taxpayers have been paying their taxes. The ordinary citizens who have been living and working in America’s cities for generations. Politicians keep trying to attract industry by NOT collecting taxes from the new guys at the top of the scale. Maybe promising lower taxes for their executive class, as well.

Yes, it’s not just a Republican problem at the front end. Both clubhouses in our incompetent 2-party private political association are less than understanding of economics beyond slogans. But, the right-hand side of that 2-party equation ain’t about to begin supporting legislation and regulations that fill life’s needs for folks who work for a living. That’s reserved for the important people.

RTFA for the details, folks. It ain’t a surprise, anywhere in the GOUSA.

Why the women of Popular Science Mag are not working today


Click to enlarge

❝ You may notice that our website is looking a little light today. We’d like to explain. Today is “A Day Without a Woman,” a general strike for women’s rights and equality—so many of the women of PopSci aren’t working. And that means the website is going to be pretty quiet: While we get an awful lot of emails assuming we’re a bunch of “sirs,” the majority of the staff here is female.

❝ We happen to work with men who support and promote women’s rights, but we recognize that many women aren’t as lucky. So since this is Popular Science, we’d like to leave you some information to consider during our time away from the office:

Women earn more than half of all PhDs in the U.S., but as a 2008 study found, they comprise only 45 percent of all tenure-track faculty, 31 percent of tenured staff, and 24 percent of all full professors.

Women in science and engineering are paid an average of $60,000 a year, which is $24,000 less than their male peers. This is because science is institutionally sexist. It’s built on social structures designed to give men a leg up—or, depending on your perspective, structures designed to push women down.

When gender is the only variable, institutions are more likely to give male scientists a job offer—and they pay them better, too…

Even in science-related fields, such as nursing, where women are the majority, a 2015 study in the Journal for the American Medical Association revealed that men are still paid more—to the tune of around $5,148 a year. And yes, that’s after controlling for differences in experience and education.

RTFA for more solid info on living in a nation governed by the hypocrites we elect. Nationally, statewide and locally. Which is why we never did get round to passing an equal rights amendment.

Americans elect and re-elect footdraggers from both of the parties we’re allowed who spend more time excusing discrimination – than doing anything about it.

The evidence for vaccine safety is abundant. That will be $100,000…

❝ At what point does a body of evidence become massive enough to count as proof? When has a question been answered enough times that it can be put to rest?

When it comes to the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, it sometimes seems as though public health advocates must constantly roll the burden of proof toward a mountaintop that never comes into view.

❝ The latest salvo against vaccinations came courtesy of Robert Kennedy Jr. and Robert De Niro. At a joint appearance this week, Kennedy offered $100,000 to anyone who could turn up a study showing that it is safe to administer vaccines to children and pregnant women, with a specific call out to concerns about mercury. De Niro was there to lend his endorsement and a patina of Oscar-winning gravitas.

The article is clear and accurate on the unreliability of either in producing science that backs up their foolishness.

❝ Like most people, I can think of many handy uses for a spare hundred grand, and would gladly sit down and share my experience as a pediatrician with De Niro and Kennedy at great length. It’s nearing two decades since I graduated from medical school, and in that span of time I’ve immunized thousands of patients. Not once have I encountered a case where those immunizations could be plausibly linked with autism.

In the off chance that my word alone isn’t sufficient to collect the $100,000, I’m happy to proffer lots of studies that support the safety of vaccines. Studies never seem to settle the question for anti-vaccine activists, but they are the best evidence we could ever have, based on millions of people and using many different types of comparisons, that vaccination is safe for kids…

All of this information is readily available to anyone who chooses to look for it — 350 health organizations recently reaffirmed the safety of vaccines and highlighted more than 40 of the most respected studies in an open letter to President Trump — and yet still Kennedy and De Niro are happy to pretend none of it exists.

❝ However, if either De Niro or Kennedy read this article and change their mind, I’m happy to take the $100,000 anyhow.

I’ll second that emotion. I grew up when most of today’s vaccines hadn’t yet been designed and produced. Every spring, kids in the factory town where I grew up would compare notes about who was missing, who died over the winter.

Mumps, scarlet fever, rubella, diphtheria vaccination was just becoming universal — polio was waiting for us in the summer.

People who help you die better

❝ Thirty years ago a young anaesthetist, newly appointed as head of department at Calicut Medical College Hospital in the Indian state of Kerala, encountered a case that would change his life.

❝ A college professor aged 42 with cancer of the tongue had been referred to him by an oncologist. The man was in severe pain and the anaesthetist, Dr. M R Rajagopal, was asked if he could help. He injected the mandibular nerve in the jaw in a procedure known as a nerve block and told the patient to return in 24 hours. Next day, the pain had almost completely gone and Dr. Raj, as he is known, was pleased with his work.

“He asked me when he should come back. I told him there was no need to come back, unless the pain returned. I thought he would be happy I had cured the pain. Instead, he went home and killed himself that night.”

❝ It turned out that the oncologist had avoided explaining to the college professor that his cancer was terminal. Instead he had said he was referring him for further treatment.

“It was only when I told him there was no need to come back that he realised his cancer was incurable. He went home and told his family it was all over.”…

❝ …His patient’s suicide showed him that treating the pain was not enough…“I realised that thinking about nerve blocks was too narrow. Pain is just the visible part of the iceberg of suffering. What is ignored is the part below the surface — feelings of hopelessness and despair, worries about money, about children. That is what palliative care is about. That man gave up his life to help me understand it.”

RTFA. Please. I worked in a small way with those who brought the hospice concept to the United States. Palliative care should be a right for every human being. That’s not so easy in a nation whose government considers healthcare a privilege – and treats it as such.

Click the link. Read this tale.

Conjecture on where AI is going doesn’t make it so. Yet.

❝ Artificial intelligence is grossly misunderstood, but you can’t really blame the public. However well-intentioned, we’re up against multiple coordinated efforts to distort the field, whether that’s technologist doomsaying or Singularity marketing. And, as is often the case in overhyped and-or distorted science, there aren’t really people on the inside doing the work of bullshit-calling.

❝ DARPAtv published the video below a few weeks ago and it’s worth your 15 minutes. It’s a rare clear-eyed look into the guts of AI that’s also simple enough for most non-technical folks to follow. It’s dry, but IRL computer science is pretty dry. The key point is that that this stuff is still really hard, and many of the things that we imagine AI to be capable of or imminently capable of are in fact looming challenges in the field—problems just now being formulated.

Click it and watch it.