I founded Dangerous Intersection back in March, 2006. That was 4,500 posts and 21,000 comments ago. Now that we’ve reached the end of another year, I decided to check DI’s traffic. We’re not a huge site but we’re not small either. I thought readers might find it interesting to see the same stats that I periodically check. Here they are (this is a clickable image):
As you can see, we receive almost 6,000 daily visitors these days, which is gratifying and a great honor to each of us who write at this site. [Note: We changed servers in mid-August, so you will not see the full year's stats in this image].
Thanks to all of you have visited DI or commented at DI over the past year. Our plan is to keep improving and keep growing. For those who have not commented before, please do consider leaving a comment, especially if you disagree with us.
And happy new year to everyone.
It is the first Sunday of 2011. I woke feeling a bit uneasy; somewhat queasy. As though someone were calling to me, deep inside. As a good igtheist, I ignore calls from the invisible beyond, even on Sunday.
But as the day progressed, I divined that it was Lord Ralph calling to me. Loud. After another hour, it became distressing. I tried to placate him with a wintergreen pink tablet made with compounds of Bismuth (the element between toxic lead and radioactive Polonium). But he continued calling louder. I huddled under my blankets and moaned. This helps for a short periods, repeated over a couple of hours.
Finally his call became not just clear, but imminent. Lord Ralph was demanding immediate supplication. I threw a wrap around my shivering shoulders and bolted for the room of his shrine. As I knelt before his porcelain altar, I gazed up through at shimmering ceiling to see if his ethereal chariot was nigh.
It was. Forcefully I hailed the Holy Buick. The stars then did shimmer around me. The chariot was passing. I hailed it again, slightly weaker. It receded, even though I did loyally call after it a few more times in breathlessly quick succession.
Lord Ralph must have been pleased. He set peace upon my wracked body, and allowed me go return to my covers and lie in serenity for a while.
Then my wife came to offer us a bile-colored, caffeinated, fizzy, syrup solution over ice, called Mountain something-or-other. This, sipped with great respect, did placate this irresistible lord.
What follows below is an audio version (with slides) of a presentation given at the Yale Medical School by science writer Carl Zimmer. His lecture starts with the discovery of the first recognized Neanderthal bones, and brings us up to modern times. The general theme of the talk is that those beings who have been recognized to be different have traditionally been characterized as barbaric and inferior. This theme holds true regarding Neanderthals, who have been traditionally characterized as brutish and uncivilized. Zimmer’s talk includes numerous vivid reconstructed images, and the evidence on which they are based, suggesting that Neanderthals looked and acted quite human, indeed.
The emerging truth is that Neanderthals were big-brained hominids who lived across great expanses of Europe from 200,000 to 20,000 years ago. They were prolific tool-users: For example, they made stone tools such as spear tips and bows and arrows; they cleaned hides and fashioned clothing. they lived in communities where they would have specialized areas for storing and preparing food. It appears that they left flowers at their burials sites. They made jewelry out of painted shells, suggesting that they were self aware.
Starting at the 20 minute mark, Zimmer discusses the work of Svante Paabo of the Max Plank institute, which recently completed its analysis of DNA found in the bones of Neanderthals. Neanderthal skeletons that appeared to be hybrids provoked researchers to obtain an entire Neanderthal genome. Researchers then found that the Neanderthals have the same FoxP2 gene that we do, suggesting that they might have had language.
The elephant in the room is that Neanderthals are no longer here and we are. But they are still living on in one sense, as Zimmer explains at the 41 minute mark. The Planke institute determined that between 1-4% of non-African DNA is Neanderthal.
How’s that for humanizing Neanderthals?
As the new year began, I found myself finishing up the January, 2011 edition of National Geographic. This is not a magazine to be merely scanned. In my experience, National Geographic deserves its own special time. It needs to be read slowly so that its exquisite prose and photography can be deeply appreciated. Every minute invested is paid back tenfold, and National Geographic has been written in this high-quality way for as long as I can remember. So… If you’re going to put me on a deserted island and I can only have one magazine subscription, please make it National Geographic.
The cover story of the current issue is “Population 7 Billion: How Your World Will Change.” In the introduction, the Editor notes that “the issues associated with population growth seem endless: poverty, food and water supply, world health, climate change, before station, fertility rates, and more.” Therefore, it would seem that we would insist on discussing the carrying capacity of Earth. We talk about the capacity of motor vehicles and houses and hotel rooms and conference centers, because we can’t deny that human animals take up space and use up resources. We can’t put 12 people in a boat that is designed to carry four, because it would cause a disaster. Yet many of us simply refuse to consider whether there is such a thing as a carrying capacity of the earth, and we utterly refuse to attempt any sort of quantification of the carrying capacity of the earth. Therefore, as we are approaching 7 billion people on earth, it is preordained by many people that population is simply not a problem, even though societies all over the earth, rich and poor, traditional and modern, are exhausting the resources that are available to them.
I like the proverbial “outside the box” thinking, and you don’t get much more outside the box than this interpretation of patterns found in the cosmic background radiation.
The beauty of science is that it is a well-constructed box we’re trying to get outside of, and it is logical plausible thinking that gets us there. The math behind theories like this involves tensors and the like that my courses in partial differential equations touched on so many years ago, and that I was forced to play with on a graduate level in fluid dynamics somewhat later, but still also so many years ago. I neither remember any of it, nor knew it well at the time. Amazing stuff, this theoretical physics.
Science does have all the answers. We just don’t have all the science.
We lost our Roku internet connection this evening. Also the laptop connection, and the main computer. Basically, my internet was down.
So I went through all the usual things to find the problem. Computer was talking to the router that was in turn talking to the modem. So far so good. I managed to tell the router to tell the modem to change my IP address. Everything was working.
But I could not reach any web sites, email, or ftp servers. I finally figured out that the DNS must be down. Domain Name Service is the internet utility that converts name addresses (like DangerousIntersection.org) to numerical route addresses (like 126.96.36.199) so your packets (requests, pages, images, etc) can find their way through the web.
So I called AT&T and answered a series of questions, like “Can you get online?” (No) and “Did you try rebooting and turning the modem off and back on?” (Yes). Finally, I landed in the service hold queue.
What to my wondering ear did appear in the cannot-get-online and did-reboot queue? An annoying loop of messages telling me all the wonderful support I can get online! This, plus the repeated suggestion that I try rebooting.
I sat on hold for 35 minutes before I decided to vent on this forum. Well, at least to write about it. I have to wait till either they fix the problem, or I get through and can ask for a numerical address for the address server to bypass the broken automatic one.
After 73 minutes (1:13) of this, I reached an actual person. I started with asking if she knew how long the DNS would be down, largely to jump past all the AnyKey suggestions. No, but similar problems typically are resolved in 4 hours. Then I asked if she had a bypass DNS address that I could use until theirs was working. No she didn’t have this information. I suggested that she pass upstream my frustration with the “just go online” message piped in to people who were calling because they cannot get online. She had no mechanism for this. Oh, well. I stayed polite. Tech support folks are in a miserable position when they have no way to fix anything, and the problem is real.
What do you do when you cannot any longer find a scientist to support your government’s self-destructive policies? You declare that you don’t want any further scientific input. That’s what the UK has done regarding the idiotic “war on drugs.” No scientists are stepping up to lend support that the “war on drugs” is a good idea. Therefore, who needs scientists?
Kenneth Miller explains a key piece of evidence in the Dover trial. It constituted proof that in the minds of those who believe in “intelligent design,” the “Intelligent Designer” is God. It’s no surprise to most of us, but the evidence described below was devastating to the District’s case: