28 April 2017


"The proboscis is an infolding of the body wall, and sits in the rhynchocoel when inactive. When muscles in the wall of the rhynchocoel compress the fluid in the rhynchocoel, the pressure makes the proboscis jump inside-out to attack the animal's prey along a canal called the rhynchodeum and through an orifice, the proboscis pore. The proboscis has a muscle which attaches to the back of the rhynchocoel, and which can stretch up to 30 times its inactive length and then retract the proboscis.

Some Anopla have branched proboscises which can be described as "a mass of sticky spaghetti".  The animal then draws its prey into its mouth...
Although most are less than 20 centimetres (7.9 in) long, one specimen has been estimated at 54 metres (177 ft).

"Black market insulin" should not exist

As reported by NBC News:
Gabriella is allergic to the kind of insulin her insurer covers at a $25 out-of-pocket cost. She can only take Apidra, but her insurance only covers 25 percent of the price, leaving the family to pay hundreds of dollars a month they can't afford.

So her mom has turned to the black market, trading for the medication with other families with diabetes she meets online, a tactic that regulators and health experts warn is a health risk...

The class of rapid-acting insulin Gabriella depends upon comes at a price — one that's risen 1,123 percent since 1996, according to data from Truven Health Analytics, even as more competitors have entered the market.

Her parents' insurer, West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA), considers Gabriella's insulin Apidra "Tier 3," which means the family has to pay 75 percent of the price. A copay-reduction card from drugmaker Sanofi would help some, but would still leave them to pay $270 for one vial, which would last them about a month...

Since they're not uninsured, the Corleys don't qualify for free insulin under Sanofi's patient assistance program...

As far as the industry is concerned, Humalog, Novolog, and Apidra are all equivalent insulins in terms of how they lower blood sugar levels. So whether or not your insurer covers it comes down to the deal they can cut.

But not every patient can use the drug their insurer has decided they can take, or afford the one they want to. Drugs' formulations vary. Some patients may have a reaction to the inactive ingredients or find that one kind works differently in their body, forcing them to relearn years of mental math performed at every mealtime. 
American healthcare is a total clusterfuck debacle.

Do you see the flame in this photo? Neither do the birds.

From the New York Times:
But that flare, burning off methane created by decomposing garbage, poses a potentially lethal threat to unsuspecting birds that pass through it. Larger birds have been found with singed wings, unable to fly or fend for themselves. Bird-watchers believe that smaller ones are simply incinerated...

Mr. Aberback said the authority had plans to capture methane at another of its landfills, but that was “not currently a viable option for the Kingsland Landfill flare.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service says the authority has already followed through on some of its suggestions, like removing a number of possible perches for birds around the flame. A local electric company has agreed to take out or retrofit power lines and other equipment to make them less attractive to migrating birds. Finding a way to make the flare visible to birds is among the other ideas officials say are being explored.

27 April 2017

Performance on a theremin

The music is Ennio Morricone's Ecstasy of Gold from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.


As discussed at NPR:
Some dogs are doggos, some are puppers, and others may even be pupperinos. There are corgos and clouds, fluffers and floofs, woofers and boofers. The chunky ones are thicc, and the thin ones are long bois. When they stick out their tongues, they're doing a mlem, a blep, a blop. They bork. They boof. Once in a while they do each other a frighten. And whether they're 10/10 or 12/10, they're all h*ckin' good boys and girls.

Are you picking up what I'm putting down? If not, you're probably not fluent in DoggoLingo, a language trend that's been gaining steam on the Internet in the past few years. The language most often accompanies a picture or a video of a dog and has spread to all major forms of social media...

Even Merriam-Webster is aware of terms like doggo and pupper. Though they have a long way to go before they're eligible for dictionary-entry — they need to be used in published, edited work over an extended period of time — they're definitely candidates.

New evidence supports/denies the "Solutrean hypothesis" - updated

The Solutrean hypothesis:
The Solutrean hypothesis is a controversial proposal that peoples from Europe may have been among the earliest settlers in the Americas, as evidenced by similarities in stone tool technology of the Solutrean culture from prehistoric Europe to that of the later Clovis tool-making culture found in the Americas. It was first proposed in 1998. Its key proponents include Dennis Stanford, of the Smithsonian Institution, and Bruce Bradley, of the University of Exeter.

In this hypothesis, people associated with the Solutrean culture migrated from Ice Age Europe to North America, bringing their methods of making stone tools with them and providing the basis for later Clovis technology found throughout North America. The hypothesis rests upon particular similarities in Solutrean and Clovis technology that have no known counterparts in Eastern Asia, Siberia or Beringia, areas from which or through which early Americans are known to have migrated.
TYWKIWDBI had three posts on pre-Clovis finds last year, discussing skulls found in a Yucatan underwater cave, paleo-era tools on California's Channel Islands, and a pre-Clovis point found in a mastodon bone.

Today the Washington Post and The Independent have articles about new findings on the Atlantic coast of North America that support the Solutrean hypothesis.
At the core of Stanford’s case are stone tools recovered from five mid-Atlantic sites. Two sites lie on Chesapeake Bay islands, suggesting that the Solutreans settled Delmarva early on. Smithsonian research associate Darrin Lowery found blades, anvils and other tools found stuck in soil at least 20,000 years old [note only the soil can be reliably dated, not the artifacts themselves]...

Further, the Eastern Shore blades strongly resemble those found at dozens of Solutrean sites from the Stone Age in Spain and France, Stanford says. “We can match each one of 18 styles up to the sites in Europe.”..

Stone tools recovered from two other mid-Atlantic sites — Cactus Hills, Va., 45 miles south of Richmond, and Meadowcroft Rockshelter, in southern Pennsylvania — date to at least 16,000 years ago. Those tools, too, strongly resemble blades found in Europe...

“The reason people don’t like the Solutrean idea is the ocean,” he said. No Solutrean boats have been found. But given that people arrived in Australia some 60,000 years ago — and they didn’t walk there — wood-frame and seal-skin boats were clearly possible, Stanford argues... 
One major problem facing investigators is that early peoples would have lived on the coast next to the ocean - but sea levels have risen so far since that time that the original coast is perhaps 50 miles off the current shoreline and deep underwater.  Caves and artifacts from those locations are difficult to find.

Addendum:   I've updated this post (originally published in 2012) to add some items I've recently encountered - first, from Germany's Der Spiegel, reporting on DNA studies of North Americans:
Now a team of scientists led by the Danish geneticist Eske Willerslev has analyzed the boy's [Clovis-era, found in Montana] origins and discovered that he descends from a Siberian tribe with roots tracing back to Europe. Some of the boy's ancestors are likely even to have lived in present-day Germany.

Their findings go even further: More than 80 percent of all native peoples in the Americas -- from the Alaska's Aleuts to the Maya of Yucatan to the Aymaras along the Andes -- are descended from Montana boy's lineage.

Last week, the scientists published the results of sequencing the child's DNA in the scientific journal Nature. Late last year, the same team published the decoded genome of another early human: A juvenile buried near Lake Baikal in Siberia some 24,000 years ago. Their genomes showed surprising ancestral similarities.
This earned Willerslev's team an astounding publishing achievement in just 100 days: The decoding of the genomes of the oldest analyzed members of homo sapiens in both the Old and the New Worlds. This has allowed them to reconstruct the settlement of the Americas via the Beringia land bridge during the ice ages -- when what is now the Bering Strait between Russia and Alaska was frozen over -- in greater detail than ever before.
That report is discussed in a Reddit thread and summarized on the Wikipedia page, and at USA Today:
When researchers analyzed the Anzick child's DNA and compared it to the genomes of living Native Americans, they found that the boy's family members were the ancestors of multiple Central and South American groups, such as the Maya of Central America and the Karitiana people of Brazil. Willerslev estimates that roughly 80% of Native Americans are descended from the Anzick group, contradicting claims by other scholars that the Clovis people didn't leave much of a genetic legacy...

The results overturn the idea that migrants who colonized the Americas after the Clovis people are the true ancestors to Native Americans. And the discovery "puts the final nail in the coffin" for the idea that the ancestors of Native Americans may have crossed to the New World from Europe, says study author Ripan Malhi of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

With the genetic data, the researchers can construct a rough narrative of the peopling of the New World. From Siberia, ancient people gradually crossed a now-vanished land bridge to Alaska. Some drifted south, giving rise to the Clovis people and colonizing the United States and Central and South America. Others stayed in the north and founded the lineage leading to the modern-day Cree and Athabascan peoples of northern North America. The study is published in this week's Nature.
I have accordingly inserted "/denies" after "supports" in the post's title.

Addendum:  Reposted again, in part because this post has become one of the most-commented posts I've ever created for TYWKIWDBI, and I'd like to have the current generation of readers be aware of it.  Mostly I wanted to add this infomation from a recent comment:
Just returned from a visit with Dr. Al Goodyear and his folks at "The Topper Site" in South Carolina. Documented, dated by the best available science, Pre-Clovis artifacts found at a Chert quarry have been robustly tested and are found to be 50,000 years old +. In fact, charcoal remnants so old that Radio Carbon dating is impossible found in the same layer have proven the case for human occupation at the site . It is ,in fact, a tool manufacturing site of the first magnitude, It is located on the banks of the Savannah River in S.C.. It is interesting to note that more Clovis and Pre-Clovis artifacts have now been found of the East coast of the U.S.A.than all of the rest of the country. I know not what this means, but it definitely means something. Dr. Goodyear will publish a definitive paper very soon, but his find (The Topper Site) has been visited and observed by many national and international academe professionals and many of the artifacts examined in situ and in the lab.
We'll have to await that "definitive paper" for details; I suspect it will encounter substantial resistance during the peer-review process.  The Wikipedia entry offers the standard counterarguments:
Goodyear, who began excavating the Topper site in the 1980s, believes that lithic objects at that level are rudimentary stone tools (and thus "artifacts"). Other archaeologists dispute this conclusion, suggesting that the objects are natural and not human-made. Other archaeologists also have challenged the radiocarbon dating of the carbonized remains at Topper...
A recent article on the Topper site was posted in Charleston's Post and Courier.

"Unifacial flake tools found at the top of the soil layer holding artifacts said to be 50,000 years old." Provided by Keith McGraw/University of South Carolina

Addendum:  A 2017 BBC article updates information about trans-Beringia migration, but doesn't address the question of Solutreans.

Addendum:  Reposted yet once again to add a flurry of links regarding a new report describing evidence suggesting human habitation in North American an incredible 130,000 years ago.

The report was published in Nature (top-of-the-line in terms of peer review):
Here we describe the Cerutti Mastodon (CM) site, an archaeological site from the early late Pleistocene epoch, where in situ hammerstones and stone anvils occur in spatio-temporal association with fragmentary remains of a single mastodon (Mammut americanum). The CM site contains spiral-fractured bone and molar fragments, indicating that breakage occured while fresh. Several of these fragments also preserve evidence of percussion...

230Th/U radiometric analysis of multiple bone specimens using diffusion–adsorption–decay dating models indicates a burial date of 130.7 ± 9.4 thousand years ago.

These findings confirm the presence of an unidentified species of Homo at the CM site during the last interglacial period (MIS 5e; early late Pleistocene), indicating that humans with manual dexterity and the experiential knowledge to use hammerstones and anvils processed mastodon limb bones for marrow extraction and/or raw material for tool production.
The key contentioius points:  bones fractured fresh, bones fractured intentionally, tools found at the site, dating methodology.

Commentary at NBC News, BBC, The Guardian, The New Reddit Journal of Science.

If the findings are being correctly interpreted, this will require a massive, near-total revision of the history of human migration to the Americas.

I closed comments on this post long ago because of various contentious issues.  I'll leave them closed for the present.

25 April 2017

Owl legs


Subtleties of online shopping

Excerpts from an interesting article in this month's The Atlantic:
Our ability to know the price of anything, anytime, anywhere, has given us, the consumers, so much power that retailers—in a desperate effort to regain the upper hand, or at least avoid extinction—are now staring back through the screen. They are comparison shopping us...

The price of a can of soda in a vending machine can now vary with the temperature outside. The price of the headphones Google recommends may depend on how budget-conscious your web history shows you to be, one study found. For shoppers, that means price—not the one offered to you right now, but the one offered to you 20 minutes from now, or the one offered to me, or to your neighbor—may become an increasingly unknowable thing...

Four researchers in Catalonia tried to answer the question with dummy computers that mimicked the web-browsing patterns of either “affluent” or “budget conscious” customers for a week. When the personae went “shopping,” they weren’t shown different prices for the same goods. They were shown different goods. The average price of the headphones suggested for the affluent personae was four times the price of those suggested for the budget-conscious personae. Another experiment demonstrated a more direct form of price discrimination: Computers with addresses in greater Boston were shown lower prices than those in more-remote parts of Massachusetts on identical goods...
More at the link.


There's a reason this series of cartoons is entitled "Real Life Adventures."

Habitat restoration exemplified

"Almost 50 years ago, fried chicken tycoon David Bamberger used his fortune to purchase 5,500 acres of overgrazed land in the Texas Hill Country. Planting grasses to soak in rains and fill hillside aquifers, Bamberger devoted the rest of his life to restoring the degraded landscape. Today, the land has been restored to its original habitat and boasts enormous biodiversity. Bamberger's model of land stewardship is now being replicated across the region and he is considered to be a visionary in land management and water conservation."
This is worth several minutes of your time.   Don't just skip over it.

Wear a helmet.


"First water" explained

I was reading a Robert Frost poem in which he described something as being "of the first water."  The reference:
I've tried the new moon tilted in the air
Above a hazy tree-and-farmhouse cluster
As you might try a jewel in your hair.
I've tried it fine with little breadth of luster,
Alone, or in one ornament combining
With one first-water start almost shining.
I have heard the term applied to gemstones and extrapolated as above, but wasn't sure how the gemstone application arose.  It turns out to be quite simple.
The clarity of diamonds is assessed by their translucence; the more like water, the higher the quality. The 1753 edition of Chambers' Encyclopedia states "The first water in Diamonds means the greatest purity and perfection of their complexion, which ought to be that of the clearest drop of water. When Diamonds fall short of this perfection, they are said to be of the second or third water, &c. till the stone may be properly called a coloured one."

The comparison of diamonds with water dates back to at least the early 17th century, and Shakespeare alludes to it in Pericles, 1607.
Heavenly jewels which Pericles hath lost,
Begin to part their fringes of bright gold.
The diamonds of a most prais├Ęd water
Doth appear, to make the world twice rich.

Man bowls a "300" in less than two minutes

Via Neatorama.

Guilty as charged

It has been pointed out to me, probably on several occasions, that I should not type two spaces after a period.  I've been doing this since my 10th-grade typing class, so I doubt I can change a 50+-year-old habit.  Today I encountered this rant on the subject (which I typed using two spaces after periods):
The two-spaces-after-a-period construction is outmoded and has no place in modern communication.  It’s not a coincidence that many of my friends who still use two spaces work in finance and law—two decidedly old-school industries populated by people who grew up in the two-space heyday.  The practice should be eradicated for good, especially in the digital communication age, when every device has proportional fonts.  Design experts agree that using two spaces creates an unsightly amount of white space, and increases the chance you’ll have a “river” snake its way through your paragraph.  Worse, it makes a person look old and out of touch.
Here is the same text typed using one space after the periods.
The two-spaces-after-a-period construction is outmoded and has no place in modern communication. It’s not a coincidence that many of my friends who still use two spaces work in finance and law—two decidedly old-school industries populated by people who grew up in the two-space heyday. The practice should be eradicated for good, especially in the digital communication age, when every device has proportional fonts. Design experts agree that using two spaces creates an unsightly amount of white space, and increases the chance you’ll have a “river” snake its way through your paragraph. Worse, it makes a person look old and out of touch.

Today is April 25

From Miss Congeniality, via.
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