Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for March 12th, 2018

Very intriguing .22 rifle

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If I lived out in the country where I could do target shooting, I think I would like this. I like it as a design already.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 March 2018 at 4:01 pm

Posted in Guns

New Evidence Fuels Debate over the Origin of Modern Languages

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One of the books I find myself repeatedly recommending is David Anthony’s The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World. It’s as enthralling as a great detective novel, and in the course of the history you witness (among other things) the invention of the wheel, which was long after the days of cave men (despite all those cartoons of enormous wheels carved from stone), for reasons the author describes: creating a wheel and axle system requires specialized knowledge based on extensive experience. For that reason, the invention had to await the development of agriculture, of the domestication of horses, and of urban centers before such specialization could be supported. Fascinating book.

In the course of the book, the author looks for the origins of the speakers of the Proto-Indo-European language. And that brings us to a Scientific American article by Roni Jameson, which begins:

Five thousand years ago nomadic horseback riders from the Ukrainian steppe charged through Europe and parts of Asia. They brought with them a language that is the root of many of those spoken today—including English, Spanish, Hindi, Russian and Persian. That is the most widely accepted explanation for the origin of this ancient tongue, termed Proto-Indo-European (PIE). Recent genetic findings confirm this hypothesis but also raise questions about how the prehistoric language evolved and spread.

No written record of PIE exists, but linguists believe they have largely reconstructed it. Some words, including “water” (wód), “father” (pH2-ter) and “mother” (meH2-ter), are still used today. Archaeologist Marija Gimbutas first proposed the Ukrainian origin, known as the kurgan hypothesis, in the 1950s. Gimbutas traced the language back to the Yamnaya people, herders from the southern grasslands of modern-day Ukraine who domesticated the horse.

In 2015 a series of studies sequenced the DNA of human bones and other remains from many parts of Europe and Asia. The data suggest that around 3500 B.C.—roughly the same time that many linguists place the origin of PIE and that archaeologists date horse domestication—Yamnaya genes replaced about 75 percent of the existing human gene pool in Europe. Together with the archaeological and linguistic evidence, the genetic data tipped the scales heavily in favor of the kurgan hypothesis.

Credit: Tiffany Farrant-Gonzalez; Source: “Mapping the Origins and Expansion of the Indo-European Language Family,” by Remco Bouckaert et al., in Science, Vol. 337; August 24, 2012

Newer findings complicate the story, however. In a study published last June in the Journal of Human Genetics, researchers sequenced the mitochondrial DNA of 12 Yamnaya individuals, along with their immediate predecessors and descendants. The remains were found in burial mounds, or kurgans (from which the theory takes its name), in modern-day Ukraine. They had been buried in layers atop one another from the end of the Stone Age through the Bronze Age, between about 4500 and 1500 B.C.—the same time as the genetic replacement event in Europe. The earliest and midrange specimens’ mitochondrial DNA (which is inherited from the mother) was almost entirely local. But the mitochondrial DNA of the most recent specimens included DNA from central Europe, including present-day Poland, Germany and Sweden. This discovery indicates that “there were pendulum migrations back and forth,” says lead author Alexey Nikitin, a professor of archaeology and genetics at Grand Valley State University. In other words, he adds, “it wasn’t a one-way trip.”

These findings give the kurgan hypothesis “a lot more credit,” Nikitin says. But he contends that his new results also show the migration was on a smaller scale than previously speculated; the more recent specimens apparently only made it as far as central Europe before returning, even though the language eventually spread as far as the British Isles. Nikitin also believes the dissemination was not as violent as it is often made out to be. “A military campaign would explain the genetic replacement. But that’s [unlikely to have been] the case,” he says.

David Anthony, an anthropologist at Hartwick College, who co-authored several of the earlier genetic studies but was not involved in the latest work, calls the new findings very convincing. “The domestication of the horse created a steppe bridge into India and Iran on the one side and Europe on the other side,” Anthony says. “When [the] Yamnaya people moved into eastern and western Europe, their genetic signature was very different from what was there before,” he explains. “That’s what makes it paint such a clear picture [of how the root language spread] and why you can really see the migrations so easily on a map.”

Yet Anthony disagrees with the interpretation that this was a small and mostly peaceful affair. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 March 2018 at 12:42 pm

Posted in Books, Evolution, Memes, Science

Fearful people are conservative; people who feel safe are liberal

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An oversimplification (there are exceptions to both statements), but it summarizes some interesting findings reported by John Bargh in the Washington Post:

When my daughter was growing up, she often wanted to rush off to do fun things with her friends — get into the water at the beach, ride off on her bike — without taking the proper safety precautions first. I’d have to stop her in her tracks to first put on the sunscreen, or her bike helmet and knee pads, with her standing there impatiently. “Safety first, fun second,” was my mantra.

Keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe from harm is perhaps our strongest human motivation, deeply embedded in our very DNA. It is so deep and important that it influences much of what we think and do, maybe more than we might expect. For example, over a decade now of research in political psychology consistently shows that how physically threatened or fearful a person feels is a key factor — although clearly not the only one — in whether he or she holds conservative or liberal attitudes.

[A political scientist has discovered a surprising way to increase voter turnout. It starts in childhood.]

Conservatives, it turns out, react more strongly to physical threat than liberals do. In fact, their greater concern with physical safety seems to be determined early in life: In one University of California study, the more fear a 4-year-old showed in a laboratory situation, the more conservative his or her political attitudes were found to be 20 years later. Brain imaging studies have even shown that the fear center of the brain, the amygdala, is actually larger in conservatives than in liberals. And many other laboratory studies have found that when adult liberals experienced physical threat, their political and social attitudes became more conservative (temporarily, of course). But no one had ever turned conservatives into liberals.

Until we did.

In a new study to appear in a forthcoming issue of the European Journal of Social Psychology, my colleagues Jaime Napier, Julie Huang and Andy Vonasch and I asked 300 U.S. residents in an online survey their opinions on several contemporary issues such as gay rights, abortion, feminism and immigration, as well as social change in general. The group was two-thirds female, about three-quarters white, with an average age of 35. Thirty-percent of the participants self-identified as Republican, and the rest as Democrat.

But before they answered the survey questions, we had them engage in an intense imagination exercise. They were asked to close their eyes and richly imagine being visited by a genie who granted them a superpower. For half of our participants, this superpower was to be able to fly, under one’s own power. For the other half, it was to be completely physically safe, invulnerable to any harm.

If they had just imagined being able to fly, their responses to the social attitude survey showed the usual clear difference between Republicans and Democrats — the former endorsed more conservative positions on social issues and were also more resistant to social change in general.

[Stanford researchers: The secret to overcoming the opioid crisis may lie partly in the mind]

But if they had instead just imagined being completely physically safe, the Republicans became significantly more liberal — their positions on social attitudes were much more like the Democratic respondents. And on the issue of social change in general, the Republicans’ attitudes were now indistinguishable from the Democrats. Imagining being completely safe from physical harm had done what no experiment had done before — it had turned conservatives into liberals.

In both instances, we had manipulated a deeper underlying reason for political attitudes, the strength of the basic motivation of safety and survival. The boiling water of our social and political attitudes, it seems, can be turned up or down by changing how physically safe we feel.

This is why it makes sense that liberal politicians intuitively portray danger as manageable — recall FDR’s famous Great Depression era reassurance of “nothing to fear but fear itself,” echoed decades later in Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address — and why President Trump and other Republican politicians are instead likely to emphasize the dangers of terrorism and immigration, relying on fear as a motivator to gain votes.

In fact, anti-immigration attitudes are also linked directly to the underlying basic drive for physical safety. For centuries, arch-conservative leaders have often referred to scapegoated minority groups as “germs” or “bacteria” that seek to invade and destroy their country from within. President Trump is an acknowledged germaphobe, and he has a penchant for describing people — not only immigrants but political opponents and former Miss Universe contestants — as “disgusting.”

“Immigrants are like viruses” is a powerful metaphor, because in comparing immigrants entering a country to germs entering a human body, it speaks directly to our powerful innate motivation to avoid contamination and disease. Until very recently in human history, not only did we not have antibiotics, we did not even know how infections occurred or diseases transmitted, and cuts and open wounds were quite dangerous. (In the American Civil War, for example, 60 out of every 1,000 soldiers died not by bullets or bayonets, but by infections.)

Therefore, we reasoned, making people feel safer about a dangerous flu virus should serve to calm their fears about immigrants — and making them feel more threatened by the flu virus should cause them to be more against immigration than they were before. In a 2011 study, my colleagues and I showed just that. First, we reminded our nationwide sample of liberals and conservatives about the threat of the flu virus (during the H1N1 epidemic), and then measured their attitudes toward immigration. Afterward we simply asked them if they’d already gotten their flu shot or not. It turned out that those who had not gotten a flu shot (feeling threatened) expressed more negative attitudes toward immigration, while those who had received the vaccination (feeling safe) had more positive attitudes about immigration.

In another study, using hand sanitizer after being warned about the flu virus had the same effect on immigration attitudes as had being vaccinated. A simple squirt of Purell after we had raised the threat of the flu had changed their minds. It made them feel safe from the dangerous virus, and this made them feel socially safe from immigrants as well.

Our study findings may have a silver lining. Here’s how: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 March 2018 at 10:53 am

Nancy Boy meets Esbjerg

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A very fine shave to start the week. I continue to value and recommend Nancy Boy shaving cream, and the Signature fragrance in particular. It worked well with my Emperor 2 Best, and the 102 did its usual marvelously effective job. A small dot of Esbjerg aftershave gel rubbed over my rinsed and then dried face, and the week is launched on a good note.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 March 2018 at 10:35 am

Posted in Shaving

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