Friday, October 9, 2015

Grab Bag

I was at the dentist’s today. Clean bill of health, but it brought to mind this fact: the residents of Pompeii had perfect teeth. Another indication that the reason we didn’t invent the medical industrial complex before the twentieth century is that we weren’t sick enough to need it:

Ancient Romans 'had perfect teeth' thanks to healthy low-sugar diet (Telegraph)

And attitudes to sex were different. For the Romans, having a big member wasn’t a sign of manliness or sexual skill. All of the Roman heroes – mythological, political, or athletic – were portrayed as having small, compact genitalia, almost like pubescent boys. What we consider “well-endowed” was considered a sign of a barbarian or a fool:

Review: Roman Sex (Literate Perversions)

By the way, the Romans believed eyelashes fell out from excessive sex, so women would use cosmetics (Wikipedia) to make their eyelashes look fuller and longer to demonstrate their chastity.

Christianity changed the culture of the ancient pagans so much that is was a wholly different culture after Christianity than before. As different as, say, modern-day Italy and Japan, for example.

The reason Christianity become as predominant as it was is because it was one of the few religions to make caring for the sick and weak a moral duty, something missing from more martial religions. Other religions were also hermetic, whereas Christianity would welcome all comers. People who had hard lives and no family would want to bind with other people in a sort of “surrogate” family, and in the polyglot Roman Empire, something would be needed to create the social ties with strangers. Religious cults filled that purpose, and one particular cult was spread by diaspora Jews about a rabbi who rose from the dead, much like Osiris or Mithras. And one reason why caring for the sick was so important was the plagues which ravaged the empire on its way down:

How an apocalyptic plague helped spread Christianity (CNN)

If you're lucky, you can visit Trier, the Rome of the North (Ancient History et Cetera) Here's an incredibly detailed map of the Roman Empire at its height (Brilliant Maps)

Angkor was the largest and most advanced pre-industrial city in the world thanks to its impressive water management system. And though many factors contributed to its demise, the most interesting one should sound pretty familiar: changes in the climate:Ta Prohm’s haunting ruins are also a 1,000-year-old climate change warning. Related: Saudi Arabia squandered its groundwater and agriculture collapsed. (VOX)

A new tablet has been found from the Epic of Gilgamesh. The epic described the cutting down of the forests for the creation of the civilization of domination over the earth. The new tablet adds nuance to that story:
"These lines come from Chapter Five of the epic and cast the main characters in a new light. Gilgamesh and his companion Enkidu are shown to feel guilt over killing Humbaba, the guardian of the cedar forest, who is now seen as less a monster and more a king. Just like a good director’s cut, these extra scenes clear up some muddy character motivation, and add an environmental moral to the tale."
20 New Lines from The Epic of Gilgamesh Discovered in Iraq, Adding New Details to the Story (Open Culture) Hear the epic in the original language (SOAS)

How many solar panels would we need to power the earth? (Business Insider). And wind power is now the cheapest electricity to produce in both Germany and the U.K., even without government subsidies (Bloomberg)

The barter economy is growing in Greece. (NYT)

Should we choose our leaders by random lottery?

Or is a matriarchal society the solution? (Waking Times). Patriarchy as an emergent process (Stumbling and Mumbling)

Is industrial farming one of the worst crimes in history? (Guardian) Read it and see the similarities with how Modernity deals with human beings as well: "The root of the problem is that domesticated animals have inherited from their wild ancestors many physical, emotional and social needs that are redundant in farms. Farmers routinely ignore these needs without paying any economic price. They lock animals in tiny cages, mutilate their horns and tails, separate mothers from offspring, and selectively breed monstrosities. The animals suffer greatly, yet they live on and multiply." 

Beware the Diderot effect (James Clear)

Just why are psychedelics illegal? (Vice) And why do legal drugs cost so much? (Wired) Did a psychedelic fungus cause the witch scares in medieval Europe? (Damn Interesting). Not just Pigpen: Wherever You Go, Your Personal Cloud Of Microbes Follows (NPR)

A very long post that you should read: Where do pro-social institutions come from? (Pseudoerasmus) "Where do ‘good’ or pro-social institutions come from ? Why does the capacity for collective action and cooperative behaviour vary so much across the world today ? How do some populations transcend tribalism to form a civil society ? I first take a look at what the “cultural evolution” literature has to say about it. I then turn to the intersection of economics and differential psychology."

And another meaty post about the history of the corporation: A Brief History of the Corporation: 1600 to 2100 (Ribbonfarm) The TPP continues the corporate dominance of the planet (New Yorker). And the investor class is already buying up the water (NYT) Are water knives far behind?


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  2. Appreciate your efforts, great job as per usual. One big problem with alt energy is scale and the other is that it's waste stream is an environmental holocaust all of it's own and it is being ignored (what isn't). AGW is only one driver of the 6th mass extinction - habitat loss in the main one. Alt energy only contributes more to it. Solar only makes up about 1% of global electrical generation and wind is resource intense and contributes to the tech waste stream as well, so scale it up. How many dystopian lakes will it take?

    The dystopian lake filled by the world's tech lust

    Hidden in an unknown corner of Inner Mongolia is a toxic, nightmarish lake created by our thirst for smartphones, consumer gadgets and green tech, discovers Tim Maughan.

    What happens when you get a precipitation event like we just saw in South Carolina over or near one of these giant tailings ponds? They are only going to get more intense as the atmosphere warms. 7% more moisture for every 1 degree C rise. How many industrial, mining and agriculture tailings ponds are there on this planet already? How many were designed for these new normal extreme precipitation events? Can you imagine one happening at the Tar sands? We had one last year in BC and it is a ongoing disaster and great effort has been put into down playing it.

    B.C. mine tailings ponds pose serious risk to water sources: report

    Humans could be among the victims of sixth 'mass extinction', scientists warn

    "And the study, which was published in the journal Science Advances on Friday and described by its authors as "conservative", said humans were likely to be among the species lost.

    "If it is allowed to continue, life would take many millions of years to recover and our species itself would likely disappear early on," lead author Gerardo Ceballos of the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico said."

    Back to the fun stuff

    Pilgrim brains on ergot AKA:

    Secrets of the dead Witches Curse

  3. I also notice that people like the Masaii and other 'primitives' have strong, white teeth as well.


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