flashback

Two former models who are now special agents are on the trail of mobsters in possession of a music book that has the coded location of a chest of gold bullion

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Giving violators more punishment than they deserve can undermine the benefits of cooperative action. […] At the same time, imposing markedly less punishment than what a violator deserves creates disaffection and acrimony that also can subvert cooperation. In other words, it is not punishment that is needed to maintain social cooperation, but justice. […]

In 1848, the discovery of gold brought 300,000 men to California from all over the world. Yet this sudden mass of humanity lived without a functioning legal system. And if there had been a legal enforcement system, it was unclear what law it would enforce. […] Without a functional government, there were no licensing procedures, fees, or taxes to regulate gold prospecting. No miner worked land that he owned. Any prospector could join any mining camp at any time. Camp populations were heterogeneous: “Puritans and drunkards, clergymen and convict, honest and dishonest, rich and poor.” There was no common language, culture, or legal experience. […] The men shared a common set of needs, however. Each miner needed to be able to leave whatever he owned unguarded each day while he worked his claim. A miner who found gold needed to protect his find until he could convert it into cash or goods.

{ Paul H. Robinson/SSRN | Continue reading }

Lol yup no nudes yet

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{ The Statue of Liberty under construction in Paris | more photos | Wikipedia }

Col. Sherrell has issued an order that bathing suits at the Wash[ington] bathing beach must not be over six inches above the knee

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{ Two women arrested for defying a Chicago edict banning abbreviated bathing suits on beaches, 1922 | Another arrest | Policeman measuring the distance between knee and suit }

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{ New York Times, 1919 | PDF }

Now back to Gene Krupa’s syncopated style

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It was about a study by Dean Snow reporting that, contrary to decades of archaeological dogma, many of the first artists were women. […]

Another group of researchers is claiming the study’s methods were unsound. […] Snow’s study focused on the famous 12,000- to 40,000-year-old handprints found on cave walls in France and Spain. Because these hands generally appear near pictures of bison and other big game, scholars had long believed that the art was made by male hunters. Snow tested that notion by comparing the relative lengths of fingers in the handprints […] because among modern people, women tend to have ring and index fingers of about the same length, whereas men’s ring fingers tend to be longer than their index fingers. […] Snow developed an algorithm that could predict the sex of a given handprint. […]

The new study, published Monday in the Journal of Archaeological Science, found that Snow’s algorithm predicted female hands fairly well, but was useless for males, making it overall a bad predictor of sex.

{ Phenomena | Continue reading }

Give us that brisket off the hook. Plup.

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The most disturbing thing that ever happened at the Ueno Zoo was the systematic slaughter of the garden’s most famous and valuable animals in the summer of 1943. At the height of the Second World War, as the Japanese empire teetered on the brink of collapse, the zoo was transformed from a wonderland of imperial amusement and exotic curiosity into a carefully ritualized abattoir, a public altar for the sanctification of creatures sacrificed in the service of total war and of ultimate surrender to emperor and nation. The cult of military martyrdom is often recognized as a central component of Japanese fascist culture, but events at the zoo add a chilling new dimension to that analysis. They show that the pursuit of total mobilization extended into areas previously unexamined, suggesting how the culture of total war became a culture of total sacrifice after 1943. […] The killings were carried out in secret until nearly one-third of the garden’s cages stood empty, their former inhabitants’ carcasses hauled out of the zoo’s service entrance in covered wheelbarrows during the dark hours before dawn.

{ University of California Press | PDF }

This unprecedented ceremony known as the “Memorial Service for Martyred Animals” was held on the zoo’s grounds where nearly a third of the cages stood empty. Lions from Abyssinia, tigers representative of Japan’s troops, bears from Manchuria, Malaya and Korea, an American bison, and many others had been clubbed, speared, poisoned and hacked to death in secret. Although the zoo’s director had found a way to save some of the condemned creatures by moving them to zoos outside Tokyo, Mayor Ōdaichi Shigeo insisted on their slaughter. Ōdaichi himself, along with Imperial Prince Takatsukasa Nobusuke and the chief abbot of Asakusa’s Sensōji Temple, presided over the carefully choreographed and highly publicized “Memorial Service”, thanking the animals for sacrificing themselves for Japan’s war effort.

{ The Times Literary Supplement | Continue reading }

art { Ito Shinsui, After the bath, 1917 }

Just remember, when you control the mail, you control… information

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Amoebas are puny, stupid blobs, so scientists were surprised to learn that they contain 200 times more DNA than Einstein did. Because amoebas are made of just one cell, researchers assumed they would be simpler than humans genetically. Plus, amoebas date back farther in time than humans, and simplicity is considered an attribute of primitive beings. It just didn’t make sense. […]

Before the advent of rapid, accurate, and inexpensive DNA sequencing technology in the early 2000s, biologists guessed that genes would provide more evidence for increasing complexity in evolution. Simple, early organisms would have fewer genes than complex ones, they predicted. […] Instead, their assumptions of increasing complexity began to fall apart. […]

Then molecular analyses did something else. They rearranged the order of branches on evolutionary trees. Biologists pushed aside trees based on how similar organisms looked to one another, and made new ones based on similarities in DNA and protein sequences. The results suggested that complex body parts evolved multiple times and had also been lost. One study found that winged stick insects evolved from wingless stick insects who had winged ancestors. […]

Perhaps the fact that people are stunned whenever organisms become simpler says more about how the human mind organizes the world than about evolutionary processes. People are more comfortable envisioning increasing complexity through time instead of reversals or stasis.

{ Nautilus | Continue reading }

design { Sam Winston }

‘Yesterday won’t be over until tomorrow and tomorrow began ten thousand years ago.’ –Faulkner

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Why does life exist?

Popular hypotheses credit a primordial soup, a bolt of lightning and a colossal stroke of luck. But if a provocative new theory is correct, luck may have little to do with it. Instead, according to the physicist proposing the idea, the origin and subsequent evolution of life follow from the fundamental laws of nature and “should be as unsurprising as rocks rolling downhill.”

From the standpoint of physics, there is one essential difference between living things and inanimate clumps of carbon atoms: The former tend to be much better at capturing energy from their environment and dissipating that energy as heat. Jeremy England, a 31-year-old assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has derived a mathematical formula that he believes explains this capacity. The formula, based on established physics, indicates that when a group of atoms is driven by an external source of energy (like the sun or chemical fuel) and surrounded by a heat bath (like the ocean or atmosphere), it will often gradually restructure itself in order to dissipate increasingly more energy. This could mean that under certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life.

{ Quanta | Continue reading }

Punk is dad

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We have identified a Y-chromosomal lineage with several unusual features. It was found in 16 populations throughout a large region of Asia, stretching from the Pacific to the Caspian Sea, and was present at high frequency: ~8% of the men in this region carry it, and it thus makes up ~0.5% of the world total. The pattern of variation within the lineage suggested that it originated in Mongolia ~1,000 years ago. Such a rapid spread cannot have occurred by chance; it must have been a result of selection. The lineage is carried by likely male-line descendants of Genghis Khan, and we therefore propose that it has spread by a novel form of social selection resulting from their behavior.

{ National Institutes of Health }

An international group of geneticists studying Y-chromosome data have found that nearly 8 percent of the men living in the region of the former Mongol empire carry y-chromosomes that are nearly identical. That translates to 0.5 percent of the male population in the world, or roughly 16 million descendants living today. […]

To have such a startling impact on a population required a special set of circumstances, all of which are met by Genghis Khan and his male relatives, the authors note in the study.

[Genghis Khan lived from 1162-1227 and raped and pillaged from Mongolia to the gates of Vienna. Once he captured a village or town, he would essentially kill all the men and rape the women.]

The Y-chromosome is passed on as a chunk of DNA from father to son, basically unchanged through generations except for random mutations.

These random mutations, which happen naturally and are usually harmless, are called markers. Once the markers have been identified, geneticists can go back in time and trace them to the point at which they first occurred, defining a unique lineage of descent.

In this particular instance, the lineage originated 1,000 years ago. The authors aren’t saying that the genetic mutations defining the lineage originated with Khan, who was born around 1162; they are more likely to have been passed on to him by a great great grandfather.

[…]

The connection to Genghis Khan will never be a certainty unless his grave is found and his DNA could be extracted.

{ National Geographic | Continue reading | Audio: Radio Lab, Genghis Khan Episode }

The location of the tomb of Genghis Khan has been the object of much speculation and research. The site remains undiscovered. […] According to one legend, the funeral escort killed anyone and anything that crossed their path, in order to conceal where he was finally buried. After the tomb was completed, the slaves who built it were massacred, and then the soldiers who killed them were also killed.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

‘It is always the unreadable that occurs.’ –Oscar Wilde

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Damnatio memoriae is the Latin phrase literally meaning “condemnation of memory” in the sense of a judgment that a person must not be remembered. […] The intent was to erase someone from history, a task somewhat easier in ancient times, when documentation was much sparser. […]

Any truly effective damnatio memoriae would not be noticeable to later historians, since, by definition, it would entail the complete and total erasure of the individual in question from the historical record.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

‘Burrow for seed, the screech in hole’ —@TNI_InfantBat

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{ The Hidden Mother | More }

‘Deception is the knowledge of kings.’ –Cardinal de Richelieu

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For four years, Josh and I were Silicon Alley’s “it” couple. We met in 1996, when he was running the Internet entertainment site Pseudo.com and throwing Warhol-scale parties. […]

One morning, as I was putting on my robe, he announced that he was planning to have cameras installed all over the loft–above the bed, behind the bathroom mirror, inside the refrigerator, even in the litter box–and wire them to the Internet in the name of art. Art? More like porn, I said. But Josh calmly explained that we would never do anything that made us uncomfortable, and that he eventually hoped to sell unedited tapes of our lives to a museum. […]

As we were gearing up for the November launch, Pseudo tanked, as did the rest of the tech stocks. Josh’s share in Pseudo was now worthless, and the fortunes he made from Jupiter Communications were slashed. Meanwhile, he was sinking over $1 million into Living in Public, hiring me to produce the Web site, manage press and plan a launch party (I was not paid to live in public), and bringing in a team to rip open the walls and fill them with a complex nervous system of wires, cables and cameras.

{ NY Observer 2/26/01 | Continue reading }

photos { 1. Phebe Schmidt | 2 }

‘History is a conscious, self-meditating process—Spirit emptied out into Time.’ –Hegel

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This column discusses the roots of the Great Divergence between European and Asian economies. […] The Great Divergence of living standards between Europe and Asia had late medieval origins and was already well under way during the early modern period. […]

The economic history literature suggests two important shocks coinciding with the turning points identified above around 1348 and 1500.

- The Black Death – which began in western China before spreading to Europe and reaching England in 1348 – wiped out around one-third of Europe’s population within three years, and more than a half over the following century.

- Around 1500, new trade routes were opened up between Europe and Asia around the south of Africa, and between Europe and the Americas.

[…]

The Black Death of the mid-fourteenth century had quite different effects in different parts of Europe. The classic Malthusian response to such a mortality crisis is a rise in incomes for those lucky enough to survive because of an increase in the per capita endowment of land and capital for survivors.

{ Vox | Continue reading }