Something interesting is happening

I have no idea how, or exactly what, but people on reddit–amateur investors, money-grubbing thrill seekers, and gambling addicts–have taken on Wall Street. And they’re 2/0 right now.

William LeGate explains: 

Elon Musk just tweeted about the stock & they’re now trading at $192 after-hours… if they open at this price, Melvin Capital will go bankrupt tomorrow morning. $13.1 billion in wealth transferred from Wall St to Reddit trolls. 
What we’re witnessing isn’t a traditional pump & dump… it is an unorganized, yet collective effort of memelords & avg Americans to completely ignore all market fundamentals &, thru the power of social media, bankrupt hedge funds overnight, taking their funds. Legality unclear. 
Reddit is also in the process of meme-ifying AMC stock to revive it from the dead… this is like the Occupy Wall Street movement but on their own turf & with real financial consequences. Incredible.
essodyjxeaeoto7
It’s not going to last. It’s not going to be permitted to last. But it’s a crack in the wall. It’s a way for ordinary people to, completely legally and with full moral justification, bring the hurt down on big corporations. 
 
Wall Street is about to put a LOT of pressure on the SEC to make stock memes illegal & for it to be harder for everyday Americans to trade. They don’t want it to be legal for everyday Americans to organize via social media to do what they do to profit.
But the thing about a free market–and with a *free* and *uncensored* communication tool like the Internet is that people will find a way.
 
Here’s hoping they focus their attention on someone worth taking out. 

Plug: Iron, How Did They Make It

Unmitigated Pedant Bret Devereaux has another of his historical explaination/analyses up, and it’s what it says it’s about, a deeeeeep dive into how people made iron. This follows his last series, which looked at how people made bread.

From a well-fed and industrialized point of view, iron’s a lot more sexy, honestly.

For people who might be wanting more than just a spoon-fed overview, there is also a bibliography.

clan of the cave bear!

They found a frozen, preserved, intact cave bear! Until now, only the bones have been found.

Unique discovery of perfectly preserved extinct cave bear showing  its teeth after up to 39,000 years

The remains were found by reindeer herders on [Yakutia] and the remains will be analysed by scientists at the North-Eastern Federal University (NEFU) in Yakutsk, which is at the forefront of research into extinct woolly mammoths and rhinos.

The cave bear (Ursus spelaeus) is a prehistoric species or subspecies that lived in Eurasia in the Middle and Late Pleistocene period and became extinct about 15,000 years ago.

According to the rough preliminary suggestions the bear could live in Karginsky interglacial (this was the period between 22,000 and 39,500 years).

A cub was also found.

Neato.

Have we been keeping an eye on Elon Musk?

Because he’s at the “implanting computer chips in pigs” stage.

Neuralink has a medical focus to start, like helping people deal with brain and spinal cord injuries or congenital defects. The technology could, for example, help paraplegics who’ve lost the ability to move or sense because of spinal cord injury, and the first human uses will aim to improve conditions like paraplegia or tetraplegia.

But there are obvious future (and futuristic) implications as well.

But Musk’s vision is far more radical, including ideas like “conceptual telepathy,” where two people can communicate electronically by thinking at each other instead of writing or speaking. The long-term goal is to head off a future where artificial intelligence vastly smarter than humans exterminates us.

Musk envisions people using Neuralink to connect to their own digital AI incarnations so “the future is controlled by the combined will of the people of Earth,” Musk said. “It’s going to be important from an existential threat perspective to achieve a good AI symbiosis.”

And they’re also building robot doctors to do the implantation process itself.

Neuralink is building a robotic installer that ultimately is designed to handle the full surgical installation process. That includes opening up the scalp, removing a portion of the skull, inserting the hundreds of “thread” electrodes along with an accompanying computer chip, then closing the incision. The installer is designed to dodge blood vessels to avoid bleeding, Musk said.

I’m in favor of advanced technology, but let’s focus on getting a significant fraction of the population starborne before we try messing with AI, shall we?

Interesting: mining with plants

Spotted at bayourenaissanceman’s blog: some plants accumulate nickel to the point where it can be commercially viable to harvest them.

p08pl69k

The University of Queensland’s van der Ent has calculated that a hyper-accumulator like Phyllantus balgoyii can produce an estimated 120kg of nickel per hectare every year. That translates to a market value of around $1,754 (£1,300) per hectare. Extracting the nickel involves pruning the shoots – which hold the highest concentrations of the metal – and burning them, after which the nickel can be separated from the ash.

$1,754 isn’t a whole lot of money, but if we’re talking about, perhaps, rehabilitating an area which has been damaged–say by wholesale nickel strip-mining–or an area on which it isn’t possible to grow other crops, might work. At least, it ought to allow the grow op to pay for itself.

There are also a few species that hyperaccumulate iron, or so the article seems to imply.

It does seem like a very elfish, in tune with nature-way to extract resources from the Earth, doesn’t it? (Curufinwe Feanaro could not be reached for comment.)

The peaceful and mysterious Anasazi….

cliff-dwellings-coloradowere violent cannibals.

“Previous archaeological and osteological (bone) studies have strongly indicated that cannibalistic episodes took place in the prehistoric Southwest, but the evidence has been essentially circumstantial. “Now, we’ve identified biochemical remains of human tissue in a coprolite, which is the term used for prehistoric human feces,” Billman said. “Analysis of the coprolite, and associated remains, at last provides definitive evidence for sporadic cannibalism in the Southwest.”

* human blood residue on two stone tools used in butchering

* human myoglobin, which could only come from human muscle, in the human excrement and on a cooking pot.

* cutmarks and charring on human bones, including skulls, entirely consistent with food preparation.

* no evidence of other mammals, corn or other vegetable matter in the coprolite, which suggested that other food was unavailable.

Along with other researchers, they have identified 18 occurrences of cannibalism, nine of which occurred between about AD 1150 and 1200 in the Mesa Verde area. Once environmental conditions improved after 1200, there is little indication of cannibalism in the Southwest.

“Unlike cultures in New Guinea and Fiji, historic Puebloan people and other Native Americans in the Southwest did not practice cannibalism,” Billman said. “Somehow or other, they figured out a way of stopping this form of terroristic violence. One of the reasons modern Puebloan people object so strenuously to our talking about this is that they have extreme taboos against cannibalism, and it’s about the worst thing you can do in their society.” Cannibalism has occurred in a wide range of societies for a wide variety of reasons, including starvation, ancestor worship and political terrorism, the scientist wrote.

“With presentation of the first direct evidence of cannibalism in the American Southwest in the prehistoric era, we hope that the debate will shift from the question of whether or not cannibalism occurred to questions concerning the social context, causes and consequences of these events.”

This information is documented in several different journals, in case you thought this was fringe science by someone with an agenda. And, I dunno, weirder things have happened.

The remains of 12 people were discovered at the site, designated 5MT10010, but only five were from burials. The other seven appear to have been systematically dismembered, defleshed, their bones battered, and in some cases burned or stewed, leaving them in the same condition as bones of animals used for food. Cut marks, fractures, and other stone-tool scars were present on the bones, and the light color of some suggests stewing. Patterns of burning indicate that many were exposed to flame while still covered with flesh, which is what would be expected after cooking over a fire.

Patricia Lambert of Utah State University and Brian Billman and Banks Leonard of Soil Systems, the contract archaeology firm that excavated 5MT10010, propose that cannibalism was associated with violent conflict between Anasazi communities in the mid-1100s, contemporary with a period of drought and the collapse of the Chaco system. They note a sharp increase in evidence of cannibalism between 1130 and 1150, followed in each case by the abandonment of the site, then a decrease in the early 1200s as the climate improved.

And in case you want a long-form writeup:

In 1993, archaeologists made a major theoretical advancement by showing strong archaeological evidence of customary cannibalism in the American Southwest. A husband and wife team, Christy and Jacqueline Turner, analyzed hundreds of sites over the span of decades in the Anasazi cultural region and found that sites with strong evidence of cannibalism were not randomly distributed. Instead, the sites were exclusively located within the Anasazi culture area—none in the surrounding regions despite those regions having “more severe winters [which] should have produced some cannibalized assemblages if starvation had been the primary cause.” Moreover, survival-cannibalism could not explain why the bodies uncovered by Turner and Turner were so battered and beaten—the markings indicating torture-like trauma. With starvation-cannibalism ruled out, customary cannibalism became heavily inferred. Turner and Turner solidify this inference by turning to the historical record and showing that this outcropping of cannibalism was likely spurred by the spread of Aztec culture in the form of immigrants flowing north and following a “warrior-cultist tradition.”

The Turners also wrote Man Corn: Cannibalism and Violence in the Prehistoric American Southwest.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off for lunch.

They found a frozen wolf head this time

In lieu of a clever title, here’s the facts: Someone found a frozen and very well preserved Pleistocene-era wolf head in the Siberian permafrost.

“This is a unique discovery of the first ever remains of a fully grown Pleistocene wolf with its tissue preserved,” palaeontologist Albert Protopopov [said].

The article keeps describing the head as “giant” but doesn’t give any reasons for this. You have to go slightly deeper into the linked Siberian Times article to find that this ancient wolf’s head is approximately half the size of a current wolf’s body.

….yeah, but is it, though?

So ScienceAlert gives the head size of The Ice Wolf as 16 inches/40 cm; Siberian Times gives average wolf body size as 66-86 cm (given that this translates to 25-35~inches, something’s hinky here. They must not be counting tail length). And anyway, that’s not actually all that helpful, now, is it?

Wiki tells me that for modern wolves,

Wolves measure 105–160 cm (41–63 in) in length and 80–85 cm (31–33 in) at shoulder height.

The skull is 230–280 mm (9–11 in).

So this guy is distinctly bigger….but not half again as large as a modern-day wolf.

Furthermore:

The size and weight of the modern wolf increases proportionally with latitude in accord with Bergmann’s rule.

I’m going to guess that this applies to prehistoric wolves, too–and this one lived and died in the permafrost zones. So.

Don’t trust fake news.

Cool beans: new, *solo* Cannonball Run record

Someone just drove from California to New York in 25 hours. All right, 25:55, but that’s img-9501-jpg-1592577923still an average of 108 mph….with only one stop for gas and no cops. And he even claims to have used his CB to talk some truckers into moving for him. That’s awesome.

Quite a lot of people have been taking a whack at the Cannonball Run lately, possibly because lockdown has emptied the roads a little, probably because lockdown has scrambled their brains to the point where it seems like a good idea.

But while most of us were twiddling our thumbs at home during the COVID-19 closures (or mourning the loss of our jobs, or dying), a handful of scofflaw endurance drivers were busy making tracks from New York to L.A. Several of these were solo runs, and those of us in the know watched, amazed, as the time it took one person to drive 2800 miles nonstop plummeted from the low-to-mid-30s to just under 28 hours. Even those times, set only a few months ago, were blown out of the water recently when Fred Ashmore, 44, of Hancock, Maine, rented a Mustang GT, removed its passenger seats and other interior accessories, strapped in enough extra fuel tanks to bump the car’s capacity to around 130 gallons, and made the trip from the Red Ball garage in Manhattan to the Portofino Hotel & Marina in Redondo Beach with only one stop for fuel.

Oh yeah, and he did it in a rental car and barely spent any money on it.

Ashmore’s effort shines as an example of extreme frugality. He says he didn’t spend more than $3000 on his whole trip, including the car, its strapped-in, Facebook Marketplace-sourced fuel tanks (and fuel), and the electronic countermeasures that have become de rigueur for anyone wanting to drive at these speeds without landing in jail.

Mind you, some people aren’t that appreciative.

“There are so many of these runs now, it’s hard to think of anything to say,” he said. “What is this, like the 47th one this year? I don’t want to take anything away from Fred, but I just want six months with no records.”

Heh.