Turns out “Hobbits” ain’t our close cousins after all

❝ Researchers who studied the bones of Homo floresiensis, a species of tiny human discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003, say their findings should end a popular theory that it evolved from an ancestor of modern humans.

The study, led by the Australian National University researcher Dr Debbie Argue from the school of archaeology and anthropology, found there was no evidence the diminutive 1.1-metre-tall Homo floresiensis evolved from the much larger Homo erectus, the only other early hominid known to have lived in the region…

❝ Argue was overseas and unavailable to comment but a member of her research team, prof Colin Groves, said the theory of a link with the Asian Homo erectus, the first of our relatives to have modern human proportions, was “a good scientific hypothesis”.

“But we believe it has now been thoroughly refuted,” he told Guardian Australia.

❝ Groves said the researchers had gone into the study of the species with an open mind. But their findings support another popular theory: that Homo floresiensis was in fact far more primitive than Homo erectus and had characteristics more similar to Homo habilis, which lived between 1.65 million and 2.4 million years ago, and which is the most ancient representative of the human genus.

Way cool. RTFA for details on the research and analysis that led to this conclusion. I have no idea how Tolkien fans feel about this finding. 🙂

Thanks, Honeyman

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“Why I’m Absolutely an Angry Black Woman”


Femi Matti

❝ Because when I was five, my kindergarten classmate told me I couldn’t be the princess in the game we were playing because black girls couldn’t be princesses. Because I was in third grade the first time a teacher seemed shocked at how “well-spoken” I was. Because in fourth grade I was told my crush didn’t like black girls.

❝ Because in sixth grade a different crush told me I was pretty  —  for a black girl. Because in 7th grade my predominantly black suburban neighborhood was nicknamed “Spring Ghettos” instead of calling it its name (Spring Meadows). Because I was in 8th grade the first time I was called an Oreo and told that I “wasn’t really black” like it was a compliment.

❝ Because in 9th grade when I switched schools a boy told me he knew I had to be mixed with something to be so pretty. Because in 10th grade my group of friends and I were called into an office and asked if we were a gang, or if we had father figures. Because in 11th grade my AP English teacher told me that I didn’t write like a college-bound student (though I later scored perfectly on the exam).

And so it goes in a Black American life. And Black lives in many other lands formed by white Imperial economics, greed. Please RTFA. Feel. Learn,

Thanks, UrsaRodinia

First Woman to officially run Boston Marathon returns after 50 years


Click to enlargeBoston Globe

❝ In 1967, 20-year-old Kathrine Switzer made history when she defiantly became the first woman to officially run in the Boston Marathon — even as race officials tried to physically stop her.

Fifty years later, she finished the race again, donning the same number: 261.

❝ “I just ran the fastest marathon I’ve run in 46 years,” she told NBC News after crossing the finish line Monday.

❝ It’s an impressive feat for someone whose coach once told her, “No dame ain’t ever run no marathon.”

Her story is well-known, especially to female runners.

As well as aficionados of sport – and more. RTFA for the whole story. She’s still an example for us all.

Rare 1907 photos advertising the Southern Pacific Railroad show West Coast in color


Click to enlarge

❝ Check out these rare photos to follow the “road of a thousand wonders,” along the California coast on the Southern Pacific Railroad.

❝ The…images from 1907 start in Los Angeles, and work their way up to Oregon. There are over a hundred stops along the way, including Ojai, San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, and many of California’s missions, including San Juan Bautista. The trip also includes Carmel-By-The-Sea, Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco, including images of the city’s resurrection from the 1906 earthquake.

❝ The images are from Sunset Magazine, shot for the Passenger Department of the Southern Pacific Company. The pictures of the West were meant to stimulate interest in the Rail Highway along the Pacific, joining California and Oregon, passing the spectacular Shasta, over the Siskiyous, to the Columbia River in Oregon.

Each image, which is in the style of a vintage postcard, is captioned as seen in the publication.

My kind of history. I love period photography. Still have my Italian grandfather’s wooden Eastman camera.

Put this article together with tales from the period, a legitimate contribution to our knowledge of where part of our American civilization comes from.

Long live irony! A solar-powered coal museum

The Kentucky Coal Mining Museum, nestled in the heart of coal country, might seem like an odd place for a solar project. But the solar panels currently being installed on its roof will ultimately save thousands in electricity costs…

“It is a little ironic,” Brandon Robinson, communications director at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College, which owns the museum, told WYMT. “But you know, coal and solar and all the different energy sources work hand-in-hand. And, of course, coal is still king around here.”

In the 2016 election, 85 percent of Harlan County, where Benham is located, voted for Donald Trump — likely in part because of his promise to bring back coal jobs, a promise that experts say is unrealistic.

Out-of-work coal miners could do lots worse than retraining for jobs in the solar trade. But, then, if you’re gullible enough to believe slogans and promises that matched the silliest, least likely, in the history of American campaigning lies – you’re more inclined to sit in your home town feeling sorry for yourself than get up, stand up, and fight for something better.

Reality TV is no source of legitimate solutions to any of life’s challenges in changing times.

If China is unfair to US companies, why is GM the best-selling car?

❝ Will the world’s two largest economies finally come to a fight over the price of cars?

Ahead of a high-stakes summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Donald Trump’s White House has made clear that it isn’t happy with China’s high tariffs on imported American automobiles. These contribute, it says, to the US’s total trade deficit with China, which was $347 billion last year. Former Obama economic advisor Larry Summers also brought up the issue in a recent meeting with China’s premier (paywall), Li Keqiang.

❝ While the US taxes imported cars and cars parts at a maximum of 2.5%, China charges tariffs of between 21% and 30%. This gives foreign automakers who want to sell in China a big incentive to manufacture there to avoid the import charge. But China also requires foreign subsidiaries to operate as 50-50 joint ventures with Chinese companies. These, of course, then become classrooms for Chinese engineers to gain foreign know-how…

❝ Further complicating everything: Now that China is the largest car market on the globe, US firms are reluctant to complain too loudly about the lopsided rules for fear of being cut off completely — US firms and their joint ventures have a major share of the market.

The articles points out some useful contemporaneous constraints. As history, it sucks. The processes described are typical of nations growing from 3rd World to developing and more. As true in Asia as Latin America. I worked in American industries in recent decades where complete products had low tariffs – and parts were charged 30-50% tariffs.

And, then, Japan doesn’t use tariffs at all to exclude American-built cars. They simply set manufacturing standards American companies can’t afford to meet. For decades, now.

❝ Witness the latest annual report from General Motors, which sells more cars in China (3.9 million) than in the US (3 million) and saw its China business grow 13% last year; one in 10 cars sold in China was a GM. “Maintaining good relations with our joint venture partners, which are affiliated with the Chinese government, is an important part of our China growth strategy,” the report said…

And, of course, Trump approaches the whole question in terms most Americans agree with. We’re the biggest and most important export market in the world and everyone should obey. We’re worth it.

As ignorant as Trump – since China’s biggest customer is the European Union and We’re #2.

Probably should mention the largest export market for 33 American states — is China. Gonna be some hollering if Trump starts a trade war.

This beautiful new cloud – Asperitas – now officially in the International Cloud Atlas


Click to enlargeInternational Cloud Atlas/Kairo Kiitsak

❝ Gavin Pretor-Pinney, the London-based president of the Cloud Appreciation Society, first saw the unusual cloud in 2006. A member of the amateur cloud-spotting group in Cedar Creeks, Iowa emailed a photo of an oddly wavy cloud, and asked how it would be classified…

Its shape was similar to what the World Meteorological Organization would categorize as an undulatus formation, but was “more intense, more chaotic.” The WMO’s International Cloud Atlas, first published in 1896, didn’t include anything like it.

❝ Every six months or so, a similar image would arrive, maybe from Scotland, or Australia. The president and others began to feel that a new label was needed to fit the unfamiliar cloud. In 2008, the amateur cloud-spotting group proposed the name asperitas, Latin for “roughness,” and submitted the idea to the WMO.

Nearly 10 years after they floated the idea, the society’s efforts paid off: the WMO has added the asperitas to the updated International Cloud Atlas, released online earlier this week…

❝ Naming clouds, says Pretor-Pinney, builds a deeper connection to what’s visible in our atmosphere, “which also makes us care more about what we’re doing to it.”

I’ll second that emotion. RTFA for details on cloud-naming in disciplined scientific fashion. An enjoyable read. Lovely photographs.