Thursday, November 29, 2012

Does Prehistory Influence Modern Law?

A new law review article argues that prehistory civilization continues to have a meaningful impact on modern law.  In particular, this article argues that the Harappan civilization of the Indus River Valley and the civilizations of its BMAC trade partners were important in understanding Western legal prehistory and the larger context of global legal thought.

This article's interpretation of the prehistoric record is deeply out of touch with mainstream scholarship regarding these parts of pre-history and ancient history.  When Kar states in the abstract that "I will be arguing that these ancient developments most likely had a much closer and much more intimate relationship to some of the earliest precursors of Western tradition than has commonly been recognized," Kar is greatly understating the extent to which the conclusions reached are not accepted by scholars whose primary fields of research are more closely aligned with the study of this part of prehistory.

Kar also fails to give sufficient credit to the fact that we know, even with the latest developments in this fast advancing branch of research, very, very little about the social structure and laws of these ancient civilizations, even though we know much more than we once did about their genetics, their tools and technologies, the chronologies and geographic range of their civilizations, and their linguistic affiliations.

The Abstract

The paper (open access) is Robin Bradley Kar (University of Illinois College of Law) Western Legal Prehistory: Reconstructing the Hidden Origins of Western Law and Civilization (University of Illinois Law Review, Vol. 2012, No. 5, p. 1499, 2012). The lengthy abstract is as follows:
Western legal prehistory aims to reconstruct some of the earliest proto-legal and cultural developments that gave rise to Western legal systems and the rule of law. So construed, our understanding of Western legal prehistory is currently highly undeveloped. One reason for this fact is methodological: without the aid of written sources, reconstructions of human prehistory can prove difficult. Recent advances in a broad range of cognate fields have, however, now accumulated past a critical tipping point, and we are now in a secure enough position to begin to reconstruct important aspects of Western legal prehistory.

This Article draws upon and develops these contemporary findings to reconstruct the most plausible genealogical shape of Western legal prehistory. In the process, it reaches a somewhat surprising conclusion. On the traditional view, the most important traditions relevant to the rise of Western law and Western Civilization are said to have originated in ancient Greece, Rome, and Israel. This traditional view is, however, based primarily on historical sources, and the reconstructions in this Article suggest that important precursors of these traditions very likely emerged much earlier and much further to the East. In fact, some of the most important traditions relevant to the emergence of large-scale civilizations with the rule of law in the West would appear to represent just one branch a much larger and richer family of traditions, which began to emerge around 4500 BC in the Eastern-Iran-Bactria-Indus-Valley region. Beginning at this early time, this region began to produce one of the very first ancient civilizations to arise within our natural history as a species (viz., the “Harappan” or “Indus Valley” Civilization), and the people in this region must have therefore developed some of the very first cultural traditions that were specifically adapted to sustaining large-scale civilizations with incipient law.  
I will be arguing that these ancient developments most likely had a much closer and much more intimate relationship to some of the earliest precursors of Western tradition than has commonly been recognized because these precursors of Western tradition ultimately originated closer to ancient Bactria — which is an area directly adjacent to the Indus Valley — during this very same time period. The reconstructions developed in this Article will thus allow me to decipher what I take to be the most plausible early genealogical shape of our legal family tree, and to suggest a number of important but underappreciated relationships that obtain between our modern Western traditions and a range of other Eurasian traditions with which the West has typically been contrasted.

In today’s world, it is, moreover, especially important that we try to reconstruct the genealogical structure of Western legal prehistory and obtain a better understanding of our deep past. There is now an accumulating body of empirical work, which suggests that we can explain a broad range of features of modern societies in terms of the origins of their laws. This literature suggests that legal origin variables can have strong effects on issues as diverse as corporate governance structure, labor regulations, the robustness of capital markets, and even literacy and infant mortality rates. Whether and how a modern society functions best would thus appear to depend at least in part on the origins of their legal traditions. At the same time, however, both the present legal origins literature and much comparative law scholarship distinguish primarily between the civil versus common law origins of a nation’s legal system, or between both of these types of Western law and various non-Western legal systems; and the findings of this literature have not yet been fully harmonized with the swath of known difficulties that many developing nations have faced in transitioning to large-scale societies with the rule of law regardless of their civil- or common-law origins. The family trees that are employed in the current literature are, moreover, typically identified from the historical record and therefore fail to detect any relevant relations that might have arisen in human prehistory. They tend to focus on a conception of law as a set of publicly stated rules and procedures that are largely exogenous to the underlying cultural traditions and psychological attitudes that tend to support flourishing legal systems. They therefore fail to detect the kinds of emergent cultural traditions (including the culturally emergent psychological attitudes) that first allowed humans to transition from hunter-gatherer forms of life into larger-scale civilizations with the rule of law.

The reconstruction offered here will, by contrast, allow us to see almost half of the large-scale megaempires that have arisen throughout world history — including all those that have arisen in the modern West — as having a shared cultural origin that goes much further back in time. The tradition in question first emerged with some of our very first human forays out of hunter-gatherer living and into settled agricultural living with large-scale civilizations and incipient legal traditions. An understanding of this deeper family tree should therefore have important empirical implications. This work can, for example, be used to help explain why certain exportations of Western-style legal institutions have worked so well while others have not. This work can also be used to identify a number of important but underappreciated features of Western traditions that are shared with these broader Eurasian traditions and have been playing a critical — if underappreciated — role in helping to sustain various forms of social complexity and economic development over the course of world history. Hence, this work can help us understand better some of the full causes and conditions of our modern success in the West. Inquiries of this kind should have special urgency today, given the massive exportations of Western law and Western legal institutions to so many other parts of the world and given the increased pressures toward Westernization that are being felt around the globe.

The Mainstream View Is That The Harappans Did Not Influence Western Civilization

The mainstream view, which is widely held, would see the Proto-Indo-European civilization of the Pontic-Caspian steppe that really expanded in territory during the Bronze Age (or in a minority view that reaches the same conclusion on Harappan influences, a Proto-Indo-European civilization that originated in Anatolia and was the source of the earliest Neolithic migrants to Europe) as the most direct ancestor of Greco-Roman civilization.

The mainstream view in the field is that Harappan civilization had only a minimal influence on non-Indo-Aryan parts of the Indo-European cultural tradition (with the possible exception of an indirect influence of the recently rediscovered Tocharian civilization of the Tarim basin in China that Indo-Europeanist Mallory believes may have received some of its irrigated agriculture concepts from via Bactrian trade partners).

Thus, the mainstream view is that the Indo-European cultures of the Greeks, the Celts, the Romans, the Germanic peoples, the Slavs, the Hittites, the Armenians, and even the Persians, probably received virtually no Harappan influences.

Hebrew Culture Had No Harappan Influences

There is also an almost a universal consensus that Harppan civilization had no influence or connections at all with the ancient Hebrews.  The earliest Hebrew states and the ethnogenesis of a people who saw themselves as "Hebrews" or "Jews" in what is now called Israel arose in the Iron Age (i.e. after 1200 BCE and before the fall of Rome), centuries after Harappan civilization had ceased to exist.  The language shift of the Sumerian empire of Mesopotamia that coincided with the rise of the Semitic language speaking Akadian Empire in Mesopotamia ca. 2000 BCE, following one of the worst droughts in recorded history in the region, came at a time when the Harappan civilization was in its final centuries and trade between Mesopotamia and the Indus River Valley had declined.

The branch of the Semitic language family (which is part of the Afro-Asiatic language macro-family rather than the Indo-European language macro-family) that gave rise to both the Arabic and Hebrew languages was a sister language to Akkadian, rather than a descendant of Akkadian, and probably broke off to be a distinct branch of the Semitic languages at all sometime after the Harappan empire collapsed.

There are strong identifiable Sumerian cultural influences in the Torah, and in particular, in much of the book of Genesis (for example, the Creation story, the Garden of Eden, Noah's flood, and the Tower of Babel), and in the story of the birth and early childhood of Moses (which closely parallels an earlier legend of the birth and early childhood of one of the more famous Sumerian kings).  But, there is no reason to think that the Sumerian influences on Western Civilization that were received via the adoption of Christianty which adopted the Torah as part of its scripture, had a Harappan source that was incorporated into Sumerian civilization and from there into linguistically Semitic Mesopotamian civilization and from there into the Torah.  Moreover, there is even less reason to believe that these residual Mesopotamian cultural contributions that were incorporated into the Torah have had any actual impact on law or legal theory in Western Civilization (indeed, most of the formative period for the parts of legal thinking in Western Civilization that survived the fall of the Roman Empire, with the possible exception of family law, pre-date any meaningful Hebrew cultural contribution to Western culture).

Hebrew cultural influence on Western Civilization was quite minor prior to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, when the Jewish diaspora gave rise to a mass migration of Jews from their modest Levatine kingdoms to places across the Roman Empire.  Most of the Hebrew cultural influence on Western Civilization comes from the branch of early Rabbinic era Judaism that became Christianity which grew rapidly in popularity in various Rome Empire cities  in the 100s and 200s CE,  and was adopted by Roman Emperor Constantine as the empire's state religion in 325 CE.  But, Christianity was syncrenistic and incorporated into its Rabbinic Jewish core rituals and concepts from other sources some of the most notable of which are the Platonic philosophy, practices from the cult of Mithras, and practices from the cult of Dionysis.  The particular branch of Judaism that became Christianity also reflects Zoroastrian religious influences that had accreted to this particular sect member's theology and dualistic worldview in the period between the writing of the last books of the Hebrew Bible and the earliest writing of the Christian New Testament.

There Is No Harappan Legal Tradition To Draw Upon

A huge problem with any effort to gain insight into modern legal legacies from Harappan culture, even if there were any, is that we simply have no idea from any historical accounts what the laws of this civilization were like at a level of detail sufficiently great and sufficiently reliable to make any real inferences relevant to law then or now. There are some short Harappan written materials out there to be read, although we don't know if they had any legal content, but none of them have been deciphered. And, the Harappan writings that we do have are overwhelmingly too short to have been very useful surviving legal texts or literature.

In the somewhat analogous field of Minoan language documents, we are further along in making some sense of what the ancient writings mean, and those mostly consist of accounting records.

Moreover, even in places that could plausibly have been influenced by Harappan legal culture at some point in time, intervening civilizations have had such profound cultural impacts that any deep substrate influence of a Harappan legal culture would be nearly impossible to discern.

For example, in the area from Bactria to the Indus River Valley that the law review article argues for as a locus through which Harappan influence could have impacted the formative period of Indo-European culture, there have been Uralic hunter-gatherer, Pre-Indo-European pastoralist, Indo-Iranian pastoralist, East Asian Turkic, Byzantine, Mongolian, Muslim, pre-Soviet Russian, and Soviet Russian waves of cultural influences that virtually eliminated or almost completely diluted any cultural impact of a hypothetical very old strata of Harappan cultural influences in the area.

This area was at the very fringe of the literate world in the early historic era, so the earliest written accounts from ancient Greek and Roman writers are often brief, vague, fuzzy, inaccurate and confused.

The Mainstream View of Harappan Civilization

The mainstream view of Harappan civilization is that it is one of the earliest offshoots of the Fertile Crescent Neolithic revolution (i.e. invention of farming, herding and pottery), reaching the Indus River Valley around the same time that the Neolithic revolution was extended to Egypt, about a thousand years after it appears in the Fertile Crescent (i.e. the Levant, Southern Anatolia and Mesopotamia). 

The mainstream view is that its language survives only in undeciphered written impression, many of which were seals that may have been only a proto-script and not a full literary language, and that the Harappan language had very little substrate influence on the Indo-Aryan languages, i.e. Sanskrit and its many modern descendants such as Hindi and Urdu.  It is acknowledged, however, that Harappan worldviews and religious concepts may have had meaningful influences on the Hindu religion in the early Vedic period around 1500 BCE when Indo-European populations conquered their collapsed civilization and imposed their language and some of their religious and cultural ideas on the remnants of the Harappan people. 

It is generally assumed that the Harappan language was not part of the Indo-European language family.  Some people speculate that the Harappan language may have been a source for the Dravidan languages and possibly also related to the Elamite languages of ancient Southwestern Iran, but the case that the Dravidan languages are an isolate not related to any other known living or extinct language, or has some other source, is at least as solid.

Sumerian records indicate that there was regular maritime commerce between the Indus River Valley and Sumeria via the Persian Gulf during the Copper Age, that they spoke a non-Sumerian language, and that there were Harappan expatriate communities of traders in the Sumerian cities closest to the Persian Gulf. 

Archaeological records from the Indus River Valley strongly suggest that the entire civilization experienced little intra-community warfare and may have been a unified country or federation of city-states until it collapsed.  For example, apart from a few frontier trading posts, Harappan cities were not walled.  Recent research has revealed evidence of social stratification, active trading networks between its cities and into the neighboring Bactria and Sumeria and Western Deccan Pennisula regions that employed at least a proto-script of abstract seals with semantic meaning for commercial purposes, and some evidence of what may have been criminal violence, domestic violence or mercy killing of individuals with sickness (interpretations vary).  Harappan cities showed evidence of considerable urban planning, perhaps even on the level of early Roman cities.

Many Harappan cities were along a river near the Pakistan-India border which was probably called by its Vedic name, the Sarvasti River, that dried up rapidly not long before the Indo-European Aryan peoples arrived ca. 1500 BCE.  This ecological catastrophe was probably pivotal in the collapse of Harappan civilization and probably opened the door to their conquest.

The mainstream view is that the cultural legacy of Harappan civilization, to the extent that there is one at all that is distinguishable in modern civilization, manifests itself in those aspects of South Asian Hindu culture that differ from those cultural characteristics that were shared by all of the Indo-European societies. 

For example, while the Hindu Brahmin caste has been shown with genetic evidence to have had a disproportionate Indo-European superstrate influence relative to other castes in India, the underlying caste system structure of Hindu India may very well be a Harappan cultural legacy that the conquering Indo-Europeans (more specifically, the conquering Indo-Aryans), grafted themselves onto at the top.

In the area of religion, the polytheistic Hindu religion differs from other Indo-European pagan religions (e.g. Celtic, Greek, Roman, Norse and Hittite deities), in having had many deities who had forms that were not basically "super"-human.  This may have been a legacy of Harappan religious beliefs that were integrated into the polytheistic religion of the Indo-Aryans to form Hinduism.

The furthest historically documented extent of specifically Indo-Aryan (as opposed to the broader Indo-Iranian) branch of Indo-European cultures, that may have carried with them Harappan cultural legacies, was as the ruling class of the Mittani Empire that was contemporaneous with the Bronze Age Indo-European Hittite Empire in Anatolia (ca. 2000 BCE to 1200 BCE), that was located in a region in the general vicinity of the border of modern Turkey with modern Iran.  But, this dynasty and its Indo-Aryan cultural influences (particularly in the areas of horse husbandry and chariot driving) had disappeared by around the time of the Bronze Age collapse (1200 BCE), give or take a century or two, and was long gone by the time that the Iron Age classical Greek civilization that is normally seen as foundation to Western Civilization began to emerge.

Out of India Theories and Variants On Them

A not very widely held minority view on Indo-European origins (except among politically motivated Hindu nationalists) sees this language family and the larger proto-Indo-European culture of the people who spoke early version of the languages that subsequently diversified into the Indo-European language families as having been much more profoundly influenced by Harappan civilization.

The law review article appears to be adopting the "Influenced By India" theory in the described below.

Out of India Theories Of Indo-European Origins

Out of India theories of Indo-European linguistic origins have a somewhat undeserved reputation that verges on crackpot status in the field, as the evidence does not so definitively rule them out. But, there are also good reasons to be skeptical of these theories.

But, the law review article referenced below does do its readers unfamiliar with this field a disservice by apparently failing to make clear just how non-mainstream the view that Harappan culture has had an important cultural contribution of any kind to Western Civilization is among linguistics, archaeologists, and other experts in ancient history, prehistory and historical population genetics.

In the most extreme version, the "Out of India" theory of Indo-European origins argues that the Proto-Indo-European language was the Harappan language, and that the Indus River Valley civilization's territory was the urheimat of the Indo-European language family. 

In one version of this narrative, the collapse of the Harappan civilization produced a diaspora of Harappans in all directions including the cities of its trade partners in Bactria.  These Harappan exiles became a ruling class of the neighboring central Asian pastoralists in a task made easier by their advanced large scale civilization and agricultural knowledge, and this brought about language shift to the Harappan Proto-Indo-European language.  Invigorated by the direction of this new ruling class, the resulting Indo-European civilization spread far and wide to eventually become the dominant language family of Europe, India, Anatolia, Central Asia, and South Asia.

An origin of the Indo-European languages in Harappa which was a cultural sphere relatively isolated from other advanced civilization for a very long time, would help to explain the relative lack of an obvious source of a related language from which proto-Indo-European could have split off in the proto-Indo-European place of origin, and would explain the relatively complete compliment of agricultural and maritime words in the proto-Indo-European lexicon that seem out of place in a society of nomadic pastoralists of the European steppe.

An Out of India theory would help explain why the Vedic tradition does not include any allusion to a migration from outside the region or a conquest of their people by outsiders, unlike many other Indo-European legendary histories.  This omission is particularly notable given that the Vedic tradition does famously refer to the archaeologically observed transition of peoples in North India from inhumation to cremation of the dead which is often seen as a key marker of the point in time of the arrival of the Indo-Aryans in South Asia. 

Similarly, an Out of India theory would explain why it has been impossible to identify a Harappan substrate in early Vedic Sanskrit (by comparison, for example, there is a clear pre-Mycenean Greek Aegean language substrate in Greek).  If Harappan is the source language of Indo-European, there would not be a non-Indo-European substrate in Sanskrit, the most direct descendant of Harappan in an Out of India hypothesis.

Ancient DNA and the population genetics of modern populations has shown a strong link between Y-DNA haplogroup R1a, which is passed from father to son, regions of Central Europe, Eastern Europe, the European Steppe and Central Asia that were Indo-European linguistically prior to Bronze Age collapse, and in Brahmin populations of South India where an Indo-European introgression is inferred.  Both Y-DNA haplogroup R1 and Y-DNA haplogroup R2 are found in the Indus River Valley, with R2 rather closely tracking areas that would have had strong demographic influence from the Harappans.  In an Out of India narrative, Y-DNA haplogroup R originates in the Indus River Valley (or at least has its first major expansion there) and Y-DNA haplogroup R1 is characteristic of the founding population of Harappans who migrate from the Indus River Valley to the Central Asian and European Steppe and come to form the bulk of the expanding population of Proto-Indo-Europeans, with Y-DNA R1b populations branching away and expanding into Western Europe at some point from this source.  There are problems with this narrative and the more conventional view is to put the point of the R1a v. R1b divide further back in time and closer to the Pontic-Caspian steppe, but they aren't insurmountable issues.

Autosomal DNA from modern populations in South Asia also reveals that the "Ancestral North Indian" (ANI) component of modern DNA in South Asia, and the "Ancestral South Indian" (ASI) component of modern DNA in South Asia, while largely coinciding with the boundaries of historically Indo-Aryan linguistic areas and historically Dravidian linguistic areas in South Asia, seem to be much older than the hypothetical 1500 BCE event of an Indo-Aryan invasion of South Asia.  To the extent that the ANI autosomal genetic component reflects an Indo-Aryan contribution (presumably from outside South Asia in the Kurgan hypothesis and Anatolian hypothesis of Indo-European origins), at least to some extent, the time depth of the ANI component is hard to understand.  But, a great time depth of the the ANI contribution to South Asian population genetics is easier to understand if that contribution can be traced through the entire history of the Indus River Valley civilization's presence in South Asia.

Influenced By India Theories

A more moderate variation on the Out of India theory would be an "influenced by India" theory, in which people who were culturally Harappan or Harappan influenced in places like Bactria and Iran added key ingredients to the mix of cultural elements in the Proto-Indo-European culture of the European Steppe or Anatolia (depending upon whose Indo-European Urheimhat theory one adheres to) which helped to propel a previously marginal pastoralist steppe culture into a dominant cultural influence on Western Civilization and beyond.  For example, the Proto-Indo-Europeans might have been influenced in agricultural techniques and social organization by Harappan influenced Bactrians early on in a way that spread with the expanding Indo-European culture, without undergoing language shift.

Criticisms of Out Of India and Influenced By India Theories

Some of the early criticism of Out of India theories have origins in a Eurocentric view of the world that was dominant when linguists first began to discover that many modern languages were related to each other in a large, mostly branching linguistic family tree that is now called the Indo-European language family in the 19th century at the height of the European colonial era.  Attributing any great cultural accomplishments to the "lesser" peoples whom Europeans ruled seemed unnatural, so cognitive biases prevented a fair condideration of out of India theories.

But, in our current and more enlightened era, there are still solid reasons to be skeptical of both out of India theories and Influenced By India theories.

Most theories of Indo-European linguistic and cultural influences would put the formative region of Indo-European culture to far West to be much influenced by the Westernmost extent of cultural influences from Harappan civilization via its trade partners in Bactria, which may very well not itself have been truly Harappan but merely Harappan influenced.  Bactria may have been influential for some of the more eastern branches for Indo-European civilization once it started to expand from a central urheimat, but would likely have had far less influence on the western branches of Indo-European civilization that eventually evolved in the cultures that historians describe as "Western Civilization."

India is at one geographic extreme of the Indo-European linguistic territory, and all other things being equal, one would expect a proto-Indo-European urheimat to be closer to the center of the early Indo-European world.  For example, a recent statistical model that attempted to piece together phylogenies of the Indo-European language from scratch (largely mirroring conventional classifications by other methods) have suggested Anatolia as a most likely origin for the Indo-European languages.

Archaeological evidence of strong cultural continuity between ancient civilizations known to have been Indo-European language speaking from historically attested records (e.g. the Hittites, Tocharians and Mycenean Greeks) and prehistoric civilizations whose linguistic affiliations are otherwise unknown support what is known as the Kurgan Hypothesis that trace this chain of cultural continuities back to archaeological civilizations of the Pontic-Caspian steppe around 5,500 years ago, that were early adopters of horse domestication, wheeled transportation, and of metallurgy. 

The metallurgical innovations associated with the Bronze Age wave of Indo-European expansion appears from the archaeological record to have been borrowed from non-Indo-European civilizations neighboring the proto-Indo-Europeans and to have their earliest origins in the Caucuses although they do very quickly spread to the Northern outskirts of the Harappan territory and to Anatolia.  But, admittedly, it wouldn't take more than a couple of new, very old discoveries of metallurgy technologies somewhere else to invert the apparent direction of technology spread in the archaeological record.

In sum, while the evidence against an Out of India theory of Indo-European origins is not so overwhelming that is is absolutely definitive, and it is possible that an Influenced by India theory could have some thread of truth to it, both theories are on balance disfavored by the available evidence for quite solid reasons.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

New Comment Rules

Almost all of the anonymous postings at this blog over the past few months have been spam and there has been a surge in spam postings that the spam filter is not catching any more.  Therefore, I have banned comments by anonymous users at this blog.  I apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause.

English May Have Norweigan Roots

The linguistic orthodoxy that sees Old English as a direct descendant of Old Frisian and later dialects of English as descendants of Old English of the Angles and Saxons that arrived in Britain in the 5th century C.E., even as new loan words were incorporated from Old Norse and following the Norman Conquest in 1066 CE, French and Latin. 

But, two academic linguists, Jan Terje Faarlund, professor of linguistics at the University of Oslo and Joseph Emmonds, visiting professor from Palacký University in the Czech Republic disagree. 

They are now claiming that Middle English (traditionally designed as the dialect of English spoken in Britain after the Norman Conquest in 1066 CE) and subsequent dialects were descendants of the Old Norse language, and that this language replaced the Old English language that arrived in the 5th century CE in the roughly two and a half centuries before the Norman Conquest in 1066 CE.  Old Norse is more similar to Middle English and subsequent languages grammatically, even though Middle English had heavy lexical borrowing (i.e. lots of loan words) from Old English during this transitional period.

"Modern English is a direct descendant of the language of Scandinavians who settled in the British Isles in the course of many centuries, before the French-speaking Normans conquered the country in 1066," says Faarlund. He points out that Old English and Modern English are two very different languages. Why?

"We believe it is because Old English quite simply died out while Scandinavian survived, albeit strongly influenced of course by Old English," he says.

The 'cohabitation' between the British and the Scandinavians was largely hostile. Both fought for political hegemony. The descendants of the Vikings gained control of the eastern and northern parts of the country. The Danelaw was under the control of Scandinavian chiefs for half a century [ed. according to Wikipedia Danish mass migration became around 880 CE, Danelaw proper was in place from 886 CE to 954 CE, and this followed by rule by Scandinavian monarch again from 1016 CE until 1044 CE when Edward the Confessor returned the throne to non-Scandinavian rule until the Normans defeated him.]

Like most colonists, the Scandinavian-speaking inhabitants found no reason to switch to the language of the country they had arrived in. 
"One especially important, geographic point in our study is that the East Midlands region, where the spoken language later developed into Modern English, coincides almost exactly with the densely populated, southern part of the Danelaw," says the professor.  
The language adopted many words from the Danelaw's inhabitants who were of Norwegian and Danish descent. For example, all the lexical words in this sentence are Scandinavian: He took the knife and cut the steak. Only he, the and and come from Old English. 
"What is particularly interesting is that Old English adopted words for day-to-day things that were already in the language. Usually one borrows words and concepts for new things. In English almost the reverse is true – the day-to-day words are Scandinavian, and there are many of them," says Faarlund. 
Here are some examples: anger, awe, bag, band, big, birth, both, bull, cake, call, cast, cosy, cross, die, dirt, dream, egg, fellow, flat, gain, get, gift, give, guess, guest, hug, husband, ill, kid, law, leg, lift, likely, link, loan, loose, low, mistake, odd, race, raise, root, rotten, same, seat, seem, sister, skill, skin, skirt, sky, steak, though, thrive, Thursday, tight, till, trust, ugly, want, weak, window, wing, wrong. 
The researchers believe that Old English already had 90 per cent of these concepts in its own vocabulary.  
But the Scandinavian element was not limited to the vocabulary, which is normal when languages come into contact with each other. Even though a massive number of new words are on their way into a language, it nevertheless retains its own grammar. This is almost a universal law. 
"But in England grammatical words and morphemes - in other words the smallest abstract, meaningful linguistic unit - were also adopted from Scandinavian and survive in English to this day." 
The two researchers show that the sentence structure in Middle English - and thus also Modern English - is Scandinavian and not Western Germanic. 
"It is highly irregular to borrow the syntax and structure from one language and use it in another language. In our days the Norwegians are borrowing words from English, and many people are concerned about this. However, the Norwegian word structure is totally unaffected by English. It remains the same. The same goes for the structure in English: it is virtually unaffected by Old English." . . .
"We can show that wherever English differs syntactically from the other Western Germanic languages -- German, Dutch, Frisian -- it has the same structure as the Scandinavian languages."
From here.

This hypothesis suggests that the transition from "early Old English" to "late Old English" ca. 900 CE, rather than Norman Conquest, really marks the transition from Old English, an Anglo-Saxon West Germanic language, to Middle English, a North Germanic Scandinavian language.

In their theory, Anglo-Saxon derived West Germanic Old English endured for about 450 years rather than 700 years.  As the Wikipedia article on Old English notes, the preceding Celtic language of the region was more or less completely displaced in a process that started with Old English.

Traditionally, and following the Anglo-Saxon preference prevalent in the nineteenth century, many maintain that the influence of Brythonic Celtic on English has been small, citing the small number of Celtic loanwords taken into the language. The number of Celtic loanwords is of a lower order than either Latin or Scandinavian.
The displacement of the Celtic languages that were dominant for a far longer period of time prior to the arrival of Old English, than Old English had been in use as of 800 CE, may have cleared the way for an easier language shift to another language that was still in the Germanic language family four and a half centuries later.

Another reason to suspect language shift from Anglo-Saxon Old English to an Old Norse derived Middle English is that many of the toponymn in the region are Norse rather than Anglo-Saxon.  Toponyns are often thought to be among the most resiliant evidence of a language that would not replace older usages unless the language shift was particularly complete.  Toponymns are like words relavant to words in daily usage for existing concepts that are less prone to be borrowed than are word for newly acquired ideas expressed in a language (e.g. words for imported products or technologies).

The authors argue that this is one of the reason that Scandinavians have such an easy time learning to speak English as a second language relative to speakers of other languages.

For what it is worth, I find their proposal, despite the fact that it contradicts long time linguistic orthodoxy, to be very convincing both as a matter of linguistics and as a fit to a historically documented narrative. 

As a native speaker of English with roughly equal parts German and Swedish speaking Finnish descent who is aware of relatives living in both places, who has virtually no ability to speak or write or read either language, and as someone who has read Old and Middle English works and is familiar with the history of the period from his education, I am arguably in a position to be a relatively neutral evaluator of this claim (free of nationalistic bias).

In the larger scheme of language evolution, this thesis is yet another data point to suggest that something like Newton's second law of motion (i.e. inertia) applies to languages as well.  Rather than changing over time mostly due to random linguistic drift within a particular culture, a far larger share of language change than has historically been appreciated happens for specific historical reasons involving colliding cultures.  Transitions like the transition between Old English and Middle English happen not simply due to the passage of time, but because a distinct superstrate culture imposed new linguistic standards on the general population.

This analysis also illustrates the point that it pays to be skeptical of extremely deep cultural legacies.  Britain received a major cultural reboot from the Norwegians just 1200 years ago that wiped away much of its cultural legacy from the early Middle Ages, Roman Period, iron age, bronze age, and earlier Neolithic eras.

This linguistic claim also implies a larger cultural claim.  The cultural legacy of the English people may be more Scandinavian than German and Dutch, and the strong Anglo-Saxon cultural influences on English culture (relative to Scandinavian influences) may be an ahistorical myth.

In the context of American culture, the Yankee culture sourced to the English Midlands according to Fischer's Albion's Seed and adopted regionally by Scandinavian immigrants may have in fact itself have been the most Scandinavian of English regional cultures to make it to the new world in the first place.  Hence, similarity due to common cultural origins between English and Scandinavian immigrants, rather than similarity due to transmission of local regional culture to new immigrants, may be important in the cultural formation of these parts of the United States' cultural heritage.

Notably, many "grammar myths" which are commonly viewed as prescriptive rules of formal modern English grammar, but are not in fact observed in literature and other writing and speaking by educated native English language speakers in formal settings, involve situations where Norweigan and English grammar differ from West Germanic and Latin grammatical rules.

The university's press release did not reference a new publication by these linguists that has made this case.

UPDATE November 29, 2012: 

The researchers conclusions don't change the mainstream classification of English as a Germanic language. They merely reassigns English from one of the two surviving subfamilies of the Germanic languages to the other one. 

The linguistic structure of the Germanic languages is outlined below for context.  I also distinguish some neighboring non-Germanic language and describe their place in the overall classification scheme for languages. 

Old Norse

As Maju notes in the comments and as can be discerned from the link in the text above, "Old Norse" is the language ancestral to Icelandic, Faroese, Norwegian, Danish and Swedish, i.e. to all Northern Germanic languages.  It also influenced many other languages and is ancestral to both Middle English and modern English if the researchers discussed above are correct.  Modern Icelandic is the modern language that has changed the least from Old Norse in the last thousand years.  As Wikipedia explains in its article on Old Norse:

Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300.
Proto-Norse developed into Old Norse by the 8th century, and Old Norse began to develop into the modern North Germanic languages in the mid- to late 14th century, ending the language phase known as Old Norse. These dates, however, are not absolute, since written Old Norse is found well into the 15th century 
The 12th century Icelandic Gray Goose Laws state that Swedes, Norwegians, Icelanders and Danes spoke the same language, dǫnsk tunga ("Danish tongue". . .). Today Old Norse has developed into the modern North Germanic languages (Icelandic, Faroese, Norwegian, Danish and Swedish), and although distinct languages there is still considerable mutual intelligibility.
West Germanic Languages

All of the other living Germanic languages belong to the West Germanic language family, the most notable representatives of which are German, Dutch, Frisian, Luxembourgish and Pennsylvania German (spoken by the Amish), Yiddish and Afrikaans.  The Angles and Saxons who invaded England in the 5th century were speakers of a West Germanic language which is most similar to the modern Friscian language.

East Germanic Languages

There was once an East Germanic language family, but all of the languages in that language family are now extinct.  "The East Germanic languages were marginalized from the end of the Migration period [ca. 400 CE to 800 CE]. The Burgundians, Goths, and Vandals became linguistically assimilated by their respective neighbors by about the 7th century [CE], with only Crimean Gothic lingering on until the 18th century." Another extinc Germanic language may also have belonged to the East Germanic family.  "The 6th-century Lombardic language . . . may be a variety originally either Northern or Eastern, before being assimilated by West Germanic as the Lombards settled at the Elbe."

Germanic Languages In General

All of the Germanic languages are descendants of the "Proto-Germanic [language] (also known as Common Germanic), which was spoken in approximately the mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age northern Europe. . . . common innovations separating Germanic from Proto-Indo-European suggest a common history of pre-Proto-Germanic speakers throughout the Nordic Bronze Age." (Personally, I suspect that the pre-Proto-Germanic speakers arrived only around 1100 BCE in the late Nordic Bronze Age, rather than around 1700 BCE when the early Nordic Bronze Age begins.)

Proto-Germanic was a written language starting around the 2nd century CE when a runic script was used.  Prior to about 750 BCE, the Germanic languages were spoken in an area roughly corresponding to modern Denmark and southern coastal Norway and Sweden.  It only expanded into the modern boundaries of the Netherlands, German and other Germanic language speaking countries later on, reaching something fairly close to the current extent of Germanic languages in continental Europe by the 1st century CE.

Non-Germanic Languages In The Region and the Indo-European Languages Generally

The Non-Indo-European Languages Of Europe

All of the languages of Europe except Basque (a language isolate), Maltese (a derivative of Arabic) and the Uralic languages are part of the larger Indo-European language family.

The national language of the Scandinavian country of Finland is not a descendant of Old Norse and is not even Germanic or Indo-European.  It is a member of the Uralic language family, the indigeneous language family of some of Northern Europe's last indigenous hunter-gatherers that also includes the Estonian and Hungarian languages.   The Hungarian language is notable because this Uralic language is the result of language shift by a small Uralic language speaking elite that has left almost no genetic trace in the Hungarian population.

Baltic and Slavic Languages

The languages of Russia, Ukraine, Czeck Republican, Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Slovenia, Macedonia, and Serbo-Croatian, in contrast, are Slavic languages.  This Indo-European language family existed in the form of a single proto-language until about 500 CE (about the time that the Western Roman Empire collapsed), and then expanded from the general vicinity of the Balkans, replacing previous Indo-European and Uralic languages in the areas where Slavic languages are spoken now.  They were differentiated into multiple distinct languages starting in the 7th century CE.

The languages of Lithuania and Latvia (and the now-extinct Old Prussian languages) are part of the Indo-European family of Baltic languages.

"All Slavic languages descend from Proto-Slavic, their immediate parent language, ultimately deriving from Proto-Indo-European, the ancestor language of all Indo-European languages, via a Proto-Balto-Slavic stage. During the Proto-Balto-Slavic period a number of exclusive isoglosses in phonology, morphology, lexis, and syntax developed, which makes Slavic and Baltic the closest related of all the Indo-European branches. The secession of the Balto-Slavic dialect ancestral to Proto-Slavic is estimated on archaeological and glottochronological criteria to have occurred sometime in the period 1500–1000 BCE."

Romance and Celtic Languages

Many of the other major languages of Europe (e.g. French, Spanish, Portugese, Italian, Catalan, Occitan, and Romanian) are Romance language, i.e. languages descended from dialects of Latin that became distinct languages after the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century CE.  The Romance languages  are part of a larger Italic language family that also includes a number of extinct languages of the Italian pennisula.  The Italic language family probably arrived on the Italian Pennisula from Central Europe sometime in the vicinity of Bronze Age collapse (i.e. about 1200 BCE).

The Celtic languages  (e.g. Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, the Irish language, Bretton, Cornish and Manx)  are more closely related to the Romance languages than any other living languages and the two language families combined are a genetic subfamily of Indo-European languages.  Celtic languages were once spoken in territories that are now part of France, Spain, Portugal.  The subdivisions of the Celtic languages started to emerge sometime between 1200 BCE and 800 BCE.  The language of the late Bronze Age Urnfield culture of central Europe through about 1250 BCE was probably Proto-Celtic.  The Iron Age Hallstatt culture was definitely Celtic.

These languages are often lumped together as part of a larger Italo-Celtic language family, perhaps with a proto-language in the Urnfield culture of its immediate predecessor.

Other Indo-European Language Families

The other living Indo-European language families are the Hellenic languages (i.e. a few Greek languages and many extinct languages), Armenian, Albanian, and Indo-Iranian.  The Indo-European language family also includes the extinct Anatolian (e.g. Hittite), Tocharian and Paleo-Balkan language families.  The Indo-Iranian languages are made up of: 

* the Indo-Aryan languages of South Asia (and nowhere else except by recent migrants, by Balinese Hindu priests, and by the people colloquially described as gypsies) except in the Southern Indian areas where only Dravidian languages are spoken,
* the Iranian languages of Iran and neighboring areas the most widely spoken of which are Persian (75 million speakers), Pashto (50 million speakers), Kurdish (32 million speakers), Balochi (15 million speakers) and Lori (2.3 million speakers), and
* the Nuristani languages of about 130,000 mountain people of Eastern Afganistan and neighboring Pakistan.

Albanian is considered to have evolved from an extinct Paleo-Balkan language, usually taken to be either Illyrian or Thracian.  While Armenian is not a Hellenic language, it is more closely related to Greek than any other living language.

Indo-European Language Expansion

Indo-European languages arrived in Western Europe only in the Iron Age or perhaps a century or two earlier in some cases.  Prior to around 2500 BCE, in my view, which is generally in line with the leading Kurgan hypothesis (the field has many competing hypothesizes about Indo-European linguistic origins), the Indo-European languages were probably absent from the Tarim Basin, from South Asia, from Anatolia, from Greece, and from Armenia.  They were confined to the Balkans, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

My personal and informed, but non-expert, opinion is that prior to Bronze Age collapse there was a copper age language expansion effected by the Bell Beaker civilization and its cultural descendants of languages that were part of the same language family as Basque, all of which (except Basque) were routed starting around the time of Bronze Age collapse by Indo-European languages.  This copper age expansion probably caused the extinction of most of the pre-Copper Age languages of Western Europe and roughly corresponds with the geographic area where Y-DNA haplogroup R1b is common in modern European populations.

How Many Standard Model Constants Are There?

The Standard Model has lots of moving parts.  They are categorized and described below, together with discussion of how the number of independent moving parts might be reduced.

I.  Exact Standard Model Constants

Some of the moving parts, like the number of strong nuclear force colors, the quantum numbers for the four kinds of fermion charge, weak isospin, the number of generations of particles, the zero rest mass of photons and gluons, the conservation laws, the mass of particles relative to their antiparticles. 

There are a number of abstract algebra concepts that can reproduce all of the particles of the Standard Model with the property exact Standard Model properties in a compact way described sometimes as SU(3) x SU(2) x U(1) in the Standard Model, which can be embedded in an even more compact abstract algebra representation such as SU(5) or SU(10), but these more compact representations have their own difficulties when one tries to translate them into a "grand unified theory", rather than a patchwork of Quantum Chromodynamics (i.e. SU(3)) to describe the strong nuclear force, and Electroweak theory (i.e. SU(2) x U(1)) to describe the electromagnetic force and weak nuclear force.

Of course, the form of the Standard Model equations, such as the Lagrangians that describe the operation of the fundamental forces, the zero value of the strong nuclear force CP violation term, and the zero masses are set forth exactly by the Standard Model. 

At the one loop level, at least, the running of the Standard Model coupling constants (aka the beta function) with the energy scale of the interaction, relative to the basic coupling constant value for that force is also exact.  For example, the QCD beta function expressed to the "three loop" level depends only on the "unadjusted" strong force coupling constant and the number of QCD colors in the model.  I have sometimes, confusingly stated that the beta function constants of the Standard Model are among the constants that are moving parts in the Standard Model, but this flows in part from my failure to really clearly deliniate between "exact" Standard Model constants that could turn out to be wrong when compared to the experimental evidence, and "measured experimental constants" in the Standard Model that can't even in principle be determined any other way if the Standard Model is correct.

The beta functions, while in principle exact within the Standard Model, have not been rigorously tested at high energies and are not necessarily worked out for arbitrarily many "loops" of corrections beyond the next to next leading order (i.e. three loop) level.

II.  Measured Standard Model Constants

Other are experimentally measured and the theory does not describe them exactly, and the elements of the CKM and PMNS matrixes are the principle measured constants of the Standard Model (as well as the speed of light and Planck's constant).

But, the minimum number of measurements necessary to describe all of the experimentally measured constants is considerably less than the total number of the experimentally measured constants, because they are related to each other by a number of exact relationship.

A. The Three Measured Coupling Constants

There is a coupling constant for each of the three Standard Model forces that governs how strong the electromagnetic force, the weak nuclear force and the strong nuclear force, respectively, are in practice that must be determined experimentally.

One of the criticisms of electroweak unification in the Standard Model is that it is not possible to describe the electromagnetic coupling constant and weak force coupling constant with a single measured constant.

The Dim Prospects For A Single Measured Coupling Constant In The Near Future

Many theorists think that the three coupling constants actually converge to a single value (i.e. gauge coupling unification) at very high energy levels (the GUT scale).  The Standard Model comes close to, but does not actually reach gauge coupling unification, although this could simply be because there is something wrong with the beta functions of the Standard Model such as a failure to take into account quantum gravity effects at high energy levels.  SUSY models, generically, does have a gauge coupling unification.

If indeed a suitably modified exact Standard Model beta function did produce a gauge coupling unification, it would in principle be possible to express all three of the Standard Model coupling constants in the form of a single, measured, grand unified coupling constant at the GUT scale and the exactly stated beta function for each of the three Standard Model forces for sub-GUT energy scales.   But, since one needs to know both the strength of the GUT level coupling constant and the precise energy level at which gauge coupling unification occurs, this doesn't actually reduce the number of measured coupling constants in the Standard Model - it just reparameterizes them.

Also, any quantum gravity correction to the beta functions would very likely introduce at least one gravitational constant, so it might not be possible to reduce the number of experimentally measured constants related to coupling strength in the Standard Model by these means, and even SUSY only reduced the number of measured coupling constant parameters for the three Standard Model forces from three to two while introducing other measured constants.

Less elegantly, even in the existing Standard Model, it is possible from the exact beta functions of the Standard Model at the point at which the coupling constant strength of any two of the three coupling constants are identical, to determine both of those coupling constants.

B. The Thirteen Independent Measured Masses

There are twelve non-zero masses of the fermions, and three measured weak force boson masses (the W, the Z and the Higgs boson mass).

According to electroweak unification theory, the photon, W+, W- and Z boson are linear combinations of two more fundamental massless electroweak bosons (the neutral W and neutral B) which are mixed according to the weak mixing angle (experimentally the sine of the weak mixing angle is about 0.24), that "eat" three of the four "Goldstone bosons" predicted by electroweak unification theory, with the fourth giving rise to the Higgs boson that imparts mass to the W and the Z and all other weakly interacting fundamental particles in the Standard Model.

The weak mixing angle that governs the relative masses of the W and Z bosons (and is also one of the major factor in computing W and Z boson branching fractions), is a function of the electromagnetic and weak force coupling constants (the cosine of the weak mixing angle is equal to one of the coupling constants divided by the square root of the sum of the two coupling constants, and the sine of the weak mixing angle is equal to the other electroweak coupling constant divided by teh square root of the sum of hte two coupling constants).  Thus, for example, it is possible, in principle, to derive the weak mixing angle (aka the Weinberg angle) and the Z boson mass, from other exact and measured Standard Model constants.  So, only one measured mass is necessary to describe both the W and Z boson masses.

Electroweak unification theory also claims that the Higgs boson mass is derived from all of the other masses, but in practice, the formula is not such that direct calculation of the Higgs boson mass from it is possible.

The original version of Koide's formula, which is widely believed to  be true (although it isn't clear why), provides a way to determine all three charged lepton masses (apparently exactly) from any two charged lepton masses.  

The neutrino masses are simply not known with sufficient accuracy to claim that any particular rule describes them and theoretical basis for Koide's rule is unknown.  indeed, it isn't even known with any experimental certainty if the mass hierarchy of neutrino masses is "normal" (i.e. the third generation is heavier than the second generation is heavier than the first generation), or "inverted" (i.e. the rank order of the neutrino masses is not "normal").

Thus, there are eleven independent fermion mass parameters and two independent boson mass parameters (either the W or Z boson mass and the Higgs boson mass) that are measured parameters in the Standard model.

SUSY models, generically, have far more massive fermions and bosons than the Standard Model (none of which have been experimentally observed) but also has more comprehensive ways of deriving some of these masses in many versions of these theories.

Simple Proposals To Narrow The Measured SM Masses From Thirteen To Seven.

But, it appears that it may be possible with a simple extended version of Koide's formula to exactly derive the masses of the four of the six quarks as well as the masses of the three charged leptons from these two charged lepton masses as well (the up and down quarks' measured values do not match the extended Koide's formula predictions).  There have also been proposals for versions of the Koide's formula that apply to neutrino masses that would allow a third neutrino mass to be derived from the other two neutrino masses, even though they have not yet been tested.

It also appears that the Higgs boson mass may have a much simpler functional relationship to other measured measures than previously supposed, and may be possible to derive exactly entirely from the masses of other fermion and/or boson masses via the simpler formula than the traditional one that gives rise to the hierarchy problem.

Thus, it is entirely plausible that the thirteen measured masses of the Standard Model may in fact be possible to calculate from just six fermion masses (the up, the down, the electron, the muon, the electron neutrino and the muon neutrino) and just one boson mass using already proposed theoretical formulas.  This could reduce the number of independent measured mass constants in the Standard Model from thirteen to seven.

C. The Eight Parameters of the Mixing Matrixes.

The CKM matrix describes the probability that a W boson interaction will change any particular kind of quark into a particular different kind of quark.  Any of the three up type quarks when it emits a W boson can become any of the three down type quarks and visa versa.  The PMNS matrix describes the analogous probabilities for leptons.

While the CKM and PMNS matrixes have nine elements each, since they are unitary matrixes (i.e. the probability of any given particle that emits a W boson becoming one of the three other possible particles is 100%), each can be perfectly described with four parameters that can be chosen in any number of ways.  So, there are no more than eight measured Standard Model mixing matrix constants.

Proposals To Reduce The Number Of Measured Mixing Matrix Constants

It could be, however, that some of these mixing matrix elements may have currently unknown functional relationships either to each other or to the mass matrixes.

One proposal, called quark-lepton complementarity, would derive all three or four of the PMNS matrix elements exactly from the CKM matrix elements.  Experimental evidence appears to disfavor this proposal in its naive form at the moment, but it is not definitively ruled out (since the PMNS matrix constants are not known very exactly).

Other proposals suggest other kinds of PMNS matrix structure, although experimental evidence also tends to disfavor these proposals.

Some of the proposals to reduce the number of measured mixing matrix constants do not include proposals that would eliminate the need to measure one or both of the CP violating parameters of the CKM matrix and PMNS matrixes respectively.  They would only apply to the other three parameters of each of these matrixes.

Proposals Relating Mixing Matrix Contracts and Fermion Masses

Other proposals suggest that the CKM and PMNS matrix elements may, in fact, be functionally related to the twelve fermion masses.  Thus, it might be possible to derive the twelve fermion masses either from the CKM and PMNS matrix elements and one or two "root masses" for fermions, or even from the CKM and PMNS matrix elements and a single weak force boson mass.

Many of these proposals suggest that the square root of fermion masses may be more transparently related to the mixing matrix elements than the measured fermion masses.

Of course, if a formula relates the CKM and PMNS matrix to the fermion mass matrix, the reverse is also possible.  One ought to be able to derive the CKM and PMNS matrixes from the mass matrix. 

If the Koide's formula extensions discussed above hold true and the Higgs boson mass can indeed be practicably derived from other Standard Model masses, this would reduce twenty-one independent mass and mixing matrix constants in the Standard Model to just seven.

III.  Summary

There are twenty-four independent measured constants in the Standard Model that are not simply accepted as "exact" within the context of that model, plus the speed of light and Planck's constant.

There are reasonable theoretical proposals with a reasonable prospect of being confirmed in the lifetime of the readers of this blog that could reduce the number of independent measured constants in the Standard Model to as few as eight or fewer (if a comprehensive set of Koide's formula rules could be discerned for the entire mass matrix of the Standard Model).

IV. Future Research Prospects

Right now, one of the foremost issues in Standard Model physics are the ongoing efforts (1) to more accurately measure the quark masses (particularly for the quarks other than the top quark), (2) to more accurately measure the neutrino masses and PMNS matrix parameters, and (3) to experimentally confirm the accuracy of a handful of "exact" Standard Model constants such as the properties of the Higgs boson, the beta functions for the three Standard Model coupling constant, the zero value of the strong force CP violation constant, and the rules forbidding lepton number violations, proton decay, flavor changing neutral currents, and neutrinoless double beta decay (all of which are intertwined to some extent).

A very large share of the biggest gap in this knowledge, that isn't imminently about to be resolved in the next year or two at the LHC which is already well underway and more or less irrevocably so, is in the area of neutrino physics.  With regard to unfinished Standard Model physics business, the LHC will mostly be relevant to confirming the properties of the Higgs boson and refining estimates of its mass, although it may somewhat refine top quark mass estimates and to a lesser extent refining other quark mass estimates and confirming the accuracy of the Standard Model beta functions at somewhat higher energies.

In QCD experimental measurements that are indirectly related to Standard Model constants like quark masses that are known not very accurately are far more accurate than the theoretically predicted theoretical expectations for those experimental measurements which are often precise only to +/- 1%.  Particularly in the case of QCD and the beta functions of all three of the Standard Model forces, it is also critical to improve the provisions of the theoretical calculations of the Standard Model expectations so that quantities that can be measured experimentally like hadron masses, the infrared behavior of quarks and gluons, and predicted glueball composite particles, can be compared meaningfully to Standard Model predictions to determine fundamental Standard Model measured constants that can't be measured directly (e.g. due to quark confinement).

Until we have more data from neutrino physics and better calculations of the theoretically expected values in QCD for already precisely measured observables, none of the theoretical efforts to prune the twenty-four independent measurable Standard Model constants can be confirmed or ruled out definitively.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Yes, North Africa Was The Launch Pad

An essay by Michael Balter in Science asks the question, "Was North Africa the launch pad for modern human migrations?".

This question seems to have an obvious answer. If you're in Africa and thinking about going somewhere else, you're going to have to go through the North part to get anywhere. South Africa seems like a really bad place to look for a "launch pad" of human migrations.

- John Hawks


Particle Mass Numerology Tuesday

Below are some selected interesting relationships of physical constants for boson masses driven by some conjectures that would motivate these relationships theoretically.

Higgs boson mass relationships

(1)  Higgs boson mass is approximately equal to the mean of the top quark mass plus W boson mass (i.e. 126.65 GeV). 

One formula for the Higgs boson mass heavily weights the top quark mass relative to all other fermionic contributions.  The top quark accounts for about 95%+ of the average mass of all fermions in the Standard Model and slightly more when quarks are weighted three to one relative to leptons which is their relative proportion in weak force decays (since there are three colors of each quark but only one "color" of lepton).  Adjustments for the other five quarks, the six leptons and the Z boson and photon, in appropriate proportions, could tweak this value, particularly contributions from the bottom quark mass, charm quark mass, the tau (a third generation electron) and the Z boson.  The collective masses of the up, down and strange quarks, the electron, the muon, the neutrinos, and the massless photon by comparison, are negligible by comparison.

The notion here is that supersymmetry may not be necessary to resolve the hierarchy problem because hidden structure in the relationships between the fermion and boson masses cause them to cancel out in a way that reflects supersymmetry-like cancellations between these bosons and fermions, which is not obvious when you formulate your Higgs boson mass formula in a way that doesn't take advantage of this hidden structure.

For example, if a fundamental particle's mass can be stated in terms of a formula from some other particle's masses, it may be possible to pull common factors out of the infinite series formulas that combined determine the Higgs boson mass and cancel them out, making it possible to arrange the terms into one or more infinite series which we know to converge to a particular value that can be expressed in some other way that are easier to demonstrate cancel each other out.

Perhaps the Higgs boson mass is simply equal to whatever is necessary to balance the scales between the right sets of fermions and bosons on each side of the scale.

In the same vein, it may not be coincidental that there are twelve basic kinds of spin-1/2 fermions (three generations each of up and down quarks and three generations each of charged and uncharged leptons respectively), and that there are twelve basic kinds of spin-1 bosons (photons, three kinds of weak force bosons, and eight kinds of gluons).  Like supersymmetry, in the Standard Model itself, there is one kind of boson for every kind of fermion and one kind of fermion for every kind of boson, although which fermion is a partner to which boson isn't necessarily obvious, and this coincidence could certainly be spurious or misguided.

(2)  Higgs boson mass is approximately equal to one half of the sum of two times the W boson mass and one time the Z boson mass (i.e. 125.99 GeV).  Another way this could be stated is as the sum of the four electroweak boson masses (W+, W-, Z and the photon) divided by the square root of the number of electroweak bosons. 

The inference would be that the Higgs boson mass could be equivalent to the mass of a linear combination of the weak force bosons which could also produce a combined spin of zero.  Given the electroweak unification itself describes the four electroweak bosons themselves as linear combinations of other more fundamental bosons in the unified electroweak theory, this seems like a reasonable approach. 

The notion of dividing the sum by the square root of the number of particles involved, while summing charges and considering all permissible sums of plus or minus the intrinsic spin of each particle in the combination derives from the way that linear combinations of mesons (e.g. different kinds of neutral kaons in linear combinations with each other) are handled in QCD.

The linear combination notion, if there is anything to it, is also suggestive of the possibility that there might be spin-2 and perhaps even spin-4 variants on the Higgs boson with the same mass that make up a tiny percentage of the total percentage of all Higgs bosons produced.  It isn't obvious that linear combinations of bosons are subject to the same limitations on the spin of fundamental particles discussed in a post yesterday.  They are at least similar to composite particles even if they may lack internal geometric structure of the kind found, for example, in a classical chemistry molecule, or a proton-neutron-electron model with electron shells atom.

Formulas (1) and (2) are consistent with each other to within one standard deviation of experimental uncertainty in the source values (particularly due to uncertainty in the mass of the top quark which is on the order of 1 GeV from all sources combined) and are also consistent with the measured value of the Higgs boson within the range of experimental uncertainty in that measurement (the current measurement has an uncertainty on the order of +/- 1 GeV).

The Z boson mass

(3) The Z boson mass is about 2% smaller than the sum of the 2 times the W boson mass plus the photon mass (i.e. zero) divided by the square root of three (for three bosons in the numerator). 

The inference would be that the Z boson mass could be related in some way to the mass of a linear combination of the W+, the W- and the photon , which could also produce a combined spin of one and a neutral electromagnetic charge.  Some form of binding energy or synergistic effect could account for a discrepency.

The linear combination notion, if there is anything to it, is suggestive of the possibility that there might be spin-3 Z bosons of the same mass that make up a small proportion of all Z bosons (perhaps 1/8th of them).  Also, it is worth noting that higher spin versions of quark hadrons always decay faster than lower spin quark hadrons, making the infrequently produced higher spin linear combinations perhaps more difficult to observe.

Other linear combinations

One could imagine trying to play the linear combination game with other combinations of fundamental electroweak bosons.  But, if only bosons that have some direct interactions with some of the other bosons in the linear combination are permitted, the number of possibilities is greatly reduced, and it may be possible to devise some simple rule regarding permitted combinations that rules out other linearly combined particles that are not observed.

Thus, while it might be possible to have glueballs (composite particles bound by color charge made up entirely of gluons) since gluons have a self-interaction term, since gluons do not interact directly with the Higgs boson (because they lack mass), do not interact via the weak nuclear force (and hence don't interact with W or Z bosons), and lack electromagnetic charge (and hence don't interact with photons), one would not expect to see composite particles with gluons and electroweak bosons together.

Similarly, one wouldn't expect to see a photon which does not interact via the weak force and a Z boson which lacks electromagnetic charge, to form two boson linear combinations.   The only bosons with which Z bosons interact are W and Z bosons.

Photons, similarly, because they lack electromagnetic charge themselves and only interact with charged particles, don't interact with each other.  The only bosons with which photons interact are W bosons.

A W+W- combination would seemingly create an electrically scalar with a mass of about 113.7 GeV, but they might immediately annihilate rather than forming a linear combination since they are antiparticles to each other, without having some other fundamental particle in the mix to buffer them from each other, or a property like parity or color charge to distinguish them from each other.  A ZZ linear combination would be an electrically neutral scalar with a mass of about 127.4 GeV which would be quite hard to distinguish experimentally from a 125-126 GeV Higgs boson - ZZ linear combinations would just look like experimental noise around Higgs boson data at current levels of experimental precision.

One could imagine a linear combination of a single photon with a W boson, or a WZ combination.  Each of these would create a spin zero charged particle lighter than the Higgs boson without supersymmetry.  But, particles with these properties have been searched for and ruled out in the appropriate mass ranges according to the summary of the experimental data provided by the Particle Data Group in the course of conducted supersymmetry motivated charged Higgs boson searches.

A rule which would eliminate most of the unobserved possibilities while not ruling out the possiblity that Z bosons and Higgs bosons could be linear combinations, could be as simple as one that provides that all linear combinations of bosons must have a neutral combined electromagnetic charge.  This is the case, empirically, in all situations where linear combinations of mesons with integer spins are observed and described experimentally.  I don't have a reason for this rule, put perhaps charge particles take too much energy to oscillate between alternative modes.

Caveats and observations

These are merely conjectures.  Finding rough empirical correspondences between numbers whose values aren't known with perfect precision is much easier than someone not familiar with the exercise might guess.  But, the right answer, whatever it might be, will necessarily be among the category of correspondences that are a rough match.

Also, if some heuristic, for instance, the notion that the properties of some bosons might closely resemble the properties of a linear combination of other bosons according to some straightforward rules for determining rest masses and spin and charge, is fruitful in producing multiple such relationships and has some sort of theoretical precedent, the empirical correspondences may be less random than mere brute force combinations in every possible way of input numbers in order to match the observed results.  The more structured your method is, the less coincidental similarities are a valid objection to the results that you obtain.

It is also worth noting that technical adjustments to the dominant first order source behind the relationship mean that the right answer properly articulated will not always be the closest to the data when formulated only in a crude heuristic form. 

For example, basically, W and Z boson decay is governed by the "democratic principle" that every possibility is equally likely with quarks of different colors counting as different possibilities.  But, details of the calculations cause the exact branching fractions to not match up perfectly with this dominant first order guiding principal for calculating decay probabilities.

In a more basic example, the first order equation for determining the speed of a falling object is derived exclusively from Newton's law of gravity, which is effectively flawless at that scale (i.e. general relativity effects are truly negligable to the point where they can't be measured).  But, because there are air resistance effects in real life, Newton's law of gravity would not be the closest match to what is actually observed.

The moral of the story is that one shouldn't totally abandon a heuristic notion of what is driving a physical phenomena simply because it isn't a perfect fit for the data when expressed in a simplified form and compared to a far messier reality.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Lubos On Fundamental Particle Spins

In one of his usual cocky posts, Lubos argues (more aggressively than most physicists in the field would be willing to) that there must be a spin-2 graviton, and that there cannot be fundamental particles with intrinsic spin greater than 2.  His statements on these subjects are in italics below (with his most over the top statement in bold and italics).

About Gravitons

The Higgs boson became the first discovered spinless elementary particle, one with j=0 . Leptons

and quarks have j=1/2 . The photon, gluon, W-boson, Z-boson – gauge bosons – carry j=1 .

And a j=2 graviton has to exist because we know that there exist gravitational waves (see e.g. 1993

Physics Nobel Prize) and because all energy at the frequency ω is inevitably packaged into quanta of

energy E=ω , because of the most universal laws of quantum mechanics. Why?

If all expectation values etc.

are demanded to be periodic with period 2π/ω , it follows that |ψ must be periodic with this period,

up to an overall phase. But if |ψ is a linear superposition of various energy eigenstate terms whose

time dependence is exp(Et/i) , it follows that between t=0 and t=2π/ω , the relative phases

must return to the original value which means that EiEj=Nω for any pair of allowed

eigenvalues Ei,Ej . If the two states included in the superposition differ by an addition of a particle

or particles, the particle(s) must have E=Nω for NZ .

Again, if you don't understand the argument above sufficiently clearly so that you have eradicated all doubts about the existence of gravitons, I kindly ask you to stop reading because you're not qualified to study or discuss the allowed spins of elementary particles.

Comment:  The main caveat to this observation is that nothing in general relativity requires gravity to be a force transmitted by a quantum mechanical particle and general relativity indeed, assumes a mechanism rooted in the geometry of space-time instead. 

Wave-like behavior in a model with bosonic force carriers does imply a graviton of some sort, very likely a spin-2 graviton.  If string theory is right, there must be a massless spin-2 graviton.  But, waves can arise without particle mediated forces as well. 

The assumption that gravity has a boson exchange mechanism comparable to that of the electromagnetic, strong nuclear and weak nuclear forces is unproven and faces the serious obstacle that naive efforts to fit gravity into a quantum mechanical form with a graviton carrier have produced non-renormalizable theories that can't be rigorously proven to be finite at all and can't be used to make calculations, at the very least. 

It also isn't obvious that loop quantum gravity theories that quantitize space-time, rather than simply dropping a quantum field theory into a background space-time, necessarily implies a spin-2 graviton. Some such theories do, but not necessarily all of them do.

It also isn't manifestly obvious that even if gravity is mediated via a Standard Model-like boson force carrier that it is really a single unitary force transmitted by a single kind of force carrier.  The weak nuclear force is transmitted by three kinds of spin-1 particles (the W+, W- and Z).  The strong nuclear force is transmitted by eight varieties of gluons.  There could be, for example, a whole family of gravitons that combined act like a massless spin-2 boson, broken up by the nature of the particles that emit them, or chirally, or in some other respect.

Why spins higher than two are not fine for elementary particles

What about
j=3 or higher? In that case, we would produce an even larger number of wrong-sign polarizations of the one-particle states created by the creation operators transforming as j greater than or equal to 3
tensors. The corresponding conserved charges would have to transform as j2 tensors. And they

 have too many components in d4 . In fact, if this high number of tensor components were conserved, one could prove that interactions are so constrained that they de facto vanish. Any momentum exchange between the lowest-mass scalar particles would violate the conservation laws.

This is the essence of the
Coleman-Mandula theorem. There can't be conserved charges with spin greater than one. It follows – through our negative-norm-based arguments – that there can't be any

fundamental fields with j3 in your theory.

Well, string theory – and also its currenly fashionable "toy model", the Vasiliev higher-spin theory – circumvents this ban but the ability of these theories to avoid the conclusion critically depends on

 their having an infinite number of excitations with arbitrarily high spins j and their subtle interplay.

Let me mention that fields with spin
j=5/2 would have to come with conserved charges with spin

j= 3/2
which is already too high and prohibits interesting interactions. So j=2 is indeed the highest spin of "ordinary" fundamental fields.

Comment: As Lubos notes, the Coleman-Mandula theorem has at least one loophole that string theory and SUSY attempt to exploit.  But, it does provide suggestive evidence, at least, that there are good theoretical reasons why there might not be higher spin-2 fundamental bosons.

One important loophole is the word "fundamental" in this context.  Some very important forces, such as the nuclear binding force that holds atomic nuclei together, are not fundamental and may be mediated through composite particles such as pi-mesons whose behavior is rooted more fundamentally in Standard Model QCD.  Coleman-Mandula does not bar these kind of emergent composite force carriers from having an intrinsic spin j that is greater than 2.


What makes all of this news is that the Standard Model has particles of spins 0, 1/2 and 1 which have been observed, but not of spins 3/2 and 2. 

SUSY theories have spin 3/2 particles, but no spin 3/2 fundamental particles have been observed.  (Some exotic hadrons, made up of three quarks bound by gluons, with spin 3/2 have been observed, so we know how to experimentally identify such particles if they are out there.)

An observation of a single fundamental spin 3/2 particle (which would be a fermionic superpartner of a Standard Model boson such as a photon, weak force boson or gluon) would definitively shift the balance in favor of SUSY.  But, while we can theoretically describe them, just as we can theoretically describe all sorts of mythical animals (e.g. unicorns), we have yet to see a single such particle.

Spin 3/2 particles could just be too heavy for current experiments to spawn and to unstable to continue to exist for more than a moment once they come into being.  But, they also simply might not exist.