Mail 723 Tuesday, May 08, 2012
Is intelligence a genetic mistake?
A paper “finds that a gene dubbed SRGAP2 has, during cell divisions, been incompletely copied three times in human evolution: once around 3.4 million years ago, and again 2.4 and 1 million years ago. The gene in question is associated with cortical development.”
“The researchers also find the timing of the mutation suggestive (although not conclusive): one of the partially-copied genes seems to arrive in the human genome at around the same time as modern humans began to supplant their hominid predecessors.”
Carl Sagan used to speculate that one answer to Fermi’s Question – “Where are they?” – is that when a race gets intelligent enough to go to space it will have nuclear power and other such sources of energies of mass destruction – see McPhee’s The Curve of Binding Energy – and will be unable to control everyone who has access to weapons of mass destruction – and will decivilize and destroy itself. That’s why there are no aliens landing on the White House lawn.
I have always thought that humans developed intelligence because we were fortunate enough to have dogs as partners. They use their forebrains to smell intruding enemies, leaving us free to use ours to develop smarts.
Our lives are being sold in the name of political idealism — again:
69 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have sent Barack Obama a letter expressing their concern that a new international treaty currently being negotiated would essentially ban all "Buy American" laws. This new treaty is known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and it is going to be one of the biggest "free trade" agreements in history. Critics are referring to it as the "NAFTA of the Pacific", and it would likely cost the U.S. economy even more jobs than NAFTA did. At the moment, the Trans-Pacific Partnership includes Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore. Barack Obama is pushing hard to get the United States into the TPP, and Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, Canada, Japan and South Korea are also reportedly interested in joining. But quite a few members of Congress have heard that "Buy American" laws will essentially be banned under this agreement, and this has many of them very concerned. You can read the entire letter that was sent to Obama right here. Unfortunately, the leaders of both major political parties are overwhelmingly in favor of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, so the objections of these 69 members of Congress are likely to fall on deaf ears. The Trans-Pacific Partnership will accelerate the flow of American jobs out of this country, and meanwhile our politicians will continue to insist that they are doing everything that they can to "create jobs".
Joshua Jordan, KSC
The question of Free Trade vs. selected protectionism is complex and bitterly debated. We will probably reopen the debate here. Lincoln once famously said that if he bought a shirt from England, he got a shirt, possibly at a bargain, but the money left the country. If he bought it from New England he got the shirt, the money stayed home, and could be taxed. Obviously the situation is more complex than that, but Lincoln understood that. Unprotected industries seldom survive starup. On the other hand, over protected industries generally grow stale and inefficient – look at Detroit in the 1950’s. Or the history of the steel industry.
One thing seems clear to me: if you put in a lot of expensive regulations without some tariff, you cannot compete with those who don’t face the regulations – especially if they have bought your production technology.
Tax loophole costs billions – 13 WTHR Indianapolis
4 Billion dollars in tax fraud. Worse than bunny inspectors.
How truly good. Hardly a surprise of course.
Markets for human flesh
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
I believe you once stated that unbridled capitalism would lead to a market in human flesh. It appears you were not mistaken .
Of course, thousands of babies are aborted or die soon after birth in the land of the one-child policy. I suppose it was only a matter of time before someone decided it was a shame to see all that material go to waste.
The irony that China is not, technically, a capitalist country is of course not lost on me.
This is neither the first nor the last. Welcome to the future.
‘The world could not get enough of Mussolini until he teamed up with Hitler and the Nazis.’
Mussolini made the trains run on time and actually built much of the railroad system. He was a socialist. Generally socialism requires a command economy. Mussolini was admired by many including FDR and Huey Long (who understood him quite well). Argentina is still recovering from Peron who was a would be Mussolini – as is Chavez. John Stuart Mill once said that a society unable to govern itself must settle for a Charlemagne or an Akbar if they are fortunate enough to find one. Some would add Mussolini to that list, but what you are more likely to get is a Castro, Peron, Chavez…
McAfee founder raided in Belize by gang-busting police
My organization has had similar experiences in third world countries … but mostly in Africa.
McAfee founder raided in Belize by gang-busting police
Claims political persecution and dog murder
By Iain Thomson in San Francisco <http://forms.theregister.co.uk/mail_author/?story_url=/2012/05/04/mcafee_busted_belize/>
John McAfee, retired founder of McAfee Antivirus, has had his Belize laboratory raided and his dog shot during a dawn raid by thirty officers of the local police Gang Suppression Unit.
At 6am on Monday morning the officers with a warrant stormed McAfee’s laboratory, which researches ways to use bacterial communication to fight disease. In a statement <http://edition.channel5belize.com/archives/69892>  to local station Channel Five, McAfee said police smashed open unlocked doors, handcuffed the 12 employees and "murdered my dog in cold blood."
"This is clearly a military dictatorship where people are allowed to go and harass citizens based on rumor alone and treat them as if they are guilty before any evidence whatsoever is obtained," he said. "It is astonishing, it is beyond belief and I intend not to let this stand. I will not stand idly by to let this happen to me."
The police claimed that the facility had unlicensed firearms, and McAfee claims the correct documents were all handed over, but after the raid a single firearms certificate was missing and he and his staff were left handcuffed in the compound for 14 hours. It took copies of the original certificates and the intervention of the US embassy to get him released, but his passport was seized.
McAfee claims that he was approached by a local politician who asked for a donation to his campaign. He refused. McAfee has spent millions on local health and police programs, but has not wanted to get involved in politics, he said.
"I am an old man, I am sixty-six. I have a fair amount of money and not much to do. So I spend it where I think it will do good. And I don’t ever invest in politics," he said. "I don’t donate to any political party; I don’t have any political affiliations. I think politics is foolish for a private citizen like myself to engage in — the winning party, you never get your money and the losing party, you’re on the outs."
McAfee originally started researching the Brain virus as an intellectual exercise, before marketing code <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2003/01/07/in_computer_disease_there/>  to handle the first malware by pioneering shareware. He eventually started McAfee before selling it to Network Associates and retiring to study yoga, while still investing in technology and research.
Of course you must expect this sort of thing if you put your trust in princes. But who would have taught McAfee that?
With this announcement, I expect the AGW doomsayers will increase their strident rhetoric by several decibels.
Greenland glaciers not set to cause disastrous sea level rises – study
Another blow for hippy doomsayers
US government funded scientists have measured the speed of glaciers in Greenland as they move down to the sea over the past ten years, and discovered that – while the glaciers have speeded up somewhat – there’s no indication that this will mean major sea level rises.
"Observed acceleration indicates that sea level rise from Greenland may fall well below proposed upper bounds," write the boffins, who are based in Seattle and Ohio.
There’s a lot of interest in Greenland’s glaciers, as opposed to the rest of the Arctic ice cap, as they rest on solid land and thus – if they should all slide off – sea levels would rise seriously around the globe. Just a few years ago, the fearmongering hippies* at Greenpeace were bandying <http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/features/greenlandmelting170206/>  a wild figure of seven metres about, adding:
That’s bye-bye most of Bangladesh, Netherlands, Florida and would make London the new Atlantis.
In the real world, scientists had thought that – if the glaciers accelerated faster and faster as some models predicted – melting Greenland ice might cause 19 inches of sea-level rise by the year 2100. Other scenarios pointed to a lower figure, of four inches. Combined with melting from the Antarctic and mountain glaciers around the world – though many of these latter don’t appear to be melting at all <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/04/16/himalayan_karakoram_glaciers_gaining_ice/> , according to recent research – this could still mean greater rises than the normal 6-7 inches as seen in the 20th century. <clip>
Of course sea levels were much lower when much of the Northern Hemisphere was under kilometers of glacial ice. The Persian Gulf was marshland…
Fred, on education
Fred nails it again.
Yes, I covered that in View, and thanks. http://www.jerrypournelle.com/chaosmanor/?p=7235
"The amazing NUIverse astronomy application by Dr. David Brown puts the cosmos at your fingertips like never before."
Sable has hunted gophers on that hill for all of her eight years, and today she caught one
So… did she offer to share with the leader of her "pack" ie- you?
I hadn’t thought about it, but yes. She was of course astonished that she caught it, but clearly she is programmed to kill them quickly without thinking about it. It’s not as if we have any shortage of gophers, although the rattlesnakes are keeping them a bit in check. The West Nile virus has far worse than decimated the crow population, and the crows haven’t thinned the latest rattlesnake hatch. Of course there is always an ecology. I’d rather have crows and more gophers than rattlesnakes, but that’s just my convenience. The Nature Conservancy bought up the hills to take them out of the development market, and the cuts in state budget keep the ranger population down, so we’re seeing natural development in the California scrub hills – and without fire. For a while. Of course eventually there will be a fire they can’t control.
Jedi Jerry -
I’m sure others have brought your attention to this: dinosaur flatulence may have warmed the Earth -
And here I thought beans and onions were Cenozoic.
A better description of the dinosaur flatulence scenario:
I remember many years ago being part of a briefing in which Possony told Reagan that much “greenhouse warming” was caused by “the flatulence of cows.” I have never actually worked the numbers on that. And how many dinosaurs were there? Surely not as many as people and cows now?
Climate Wars: The Heartland Billboard Fiasco
Long, long ago, on a billboard far, far away :
fake minorities in academia, who would have thought it?
I know a genealogist who is doing very well in constructing ancestries that include privileged minorities…