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China’s Floating City Mirage

China’s Floating City – Was this a real mirage, a misinterpretation of a reflection, or a hoax?

from “Floating Cities are Generally not Fata Morgana Mirage.” Discussion by Mick West, Oct 20, 2015, on Metabunk.org.

A video is being widely shared on social media (and the “weird news” sections of more traditional media) claiming to show the image of an impossibly large city rising above the fog in the city of Foshan (佛山), Guangdong province, China. Here is a composite image from the video.

Mirage hoax China city

Some have said this is an example of a fata morgana, a type of mirage where light is bent though the atmosphere in such a way to create the illusion of buildings on the horizon.

This is utterly impossible in this case, as fata morgana only creates a very thin strip of such an illusion very close to the horizon, and appears small and far away. It does not create images high in the sky.

Fata Morgana Mirage in Greenland by Jack Stephens

Besides, a fata morgana might create the illusion of buildings by stretching landscape features, or it might distort existing buildings. But what it cannot do it create a perfect image of existing nearby buildings, complete with windows.

China floating city illusion

It is important to note that no expert has actually looked at this video and said it was a fata morgana.

The second and more common type of “floating city” illusions is with buildings that are simply rising up out of clouds or low fog, and hence appear to be floating above them. This has led to “floating city” stories in the past, with this recent example, also from China.

China city in clouds

This is simply a photo of building across the river, but when cropped it appears like they are floating, which led to all kinds of wild stories of “ghost cities”.

This actually came from mistranslations of the original news reports, where local people (who knew exactly what they were looking at) were simply marveling at how pretty the scene looked, with the buildings appearing to float above clouds.

Could the Foshan video be of real buildings obscured by clouds? It does not appear so. Look at some real buildings in Foshan (and keep in mind it’s not entirely clear if Foshan is the actual setting of either the top or the bottom of the video.

Consider what it would take for these buildings to appear like they do in the video, with the road beneath them. The scale is simply impossible. The image has to be composited somehow, and the possibilities are:

  • Computer generated buildings spliced into the video of the road.

  • Two different videos spliced together

  • The video is shot though glass, and the buildings are behind the camera, or to the side (with the glass at around 45°, like a half open window/door)

It’s unfortunate that many people leap for the “fata morgana” or other mirage explanation when it’s quite clear that this is far too high in the sky to be anything like that.

Types floating city illusion hoax

Resources

https://www.metabunk.org/floating-cities-are-generally-not-fata-morgana-mirages.t6922/

http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/20/world/china-floating-city-video-feat/index.html

https://www.snopes.com/floating-city-china/

An Introduction to Mirages, Andrew T. Young

Fata Morgana between the Continental Divide and the Missouri River

Learning Standards

2016 Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework

HS-PS4-3. Evaluate the claims, evidence, and reasoning behind the idea that electromagnetic radiation can be described by either a wave model or a particle model, and that for some situations involving resonance, interference, diffraction, refraction, or the photoelectric effect, one model is more useful than the other.

A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (2012)

Core Idea PS4: Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer
When a wave passes an object that is small compared with its wavelength, the wave is not much affected; for this reason, some things are too small to see with visible light, which is a wave phenomenon with a limited range of wavelengths corresponding to each color. When a wave meets the surface between two different materials or conditions (e.g., air to water), part of the wave is reflected at that surface and another part continues on, but at a different speed. The change of speed of the wave when passing from one medium to another can cause the wave to change direction or refract. These wave properties are used in many applications (e.g., lenses, seismic probing of Earth).

The wavelength and frequency of a wave are related to one another by the speed of travel of the wave, which depends on the type of wave and the medium through which it is passing. The reflection, refraction, and transmission of waves at an interface between two media can be modeled on the basis of these properties.

All electromagnetic radiation travels through a vacuum at the same speed, called the speed of light. Its speed in any given medium depends on its wavelength and the properties of that medium. At the surface between two media, like any wave, light can be reflected, refracted (its path bent), or absorbed. What occurs depends on properties of the surface and the wavelength of the light.

SAT Subject Area Test in Physics

Waves and optics:

  • Reflection and refraction, such as Snell’s law and changes in wavelength and speed
  • Ray optics, such as image formation using pinholes, mirrors, and lenses

 

Fair use: This website is educational. Materials within it are being used in accord with the Fair Use doctrine, as defined by United States law.

§107. Limitations on Exclusive Rights: Fair Use

Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phone records or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use, the factors to be considered shall include:

the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
the nature of the copyrighted work;
the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. (added pub. l 94-553, Title I, 101, Oct 19, 1976, 90 Stat 2546)

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Genetics of human blood types

Human blood types

Our article on types of human blood

HUMAN BLOOD: An Introduction to Its Components and Types, Behavioral Sciences Department, Palomar College,

Genetics of human blood types

article to be written

Advanced topic

The inheritance of ABO blood types does not always follow such straightforward rules of inheritance. This can be seen when we examine the Bombay Phenotype. It is hard to predict the ABO blood type of children based on the phenotypes of their parents. This is due to the fact that a third antigen (H) on the surface of red cells can prevent the expected ABO blood type from occurring.

ABO Blood Types, Dr. Dennis O’Neil Behavioral Sciences Department, Palomar College, CA

Resources

http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/basics/blood/

 

Non-mendelian inheritance

Your previous study of genetics used Punnet squares. Easy to use and understand. But that all was based on certain assumptions. When these assumptions aren’t valid then we have non-Mendelian inheritance.

Recall the assumptions of Mendelian inheritance:

Law of segregation of genes (Mendel’s first Law), Law of independent assortment (Mendel’s second law), and the Law of dominance (Mendel’s third law)

But what happens if one allele is not completely dominant over another? What if a gene has several alleles? What if genes are not independent, but physically stuck to each other? Then Mendel’s assumptions are not valid.

The following text has been adapted from Biology (Macaw edition), Chapter 11, by Miller and Levine.

Incomplete Dominance

A cross between two four o’clock (Mirabilis jalapa) plants shows a common exception to Mendel’s principles. Some alleles are neither dominant nor recessive.

The F1 generation produced by a cross between red-flowered (RR) and white-flowered (WW) Mirabilis plants consists of pink-colored flowers (RW).

Which allele is dominant? Neither.

In incomplete dominance, the heterozygous phenotype lies some- where between the two homozygous phenotypes.

Incomplete dominance

Incomplete dominance, from Macaw Biology, Miller and Levine.

 

Codominance

Phenotypes produced by both alleles are clearly expressed.

Example: In certain breeds of chicken, the allele for black feathers is codominant with the allele for white feathers. Heterozygous chickens have a color described as “erminette,” speckled with black and white feathers.

Unlike the blending of red and white colors in heterozygous four o’clocks, black and white colors appear separately in chickens.

incomplete-codominance-multiple-alleles-3-728

Many human genes, including one for a protein that controls cholesterol levels in the blood, show codominance, too. People with the heterozygous form of this gene produce two different forms of the protein, each with a different effect on cholesterol levels.

Multiple Alleles

Usually there are more than two alleles (versions of a gene.) There are multiple alleles.

Consider coat color in rabbits It is determined by a single gene that has at least four different alleles.

The four alleles display a pattern of simple dominance that can produce four coat colors.

Many other genes have multiple alleles, including the human genes for blood type.

Human blood types: examples of multiple alleles

Genetics of human blood types

Polygenic Traits

Traits controlled by two or more genes are called polygenic traits.

Example: The variety of skin color in humans comes about because many different genes control this trait.

The evolutionary genetic architecture of skin pigmentation in three populations.

The evolutionary genetic architecture of skin pigmentation in three populations. http://www.nature.com/milestones/skinbio4/full/skinbio20113a.html

Genes and the Environment

Environmental conditions can affect gene expression in many ways – this can change the traits that an organism develops (phenotype).

Example: Changes in temperature….. tba

Example: A person’s lifestyle literally causes chemical changes to control molecules on one’s DNA, and this then affects how the DNA is expressed. This is related to the subject of epigenetics.

gene environment interactions in human obesity

From The importance of gene–environment interactions in human obesity, Hudson Reddon, Jean-Louis Guéant, David Meyre, Clinical Science Aug 08, 2016, 130

Learning Standards

HS-LS3-1. Develop and use a model to show how DNA in the form of chromosomes is passed from parents to offspring through the processes of meiosis and fertilization in sexual reproduction.

HS-LS3-2. Make and defend a claim based on evidence that genetic variations (alleles) may result from (a) new genetic combinations via the processes of crossing over and random segregation of chromosomes during meiosis, (b) mutations that occur during replication, and/or (c) mutations caused by environmental factors. Recognize that mutations that occur in gametes can be passed to offspring.

HS-LS3-4(MA). Use scientific information to illustrate that many traits of individuals, and the presence of specific alleles in a population, are due to interactions of genetic factors and environmental factors.

Americapox

DNA evidence offers proof of North American native population decline due to arrival of Europeans

by Bob Yirka, Phys.org

Most history books report that Native American populations in North America declined significantly after European colonizers appeared, subsequent to the “discovery” of the new world by Christopher Columbus in 1492, reducing their numbers by half or more in some cases. Most attribute this decline in population to the introduction of new diseases, primarily smallpox and warfare.

To back up such claims, historians have relied on archaeological evidence and written documents by new world settlers. Up to now however, no physical evidence has been available to nail down specifics regarding population declines, such as when they actually occurred and what caused it to occur. Now however, three researchers with various backgrounds in anthropological and genome sciences have banded together to undertake a study based on mitochondrial DNA evidence, and have found, as they report in their study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that native populations in North America did indeed decline by roughly fifty percent, some five hundred years ago.

What’s perhaps most interesting in the study, is the implication that the sudden drop in population appeared to occur almost right after the arrival of Europeans, which means before settlement began. This means that the decline would have come about almost exclusively as a result of disease sweeping naturally through native communities, rather than from warfare, or mass slaughter as some have suggested and that stories of settlers using smallpox as a weapon may be exaggerated.

Also of interest is that the researchers found that the native population peaked some 5,000 years ago, and held steady, or even declined slightly, until the arrival of Europeans, and that the population decline that occurred was transient, meaning that it gradually rebounded as those Native Americans that survived the initial wave of smallpox passed on their hearty genes to the next generation.

The results of this research also seem to settle the argument of whether the massive loss of life due to disease was regional, as some historians have argued, or widespread as others have claimed; siding firmly with the latter.

In studying the DNA, of both pre-European arrival native population samples and that of their ancestors alive today, the researchers noted that those alive today are more genetically similar to one another than were their ancestors, which suggests a population decline and then resurgence, and that is how, by backtracking, they came to conclude that the decline occurred half a century ago. The authors are quick to point out however that the margin of error in their work does allow for the possibility that the population decline occurred somewhat later than their results showed and note that further research will need to be done to create a more precise timeline of events.

Native Americans experienced a strong population bottleneck coincident with European contact, Brendan D. O’Fallona and Lars Fehren-Schmitz

PNAS, Published online before print December 5, 2011, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1112563108

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Americapox: The Missing Plague

By CGP Grey, an an educational YouTuber. He produces explanatory videos on science, politics, geography, economics, and history. This is a transcript of his video Americapox: The Missing Plague, www.cgpgrey.com/blog/americapox

Between the first modern Europeans arriving in 1492 and the Victorian age, the indigenous population of the new world [native American Indians] dropped by at least 90%.

Native_American_Population Plague

The cause?

Not the conquistadores and company — they killed lots of people but their death count is nothing compared to what they brought with them: small pox, typhus, tuberculosis, influenza, bubonic plague, cholera, mumps, measles and more leapt from those first explores to the costal tribes, then onward the microscopic invaders spread through a hemisphere of people with no defenses against them. Tens of millions died.

These germs decided the fate of these battles long before the fighting started.

Now ask yourself: why didn’t Europeans get sick?

If new-worlders were vulnerable to old-world diseases, then surely old-worlders would be vulnerable to new world diseases.

Yet, there was no Americapox spreading eastward infecting Europe and cutting the population from 90 million to 9. Had Americapox existed it would have rather dampened European ability for transatlantic expansion.

To answer why this didn’t happen: we need first to distinguish regular diseases — like the common cold — from what we’ll call plagues.

1) Spread quickly between people.

Sneezes spread plages faster than handshakes which are faster than… closeness. Plagues use more of this than this.

2) They kill you quickly or you become immune.

Catch a plague and your dead within seven to thirty days. Survive and you’ll never get it again. Your body has learned to fight it, you might still carry it — the plague lives in you, you can still spread it, but it can’t hurt you.

The surface answer to this question isn’t that Europeans had better immune systems to fight off new world plages — it’s that new world didn’t have plagues for them to catch. They had regular diseases but there was no Americapox to carry.

These are history’s biggest killers, and they all come from the old world.

But why?

Let’s dig deeper, and talk Cholera, a plague that spreads if your civilization does a bad job of separating drinking water from pooping water. London was terrible at this making it the cholera capital of the world. Cholera can rip through dense neighborhoods killing swaths of the population, before moving onward. But that’s the key: it has to move on.

In a small, isolated group, a plague like cholera cannot survive — it kills all available victims, leaving only the immune and then theres nowhere to go — it’s a fire that burns through its fuel.

But a city — shining city on the hill — to which rural migrants flock, where hundreds of babies are born a day: this is sanctuary for the fire of plague; fresh kindling comes to it. The plague flares and smolders and flares and smolders again — impossible to extinguish.

Historically in city borders plagues killed faster than people could breed. Cities grew because more people moved to them than died inside of them. Cities only started growing from their own population in the 1900s when medicine finally left its leaches and bloodletting phase and entered its soap and soup phase — giving humans some tools to slow death.

But before that a city was an unintentional playground for plages and a grim machine to sort the immune from the rest.

So the deeper, answer is that The New World didn’t have plagues because the new world didn’t have big, dense, terribly sanitized deeply interconnected cities for plages to thrive.

OK, but The New World wasn’t completely barren of cities. And tribes weren’t completely isolated, otherwise the newly-arrived smallpox in the 1400s couldn’t have spread.

Cities are only part of the puzzle: they’re required for plages, but cities don’t make the germs that start the plagues — those germs come from the missing piece.

Now, most germs don’t want to kill you for the same reason you don’t want to burn down your house: germs live in you. Chromic diseases like leprosy are terrible because they’re very good at not killing you.

Plague lethality is an accident, a misunderstanding, because the germs that cause them don’t know they’re in humans, they’re germs that think they’re in this.

Plagues come from animals.

Whooping cough comes from pigs, and does flu as well as from birds. Our friend the cow alone is responsible for measles, tuberculosis, and smallpox.

For the cow these diseases are no big deal — like colds for us. But when cow germs get in humans thing things they do to make the cow a little sick, makes humans very sick. Deadly sick.

Germs jumping species like this is extraordinarily rare. That’s why generations of humans can spend time around animals just fine. Being the patient zero of a new animal-to-human plague is winning a terrible lottery.

But a colonial-age city raises the odds: there used to be animals everywhere, horses, herds of livestock in the streets, open slaughterhouses, meat markets pre-refrigeration, and a river of literal human and animal excrement running through it all.

A more perfect environment for diseases to jump species could hardly be imagined.

So the deeper answer is that plagues come from animals, but so rarely you have to raise the odds and with many chances for infection and give the new-born plague a fertile environment to grow. The old world had the necessary pieces in abundance.

But, why was a city like London filled with sheep and pigs and cows and Tenochtitlan wasn’t?

This brings us to the final level. (For this video anyway)

Some animals can be put to human use — this is what domestication means, animals you can breed, not just hunt.

Forget a the moment the modern world: go back to 10,000BC when tribes of humans reached just about everywhere. If you were in one of these tribes what local animals could you capture, alive, and successfully pen to breed?

Maybe you’re in North Dakota and thinking about catching a Buffalo: an unpredictable, violent tank on hooves, that can outrun you across the planes, leap over your head head and travels in herds thousands strong.

Oh, and you have no horses to help you — because there are no horses on the continent. Horses live here — and won’t be brought over until, too late.

It’s just you, a couple buddies, and stone-based tools. American Indians didn’t fail to domesticate buffalo because they couldn’t figure it out. They failed because it’s a buffalo. No one could do it — buffalo would have been amazing creature to put to human work back in BC, but it’s not going to happen — humans have only barely domesticated buffalo with all our modern tools.

The New World didn’t have good animal candidates for domestication. Almost everything big enough to be useful is also was to too dangerous, or too agile.

Meanwhile the fertile crescent to central Europe had: cows and and pigs and sheep and goats, easy pests animals comparatively begging to be domesticated.

A wild boar is something to contend with if you only have stone tools but it’s possible to catch and pen and bread and feed to eat — because pigs can’t leap to the sky or crush all resistance beneath their hooves.

In The New World the only native domestication contestant was: llamas. They’re better than nothing, which is probably why the biggest cities existed in South America — but they’re no cow. Ever try to manage a heard of llamas in the mountains of Peru? Yeah, you can do it, but it’s not fun. Nothing but drama, these llamas.

These might seem, cherry-picked examples, because aren’t there hundreds of thousands of species of animals? Yes, but when you’re stuck at the bottom of the tech tree almost none of them can be domesticated. From the dawn of man until this fateful meeting humans domesticated maybe a baker’s dozen of unique species the world over, and even to get that high a number you need to stretch it to include honeybees and silkworms. Nice to have, but you can’t build a civilization on a foundation of honey alone.

These early tribes weren’t smarter, or better at domestication. The old world had more valuable and easy animals. With dogs, herding sheep and cattle is easier. Now humans have a buddy to keep an eye on the clothing factory, and the milk and cheeseburger machine, and the plow-puller. Now farming is easier, which means there’s more benefit to staying put, which means more domestication, which means more food which means more people and more density and oh look where we’re going. Citiesville, population lots, bring your animals, plagues welcome.

That is the full answer: The lack of new world animals to domesticate, limited not only exposure to germs sources but also limited food production, which limited population growth, which limited cities, which made plagues in The New World an almost impossibility. In the old, exactly the reverse. And thus a continent full of plague and a continent devoid of it.

So when ships landed in the new world there was no Americapox to bring back.

The game of civilization has nothing to do with the players, and everything to do with the map. Access to domesticated animals in numbers and diversity, is the key resource to bootstrapping a complex society from nothing — and that complexity brings with it, unintentionally, a passive biological weaponry devastating to outsiders.

Start the game again but move the domesticable animals across the sea and history’s arrow of disease and death flows in the opposite direction.

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Don’t Blame Columbus for All the Indians’ Ills

By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD, OCT. 29, 2002, The New York Times

Europeans first came to the Western Hemisphere armed with guns, the cross and, unknowingly, pathogens. Against the alien agents of disease, the indigenous people never had a chance. Their immune systems were unprepared to fight smallpox and measles, malaria and yellow fever.

The epidemics that resulted have been well documented. What had not been clearly recognized until now, though, is that the general health of Native Americans had apparently been deteriorating for centuries before 1492.

That is the conclusion of a team of anthropologists, economists and paleopathologists who have completed a wide-ranging study of the health of people living in the Western Hemisphere in the last 7,000 years.

The researchers, whose work is regarded as the most comprehensive yet, say their findings in no way diminish the dreadful impact Old World diseases had on the people of the New World. But it suggests that the New World was hardly a healthful Eden.

More than 12,500 skeletons from 65 sites in North and South America — slightly more than half of them from pre-Columbians — were analyzed for evidence of infections, malnutrition and other health problems in various social and geographical settings.

The researchers used standardized criteria to rate the incidence and degree of these health factors by time and geography. Some trends leapt out from the resulting index. The healthiest sites for Native Americans were typically the oldest sites, predating Columbus by more than 1,000 years. Then came a marked decline.

”Our research shows that health was on a downward trajectory long before Columbus arrived,” Dr. Richard H. Steckel and Dr. Jerome C. Rose, study leaders, wrote in ”The Backbone of History: Health and Nutrition in the Western Hemisphere,” a book they edited. It was published in August.

Dr. Steckel, an economist and anthropologist at Ohio State University, and Dr. Rose, an anthropologist at the University of Arkansas, stressed in interviews that their findings in no way mitigated the responsibility of Europeans as bearers of disease devastating to native societies. Yet the research, they said, should correct a widely held misperception that the New World was virtually free of disease before 1492.

In an epilogue to the book, Dr. Philip D. Curtin, an emeritus professor of history at Johns Hopkins University, said the skeletal evidence of the physical well-being of pre-Columbians ”shows conclusively that however much it may have deteriorated on contact with the outer world, it was far from paradisiacal before the Europeans and Africans arrived.”

About 50 scientists and scholars joined in the research and contributed chapters to the book. One of them, Dr. George J. Armelagos of Emory University, a pioneer in the field of paleopathology, said in an interview that the research provided an ”evolutionary history of disease in the New World.”

The surprise, Dr. Armelagos said, was not the evidence of many infectious diseases, but that the pre-Columbians were not better nourished and in general healthier.

Others said the research, supported by the National Science Foundation and Ohio State, would be the talk of scholarly seminars for years to come and the foundation for more detailed investigations of pre-Columbian health. Dr. Steckel is considering conducting a similar study of health patterns well into European prehistory.

”Although some of the authors occasionally appear to overstate the strength of the case they can make, they are also careful to indicate the limitations of the evidence,” Dr. Curtin wrote of the Steckel-Rose research. ”They recognize that skeletal material is the best comparative evidence we have for the human condition over such a long period of time, but it is not perfect.”

The research team gathered evidence on seven basic indicators of chronic physical conditions that can be detected in skeletons — namely, degenerative joint disease, dental health, stature, anemia, arrested tissue development, infections and trauma from injuries. Dr. Steckel and Dr. Rose called this ”by far the largest comparable data set of this type ever created.”

The researchers attributed the widespread decline in health in large part to the rise of agriculture and urban living. People in South and Central America began domesticating crops more than 5,000 years ago, and the rise of cities there began more than 2,000 years ago.

These were mixed blessings. Farming tended to limit the diversity of diets, and the congestion of towns and cities contributed to the rapid spread of disease. In the widening inequalities of urban societies, hard work on low-protein diets left most people vulnerable to illness and early death.

Similar signs of deleterious health effects have been found in the ancient Middle East, where agriculture started some 10,000 years ago. But the health consequences of farming and urbanism, Dr. Rose said, appeared to have been more abrupt in the New World.

The more mobile, less densely settled populations were usually the healthiest pre-Columbians. They were taller and had fewer signs of infectious lesions in their bones than residents of large settlements. Their diet was sufficiently rich and varied, the researchers said, for them to largely avoid the symptoms of childhood deprivation, like stunting and anemia. Even so, in the simplest hunter-gatherer societies, few people survived past age 50. In the healthiest cultures in the 1,000 years before Columbus, a life span of no more than 35 years might be usual.

In examining the skeletal evidence, paleopathologists rated the healthiest pre-Columbians to be people living 1,200 years ago on the coast of Brazil, where they had access to ample food from land and sea. Their relative isolation protected them from most infectious diseases.

Conditions also must have been salubrious along the coasts of South Carolina and Southern California, as well as among the farming and hunting societies in what is now the Midwest. Indian groups occupied the top 14 spots of the health index, and 11 of these sites predate the arrival of Europeans.

The least healthy people in the study were from the urban cultures of Mexico and Central America, notably where the Maya civilization flourished presumably at great cost to life and limb, and the Zuni of New Mexico. The Zuni lived at a 400-year-old site, Hawikku, a crowded, drought-prone farming pueblo that presumably met its demise before European settlers made contact.

It was their hard lot, Dr. Rose said, to be farmers ”on the boundaries of sustainable environments.”

”Pre-Columbian populations were among the healthiest and the least healthy in our sample,” Dr. Steckel and Dr. Rose said. ”While pre-Columbian natives may have lived in a disease environment substantially different from that in other parts of the globe, the original inhabitants also brought with them, or evolved with, enough pathogens to create chronic conditions of ill health under conditions of systematic agriculture and urban living.”

In recent examinations of 1,000-year-old Peruvian mummies, for example, paleopathologists discovered clear traces of tuberculosis in their lungs, more evidence that native Americans might already have been infected with some of the diseases that were thought to have been brought to the New World by European explorers.

Tuberculosis bears another message: as an opportunistic disease, it strikes when times are tough, often overwhelming the bodies of people already weakened by malnutrition, poor sanitation in urban centers and debilitated immune systems.

The Steckel-Rose research extended the survey to the health consequences of the first contacts with American Indians by Europeans and Africans and the health of European-Americans and African-Americans up to the early 20th century.

Not surprisingly, African-American slaves were near the bottom of the health index. An examination of plantation slaves buried in South Carolina, Dr. Steckel said, revealed that their poor health compared to that of ”pre-Columbian Indian populations threatened with extinction.”

On the other hand, blacks buried at Philadelphia’s African Church in the 1800’s were in the top half of the health index. Their general conditions were apparently superior to those of small-town, middle-class whites, Dr. Steckel said.

The researchers found one exception to the rule that the healthiest sites for Native Americans were the oldest sites. Equestrian nomads of the Great Plains of North America in the 19th century seemed to enjoy excellent health, near the top of the index. They were not fenced in to farms or cities.

In a concluding chapter of their book, Dr. Steckel and Dr. Rose said the study showed that ”the health decline was precipitous with the changes in ecological environments where people lived.” It is not a new idea in anthropology, they conceded, ”but scholars in general have yet to absorb it.”

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Related articles

The Great Dying 1616-1619, Ipswich Historical Commission

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Fair use

This website is educational. Materials within it are being used in accord with the Fair Use doctrine, as defined by United States law.

§107. Limitations on Exclusive Rights: Fair Use

Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phone records or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use, the factors to be considered shall include:

the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
the nature of the copyrighted work;
the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. (added pub. l 94-553, Title I, 101, Oct 19, 1976, 90 Stat 2546)

Protecting cities from rising sea levels

Protecting cities from rising sea levels

from “Can New York Be Saved in the Era of Global Warming?” by Jeff Goodell, Rolling Stone, July 2016.

Hurricane Sandy, which hit New York in October 2012, flooding more than 88,000 buildings in the city and killing 44 people, was a transformative event. It did not just reveal how vulnerable New York is to a powerful storm, but it also gave a preview of what the city faces over the next century, when sea levels are projected to rise five, six, seven feet or more, causing Sandy-like flooding (or much worse) to occur with increasing frequency.

Hurricane Sandy flooding East Village NYC

Credit – Jamal Countess/Redux

Zarrilli turns away from the river, and we walk toward the park that separates it from the Lower East Side. “One of our goals is not just to protect the city, but to improve it,” Zarrilli explains. Next year, if all goes well, the city will break ground on what’s called the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project, an undulating 10-foot-high steel-and-concrete-reinforced berm that will run about two miles along the riverfront. It’s the first part of a bigger barrier system, known informally as “the Big U,” that someday may loop around the entire bottom of Manhattan… there are plans in the works to build other walls and barriers in the Rockaways and on Staten Island, as well as in Hoboken, New Jersey, across the Hudson River. …

…wall-building is politically fraught: You can’t wall off the city’s entire 520-mile coastline, so how do you decide who gets to live behind the wall and who doesn’t? “You have to start somewhere,” Zarrilli says, “so you begin in the places where you get the maximum benefit for the most people.”

In Zarrilli’s view, there is no time to waste. By 2030 or so, the water in New York Harbor could be a foot higher than it is today. That may not sound like much, but New York does not have to become Atlantis to be incapacitated. Even with a foot or two of sea-level rise, streets will become impassable at high tide, snarling traffic. …

Then the big storm will come… if you add a foot or two of sea-level rise to a 14-foot storm tide, you have serious trouble. …Water will flow over the aging sea walls at Battery Park and onto the West Side, pouring into the streets, into basements, into cars, into electrical circuits, finding its way into the subway tunnels. New Yorkers will learn that even after the region spent $60 billion on rebuilding efforts after Sandy, the city’s infrastructure is still hugely vulnerable.

… New York’s Achilles’ heel is the subways, which are vulnerable to saltwater, which is highly corrosive to electrical circuits, as well as to the concrete in the tunnels. In theory, the subway system can be restructured to keep seawater out, but at some point, the cost gets prohibitive. … the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the New York subways, had to spend $530 million upgrading the South Ferry station in Lower Manhattan after it was heavily damaged on 9/11. After Sandy turned the station into a fish tank, the MTA had to close it for months and spend another $600 million to fix it. The MTA has now installed retractable barriers to stop seawater from flooding the station in the next big storm, but the subway system remains vulnerable to rising seas. “We’re not thinking systemically about climate change,” says Michael Gerrard, director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School. “We’re focused on Sandy, and Sandy isn’t the worst thing that could happen.”

In the end, there is only one real solution for sea-level rise: moving to higher ground.

In the near future, one of the main drivers of what policy wonks call “managed retreat” is likely to be the rising costs of flood insurance, which is provided to most property owners through National Flood Insurance Protection, an outdated, mismanaged federal program that subsidizes insurance rates for homeowners and businesses in high-risk areas (commercial insurers bailed out of the flood-insurance market decades ago).

Under NFIP, few people who live in flood-prone areas pay the actual cost of the risk. In addition, grandfather clauses in the program often allow homeowners to rebuild in areas that are doomed to flood again very soon. Attempts by Congress to reform the program have failed miserably, and it’s now $23 billion in debt. Eventually, increasing property losses will force reform and insurance rates will go up and up. “When people have to pay more and own more of the risk themselves, their decisions about where they live will change,” says Alex Kaplan, a senior vice president at Swiss Re, a global reinsurance company.

New York state is already experimenting with voluntary buyouts in high-risk areas. The logic is simple: In the long run, it’s cheaper simply to buy people out of their homes than to keep paying for them to be rebuilt after storms (it also moves people out of harm’s way).

Of course, it would cost hundreds of billions of dollars to buy out residents and businesses in Lower Manhattan. Instead, some urban planners have discussed offering tax breaks and other financial goodies to encourage residents and businesses to relocate to higher ground. Could parts of Lower Manhattan ever be de-populated and returned to nature? “Buildings were built,” says Kate Orff, director of the urban-planning program at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. “They can also be unbuilt.” More likely, the walls will go up, getting higher and higher as the seas rise.

The above info is from https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/can-new-york-be-saved-in-the-era-of-global-warming-20160705#ixzz4Da26LKLM

article to be written

Further reading

tba

Learning Standards

2016 Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework

HS-ESS2-6. Use a model to describe cycling of carbon through the ocean, atmosphere, soil, and biosphere and how increases in carbon dioxide concentrations due to human activity have resulted in atmospheric and climate changes.

HS-ESS3-1. Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the availability of key natural resources and changes due to variations in climate have influenced human activity.

HS-LS2-7. Analyze direct and indirect effects of human activities on biodiversity and ecosystem health, specifically habitat fragmentation, introduction of non-native or invasive species, overharvesting, pollution, and climate change. Evaluate and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on biodiversity and ecosystem health.*

High School Technology/Engineering

HS-ETS1-1. Analyze a major global challenge to specify a design problem that can be improved. Determine necessary qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for
solutions, including any requirements set by society.*

HS-ETS1-2. Break a complex real-world problem into smaller, more manageable problems that each can be solved using scientific and engineering principles.*

HS-ETS1-3. Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, aesthetics, and maintenance, as well as social, cultural, and environmental impacts.*

Causal mechanism

Causality is the relationship between causes and effects

example 1

There is a correlation between people putting keys in locks, and the door unlocking.

The causal mechanism behind this correlation is explicitly shown in this animation.

Lock and Key enzyme analogy

example 2

There is a correlation between adding gasoline and air, and seeing pistons in a car engine move.

The causal mechanism behind this correlation is explicitly shown in this animation.

four-stroke-engine-gif

The term “mechanism” emerged in the seventeenth century and derived from Greek and Latin terms for “machine”. René Descartes (17th century) understood mechanics as the basic building block of the physical world.

In Le Monde (Traité du monde et de la lumière ), he proposed to explain diverse phenomena in the natural world (such as planetary motion, the tides, the motion of the blood, and the properties of light) in terms of mechanisms.

Subsequently, the idea has been transformed many times to reflect an evolving understanding of all forces in the world, e.g. attraction and repulsion (Emil Du Bois-Reymond, 1818-1896), conservation of energy (Hermann von Helmholtz, 19th century) and gravitational attraction (Isaac Newton, 1642-1727)

Mechanisms are not fictions/metaphors. When a scientist says that there is a mechanism that makes proteins in living organisms, she is not just using a machine metaphor; rather, she is saying that there are in fact parts and activities organized in living organisms such that they produce proteins.

  • adapted, Mechanisms in Science, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

 

Not just solid stuff

It’s natural to think of causal mechanisms as solid: What else would they be? Above, the key and the lock, or the pistons and the engine block, are all solid matter. But not everything in the universe is like this: there are also fields. Gravitational fields, electric fields – these things are just as real as solid stuff made out of particles – and so it is just as common to see a causal mechanism of a field.

example 3

There is a correlation between the motion of a planet’s orbits, and the mass of a star.

The causal mechanism behind this correlation is shown in this animation, showing how the sun’s gravitational field warps the fabric of spacetime, to keep a planet in orbit.

Gravity General Relativity warping The Elegant Universe

From “The Elegant Universe”, PBS series NOVA. 2003.

example 4

There is a correlation between the direction a compass points, and the compass’s location and altitude.

The causal mechanism behind this correlation is shown in this diagram, showing that a magnetic field reaches out from the Earth and pulls the metal in a compass.

Earth North Geographic Pole South Magnetic Pole

 

What kinds of things are not mechanisms?

Correlations are not mechanisms. Mechanisms explain correlations, and many correlations can be used to characterize mechanistic relations, but correlations themselves are not mechanistic.

Inferences, reasons, and arguments are not mechanisms. What makes something an inference is a logical relation.

Symmetries are not mechanisms. Many kind of symmetry are of fundamental importance in physics. These are features of physical systems that are highly general facts or assumptions, but not mechanisms.

Fundamental laws of physics are not mechanisms. If a law is fundamental, then (by definition) there is no mechanism for it.

Relations of logical and mathematical necessity are not mechanisms. Such truths hold in all possible worlds – and so do not depend for their truth on facts about the causal structure of this world.

  • adapted, Mechanisms in Science, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

 

Articles

Correlation and causation: An introduction

When can correlation equal causation?

Why do we need to have controlled experiments? Experiment groups and control groups

Data dredging and p-hacking

Learning Standards

2016 Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework

Analyze data to identify relationships among seasonal patterns of change; use observations to describe patterns and/or relationships in the natural world and to answer scientific questions.

Science and engineering practices: Construct, analyze, and/or interpret graphical displays of data and/or large data sets to identify linear and nonlinear relationships.
• Use graphical displays (e.g., maps, charts, graphs, and/or tables) of large data sets to identify temporal and spatial relationships.
• Distinguish between causal and correlational relationships in data.
• Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for phenomena.

Appendix VIII Value of Crosscutting Concepts and Nature of Science in Curricula

Cause and Effect: Mechanism and Explanation. Events have causes, sometimes simple, sometimes multifaceted. A major activity of science and engineering is investigating and explaining causal relationships and the mechanisms by which they are mediated. Such mechanisms can then be tested across given contexts and used to predict and explain events in new contexts or design solutions.

College Board Standards for College Success: Science

Standard PS.1 Interactions, Forces and Motion

Changes in the natural and designed world are caused by interactions. Interactions of an object with other objects can be described by forces that can cause a change in motion of one or both interacting objects. Students understand that the term “interaction” is used to describe causality in science: Two objects interact when they act on or influence each other to cause some effect. Students understand that observable objects, changes and events occur in consistent patterns that are comprehensible through careful, systematic investigations.

Massachusetts History and Social Science

SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION AND THE ENLIGHTENMENT IN EUROPE
WHI.33 Summarize how the Scientific Revolution and the scientific method led to new
theories of the universe and describe the accomplishments of leading figures of the
Scientific Revolution, including Bacon, Copernicus, Descartes, Galileo, Kepler, and
Newton. (H)

 

 

How elections are impacted by a 100 million year old coastline

How elections are impacted by a 100 million year old coastline

Earth Science and Geology impact American social and political life in unexpected ways

Hale County in west central Alabama and Bamberg County in southern South Carolina are 450 miles apart.  Both counties have a population of 16,000 of which around 60% are African American.  The median households and per capita incomes are well below their respective state’s median, in Hale nearly $10,000 less.  Both were named after confederate officers–Stephen Fowler Hale and Francis Marion Bamberg.  And although Hale’s county seat is the self-proclaimed Catfish Capitol, pulling catfish out of the Edisto River in Bamberg County is a favorite past time.

These two counties share another unique feature. Amidst a blanket of Republican red both Hale and Bamberg voted primarily Democratic in the 2000, 2004, and again in the 2008 presidential elections.  Indeed, Hale and Bamberg belong to a belt of counties cutting through the deep south–Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina–that have voted over 50% Democratic in recent presidential elections.

Why? A 100 million year old coastline.

Creteaceous North America coastline

During the Cretaceous, 139-65 million years ago, shallow seas covered much of the southern United States.   These tropical waters were productive–giving rise to tiny marine plankton with carbonate skeletons which overtime accumulated into massive chalk formations.  The chalk, both alkaline and porous, lead to fertile and well-drained soils in a band, mirroring that ancient coastline and stretching across the now much drier South.   This arc of rich and dark soils in Alabama has long been known as the Black Belt.

But many, including Booker T. Washington, coopted the term to refer to the entire Southern band. Washington wrote in his 1901 autobiography, Up from Slavery, “The term was first used to designate a part of the country which was distinguished by the color of the soil. The part of the country possessing this thick, dark, and naturally rich soil…”

Cretaceous rocks Alabama

Over time this rich soil produced an amazingly productive agricultural region, especially for cotton.  In 1859 alone a harvest of over 4,000 cotton bales was not uncommon within the belt. And yet, just tens of miles north or south this harvest was rare.  Of course this level of cotton production required extensive labor.

Cotton in 1859 USA

As Washington notes further in his autobiography, “The part of the country possessing this thick, dark, and naturally rich soil was, of course, the part of the South where the slaves were most profitable, and consequently they were taken there in the largest numbers. Later and especially since the war, the term seems to be used wholly in a political sense—that is, to designate the counties where the black people outnumber the white.”

Slaves 1860 American south

The legacy of ancient coastlines, chalk, soil, cotton, and slavery can still be seen today.   African Americans make up over 50%, in some cases over 85%, of the population in Black Belt counties.  As expected this has and continues to deeply influence the culture of the Black Belt.  J. Sullivan Gibson writing in 1941 on the geology of the Black Belt noted, “The long-conceded regional identity of the Black Belts roots no more deeply its physical fundament of rolling prairie soil than in its cultural, social, and economic individuality.”  And so this plays out in politics.

Census 2000 black percent African American

This Black Belt with its predominantly African American population consistently votes overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates in presidential elections. The pattern is especially pronounced on maps when a Republican candidate has secured the presidency as Bush did in 2000 and 2004.  In Southern states where a Republican secures the nomination, almost the entirety of Black Belt counties still lean Democratic. This leads to a Blue Belt of Democratic counties across the South. Even when Clinton, a Democrat, overwhelmingly took most Southern states, the percentages of those voting Democrat was still highest in the Black Belt counties.

Election Results 1964

But the Black Belt has not always been visible on maps during elections.  The Voting Rights Act, outlawing discriminatory voting practices, was passed in 1965.  As result, a year earlier in the 1964 elections larger numbers of African Americans were excluded from the polls in Southern states.  And, in turn, the blue band we see today was not visible.

Long heralded as the Black Belt for rich dark soils and later for the rich African American culture and population, it may equally be referred to as the Blue Belt to reflect both its oceanic geology and the political leanings that resulted from it.

About the author: Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic.

Deep Sea News: How presidential elections are impacted by a 100 million year old coastline

–  – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Now we move to further data, from the original article,  Geology and Election 2000: Overview, by Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences,University of Wisconsin – Green Bay

On the map of electoral returns for the presidential election of 2000 is a feature instantly recognizable to a geologist: in the otherwise pro-Bush South, an arcuate band of pro-Gore counties sweeps from eastern Mississippi, across Alabama and Georgia and into the Carolinas.

Election results 2000

My geologist’s eye was immediately drawn to this arc because it coincides almost exactly with a series of rock units on the Geologic Map of the United States. Why would election returns follow rock outcrops?

In the map below, Cretaceous rock units (139-65 million years old) are shown in shades of green. Older rock units are in gray, younger ones in yellow. The complex NE-trending patterns in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina are deformed rocks of the Appalachians. In NW Alabama, the older rocks are flat-lying layers of the continental interior.

Cretaceous rocks Alabama

Comparison with the geologic maps shows that the arc actually consists of three segments.

  • In Mississippi and Alabama the pro-Gore band of counties corresponds very closely with the units labeled uK – upper Cretaceous. We might suspect that  the most likely explanation for this part of the arc has to do with economic patterns dictated by the soils. Most of the electoral and demographic patterns associated with the band end abruptly in NE Mississippi.
  • In Georgia, the Cretaceous outcrop band is very narrow. It is surprising how clear the pro-Gore band is in Georgia considering how narrow and discontinuous the outcrop band of Cretaceous rocks is. This part of the arc may have less to do with the rocks themselves than the boundary between the Appalachians and the Coastal Plain.
  • In South Carolina, however, the band of Democratic counties is well defined but is consistently seaward of the Cretaceous rock units. In fact, on some maps there seems to be a weak anti-correlation between the Cretaceous rocks in South Carolina and the political and demographic trends noted for the other three states. However, the South Carolina portion of the arc turns out to be consistent in election returns and a variety of other demographic factors.

This band shows up with varying degrees of prominence for previous elections as well. It shows the same correlation with rock units in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia and the same lack of correlation in South Carolina. It further shows strong correlation with demographic trends.

The Coastal plain rocks slope gently seaward toward the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, a structure called a homocline. I therefore propose to call the arc of pro-Democratic counties, which is reflected in a variety of demographic trends, the Cretaceous Homoclinal Arc of Demography, which can be abbreviated by an acronym that more than anything else symbolizes the election of 2000: CHAD.

(more to come)

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