Friday, May 29, 2015

Basque - Icelandic Feud Finally Over Four Hundred Years Later

A memorial dedicated to the 32 Basque whalers who were killed in the West Fjords in 1615 in what’s known as Iceland’s only mass murder was unveiled in Hólmavík, the West Fjords, on April 22, the last day of winter. At the occasion, West Fjords district commissioner Jónas Guðmundsson revoked the order that Basques could be killed on sight in the region. . . .

President of Gipuzkoa Martin Garitano spoke at the ceremony, as did Icelandic Minister of Education and Culture Illugi Gunnarsson, reports. The speeches were followed by musical performances and a moment of prayer.

The program included Xabier Irujo, descendant of one of the murdered Basque whale hunters, and Magnús Rafnsson, descendant of one of the murderers, taking part in a symbolic reconciliation, as it says on . . .

The massacre, known as the Spanish Killings or Slaying of the Spaniards, took place in October 1615 at the order of the then West Fjords district commissioner Ari Magnússon of Ögur in Ísafjarðardjúp.

Basque whalers had set up a whaling station in Iceland in the early 17th century. The year 1615 was a difficult with ice up to shores until late summer and considerable loss of livestock, as written on Wikipedia.

In mid-summer 1615, three Basque whaling vessels entered Reykjarfjörður. Icelanders and the Basques had a mutual agreement at the beginning as they had both benefited from the enterprise.

When the ships were ready for departure in late September a gale drove them onto rocks and crushed them. Most of the crew members (around 80) survived and were able to leave for Spain.

The following month, following a conflict with the locals, the remaining whalers were killed at Ari’s order at Æðey island in Ísafjarðardjúp and on Fjallaskagi. Only one person managed to escape.
From here via Marginal Revolution.

The fact that both communities have genealogies up to the task of tracking descendants of both sides of this historical event, four hundred years later, and that this event was accurately documented historically that long ago, on the very fringe of Europe, at the time, is remarkable.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

There Was An English Colony Called "New England" In Crimea During The Crusade Era

A blog post by Caitlin Green on the topic appears here.  It was established shortly after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 and persisted until sometime in the 1200s, around the time that the Crusader states were also falling apart. Allegedly, it was founded by Anglo-Saxon exiles from the Norman Conquest who went first to Constantinople, the capitol of the much diminished (post-Islamic expansion) Byzantine Empire.

According to these sources, what seems to have occurred is that, in the aftermath of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, a group of English lords who hated William the Conqueror's rule but had lost all hope of overthrowing it decided to sell up their land and leave England forever. Led by an 'earl of Gloucester' named Sigurðr (Stanardus in the Chronicon Laudunensis), they set out with 350 ships—235 in the CL—for the Mediterranean via the Straits of Gibraltar. Once there, they voyaged around raiding and adventuring for a period, before learning that Constantinople was being besieged (either whilst they were in Sicily, according to the Edwardsaga, or in Sardinia, as the CL). Hearing this, they decided to set sail for Constantinople to assist the Byzantine emperor. When they reached there, they fought victoriously for the emperor and so earned his gratitude, with the result that they were offered a place of honour in his Varangian Guard.

This sequence of events appears to underlie all four of the sources mentioned above and is moreover supported by contemporary Byzantine sources too[.]
The probably left in 1075 CE.

New Study Sorts Y-DNA Lineages Of Europe By Age Of Expansion

Some of the major Y-DNA lineages in Europe are traceable to the early Neolithic era or are even older, while three others (specific subsets of I2, R1a and R1b) expanded at a breathtaking pace more of less simultaneously around the late Neolithic/Enolithic/Copper Age/early Bronze Age era.  Once this major expansion was complete, the population genetic of Europe have mostly been fairly stable, with a few exceptions that prove the rule due to well documented historical events.

A new study provides a detailed analysis based mostly upon the diversity of modern Y-DNA lineages in Europe and their phylogeny, clearly sorts the two, while also providing useful corroboration from a nearly complete index of ancient Y-DNA finds, by haplogroup, in Europe in the relevant time frames.

The ancient DNA classified by the archaeological context of the finds, also provides strong circumstantial evidence regarding which Y-DNA lineages were associated with the pre-Neolithic hunter-gather populations of Europe.  In sum, hunter-gatherer men appear to have been predominantly Y-DNA I1 in most of Europe and Y-DNA R1b and R1a on the Northern and Southern part, respectively, of the Russian steppe.

The remaining major European clades appear to have arrived with the wave of mass migration that drove the Neolithic revolution (i.e. the introduction of the farming and herding of domesticated plants and animals), although a very late Upper Paleolithic arrival (i.e. "Epipaleolithic" a.k.a. "Mesolithic") cannot be ruled out in most cases, and is established by ancient Y-DNA in others.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Moffat's MOG Makes A Prediction About Black Hole Shadows

John Moffat's modification of gravity, one version of which is called MOG, is a leading alternative to dark matter theories.  A recap at Backreaction of a recent Perimeter Institute talk identifies an experimental test of his theory that may soon be possible to ascertain, namely, the size of a black hole's "shadow" (a name of the extreme lensing effects near its event horizon).

Monday, May 18, 2015

Galactic Cluster Collision Observations Disfavor Heavy Particle Dark Matter

El Gordo is the largest known example of two galaxies colliding.  Comparing the X-ray spectrum emissions of hot colliding gas with the visible light from the stars are the cores of the galaxies in the galactic clusters, provides an observational foundation from which the nature of dark matter phenomena in the clusters can be inferred.

The New Result

Scientists who have done this find that a heavy particle model of dark matter is a poor fit to this data.
This distinctive configuration has allowed the researchers to establish the relative speed of the collision, which is extreme (~2200km/second), as it puts it at the limit of what is allowed by current theory for dark matter.

These rare, extreme examples of clusters caught in the act of colliding seem to be challenging the accepted view that dark matter is made up of heavy particles, since no such particles have actually been detected yet, despite the efforts being made to find them by means of the LHC (Large Hadron Particle Collider) accelerator in Geneva and the LUX (Large Underground Xenon Experiment), an underground dark matter detector in the United States. In Tom Broadhurst's opinion, "it's all the more important to find a new model that will enable the mysterious dark matter to be understood better." Broadhurst is one of the authors of a wave-dark-matter model published in Nature Physics last year.

This new piece of research has entailed interpreting the gas observed and the dark matter of El Gordo "hydrodynamically" through the development of an in-house computational model that includes the dark matter, which comprises most of the mass, and which can be observed in the Xray region of the visible spectrum because of its extremely high temperature (100 million kelvin). Dr Broadhurst and Dr Molnar have managed to obtain a unique computational solution for this collision because of the comet-like shape of the hot gas, and the locations and the masses of the two dark matter cores that have passed through each other at an oblique angle at a relative speed of about 2200 km/s. This means that the total energy release is bigger than that of any other known phenomenon, with the exception of the Big Bang.
The underlying study to this interpretative description from a university PR office is here (preprint here). The abstract (with a few mathematical symbols converted to words) states that:
The distinctive cometary X-ray morphology of the recently discovered massive galaxy cluster "El Gordo" (ACT-CT J0102–4915; z = 0.87) indicates that an unusually high-speed collision is ongoing between two massive galaxy clusters. A bright X-ray "bullet" leads a "twin-tailed" wake, with the Sunyaev-Zel'dovich (SZ) centroid at the end of the northern tail. 
We show how the physical properties of this system can be determined using our FLASH-based, N-body/hydrodynamic model, constrained by detailed X-ray, SZ, and Hubble lensing and dynamical data. 
The X-ray morphology and the location of the two dark matter components and the SZ peak are accurately described by a simple binary collision viewed about 480 million years after the first core passage. We derive an impact parameter of about 300 kpc, and a relative initial infall velocity of about 2250 km s–1 when separated by the sum of the two virial radii assuming an initial total mass of 2.15 × 1015 M ☉ and a mass ratio of 1.9. 
Our model demonstrates that tidally stretched gas accounts for the northern X-ray tail along the collision axis between the mass peaks, and that the southern tail lies off axis, comprising compressed and shock heated gas generated as the less massive component plunges through the main cluster. 
The challenge for ΛCDM will be to find out if this physically extreme event can be plausibly accommodated when combined with the similarly massive, high-infall-velocity case of the Bullet cluster and other such cases being uncovered in new SZ based surveys.
In the pertinent part of the conclusion the paper states that:
This massive merging cluster with an infall velocity of 2250 km s−1 at the the time the Universe was half of its age (at the redshift of z = 0.87) is apparently very unusual in the standard ΛCDM models, for which extensive simulations have been performed to determine the expected probability distribution of relative velocities (Thompson & Nagamine 2012). At face value, such extreme cases present a challenge to our understanding of structure formation and may lead to a better understanding of dark matter and/or alternative theories of gravity.
Basically,  then, the example is notable because structure formation of such a huge scale tends to come much later in standard ΛCDM models than is observed.  Thompson, Dave & Nagamine 2014, however, finds that the deficit of merging clusters of this type may have simply been an artifact of an inadequate simulation program, and reproduce the observed number of large cluster combinations from  the standard ΛCDM models in a simulation using a different methodology.

Wave, Scalar Field and Boson Star Dark Matter

More background on wave dark matter is found here and here.  A key point is that "In these wave dark matter mechanisms, the substructure of the dark matter (the perturbations from spherical symmetry) is what drives the substructure in the regular matter (spiral patterns and shells)."  The observed texture of luminous matter distributions in elliptical galaxies (which often have "shells") and spiral galaxies (which often have spiral arms rather than being smooth disks) is a major motivation for this theory.

Another notable observation about wave dark matter theories in these links is this one:
[T]his is where our discussion intersects with the fascinating works of many others who have studied “scalar field dark matter” and “boson stars.” In the boson star case, the motivation is quantum mechanical, so the above scalar field f is supposed to represent the overall wave function for a very large number of very tiny bosons with masses on the order of 10−23 eV. We relate our constant Υ to the mass of the Klein-Gordon equation by noting that the Compton wavelength in both cases is λ = 2π Υ = h m ≈ 13 light years if we take m ≈ 10−23eV , or equivalently, Υ ≈ 1/(2 light years). These other motivations are interesting as well but should be distinguished from the purely geometric motivations provided in this paper.
The related scalar field dark matter theory is also described here and was originally conceived in 1994 by Ji and Sin.

A recent analysis of cosmological data in the context of the theory concludes that the right boson mass is actually about 10 orders of magnitude smaller than previously assumed.  My own intuition is to note that the bosons of scalar field dark matter are suspiciously close in mass-energy magnitude to the hypothetical graviton.  And, indeed, the mass predicted in this recent analysis is precisely the mass a graviton would need to have in order to reproduce the observed cosmology without the cosmological constant.  This mass also corresponds to a Compton wave length of approximately the same length of the size of the universe (i.e. about 13 billion light years).

I suspect that a lot of the discussion of the massless graviton confounds particle rest mass, which an infinite range force boson should not have, and mass-energy which is something which gravity couples to and is present even in massless bosons like the photon.  It is not at all obvious to me that "massive gravity" theories are in any way distinguishable from "mass-energyful gravity" theories, in which case "massive gravity" is not inconsistent with a graviton that has zero rest mass as expected (but I would seem to be wrong).  A hypothetical graviton, while it lacks rest mass, should have mass-energy of some small, finite amount.

Some blog level discussion of massive gravity theories and their history is found here.  The criticism is a mass-energyful gravity expressed in the comments is that: 
There is no such thing as the energy density of the curvature. This is an old result from GR --- one cannot define the concept of energy for a gravitational field, locally. It can be done only in a suitable global sense (spacetime with asymptotic global time-translation symmetry).  
It is indeed an old result, but I continue to think that it is almost certainly wrong and probably the main cause of the deviation between GR and what is observed in Nature. Even if this is true of GR, that may just mean that GR is wrong.

As an aside, an excellent pdf defining the key terms and concepts in GR and the Einstein-Gordon-Klein equation (which describes the gravitational force generated by a scalar field in GR) is found here.  The Einstein-Gordon-Klein equation is intimately related to wave dark matter models and scalar field dark matter models.

Oliver Heaviside

Lubos has a wonderful biography of Oliver Heaviside, a self-taught man from a humble condition who was the source of many of the words and much of the modern notation we use to describe classical electromagnetism (e.g. the standard form of Maxwell's equations), in addition to inventing many electromagnetic devices.

He was born on May 18, 1850, succeeding again and again despite the circumstances arrayed against him.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Warm Blooded Fish

Opah, a kind of fish also known as Moonfish (scientific name Lampris guttatus), are the first species of warm blooded fish every discovered.  Their warm blood gives them an advantage as a predator in deep, cold waters, where other fish, because they are cold blooded, are sluggish.

Sharks and tuna, which are also predators, have a much diminished form of warm bloodedness specific to only a few muscle regions that don't operate at great water depths, but nothing approaching the warm-blooded adaptions of the Opah.

Note that the study reporting the finding does not reach the conclusion that warm bloodedness in the Opah is ancestral to warm bloodedness in mammals and birds.  Indeed, this is almost surely not the case, because birds and mammals are descended from cold blooded reptiles (although some dinosaurs were probably also warm blooded).  Instead, warm bloodedness in the Opah is an independent case of convergent evolution.

Universe Has Disproportionately Left Handed Magnetic Fields

Science Daily reports a new study finding that the universe has disproportionately left handed magnetic fields, rather than equal numbers of left handed and right handed magnetic fields, based upon observations of cosmic gamma rays reaching Earth.  The finding could provide a foundation for understanding the matter-antimatter disparity in the universe.

This isn't the first time that a left handed-right handed disparity has been observed in the universe.  Another is found in the Standard Model of Particle Physics, in which the weak force acts only on left handed particles and right handed antiparticles.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Happy May 12

Finnish flag image via Wikipedia

Today is the Day of the Finnish Identity, which is celebrated on the birthday of an early Finnish statesman.

How curiously humble to have a day in which you acknowledge that your national identity is something that came into being, or at least, into currency, at a time in historical memory, as opposed to trying to plant the false history that it was eternally in existence since time immemorial.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Periodic Table Elements In Chinese

The world's most comprehensive English-Chinese character translation key for the Periodic Table of the elements is now available at the Language Log blog.

There are several instances where the Taiwanese representation and the People's Republic of China representation differ.  Mandarin Chinese seeks to represent all of the chemical elements with a single syllable.

Siberian Historical Population Genetics

Siberia has repeatedly swung between being predominantly West Eurasian genetically, and predominantly East Eurasian.  One swing, of early Indo-Europeans, peaked around 4000 years ago, and then swung back the other way starting around 1500-2500 years ago (with Turks and then Mongols migrating East to West), only to swing in the West Eurasian direction again with the expansion of the Russian empire starting around 200-300 years ago.

New population genetic studies (open access) reveal that the West Eurasian ancestry in most modern Siberian populations is attributable to the Bronze Age Indo-European wave, rather than the more recent wave of Slavic Russian colonization.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Genetics of the Kalash People

In an early worldwide survey of this kind, division into five clusters unsurprisingly identified (1) Africans, (2) a widespread group including Europeans, Middle Easterners, and South Asians, (3) East Asians, (4) Oceanians, and (5) Native Americans. However, division into six groups led to a more surprising finding: the sixth group consisted of a single population, the Kalash. The Kalash are an isolated South Asian population of Indo-European speakers residing in the Hindu Kush mountain valleys in northwest Pakistan, near the Afghan frontier. With a reported census size of 5,000 individuals, they represent a religious minority with unique and rich cultural traditions.
From a new open access paper in the Journal Cell on their autosomal genetics.  This outlier status could, however, be due to sustained genetic isolation and inbreeding in a small population which can create a very unique and uniform autosomal genetic profile with isolated mutations that looks more exotic than it seems.

They are also one of the few populations in the world that are non-Hindu pagans religiously, as opposed to having a revived "neo-pagan" or monotheistic religion.

They are some of the most "white" looking people of South Asia (despite their lack of close genetic affinity to Europeans), which led to historically inaccurate myths that the were descendants of Alexander the Great's troops that marched into the general vicinity in ancient times.  As their language illustrates, however, they have had, at least, significant cultural contact with Indo-European people at some point in deep history.  They are also lactose tolerant, although due to genes different than those found in Europeans.

Some of the analysis in the paper is controversial and I will update this post to discuss those issues and the detailed conclusions of the genetic analysis if I have time to do so.

One key point that is not particularly controversial is that the Kalash people show closer affinity to ancient DNA from Ma'alta boy, an Upper Paleolithic individual from near the Altai Mountains whose Y-DNA is a very basal version of haplogroup R, than any other extant modern population.

UPDATE May 3, 2015:

For convenience sake, I will reproduce below the pertinent part of a post at Wash Park Prophet on the subject on March 3, 2011:
The Kalash people in a remote part of the Hindu Kush Mountain range are one of the most genetically distinct populations in the world. When one has a computer break the world's autosomal genetics into the most distinct possible seven clusters, the clusters that you get are: African, European, South Asian, East Asian, Papuan, indigenous American and Kalash.  
Their Y-DNA haplogroups (from a sample of about 43 people) are as follows: 
* L3a 22.7% (most common in Pakistan)
* H1* 20.5% (most common in South Asia)
* R1a 18.2% (most common in Eastern Europe and South Asia)
* G 18.2% (most common in Southern Europe, Anatolia, Druze, Brahui and Pashtuns)
* J2 9.1% (most common in Anatolia and where Indo-Europeans have had an impact)
* R* 6.8% (most common in Thailand, Indonesia, the Phillipines and Australian aborigines)
* R1* 2.3% (most common in indigenous Americans)  
* L* 2.3%. (most common in South Asia) 
Their mtDNA haplogroups (from a sample of 44 people) are as follows: 
* pre-HV 22.7% (most common in Socotri, North Africa, Iran and Arabia)
* HV* 4.5%
* H 4.5% (the modal haplogroup of Europe)
* U2e 15.9% (most common in South Asia)
* U4 34.1% (most common in Central Asia) 
* U7 2.3% (most common in South Asia)
* J1 2.3%
* J2 9.1% 
* T* 4.5%  
They speak a language from the Dardic branch of the Indo-European family (one of the more basal of the Indo-Iranian part of the late language family), and practice a polytheistic religion. 
They are between areas that areas typically Central Asian and areas that are typically South Asian in genetic makeup. Their traditions place them as a lost contingent of Alexander the Great's army, but given their uniparental markers, the genetic makeup, their particularly contingent would have had to have picked up members mostly from the area from Anatolia to the Hindu Kush. Their Dardic language is also an anomaly for an isolated community claiming to descend from the Greeks, they lack common distinctively Greek uniparental markers, and their religion is close to Hinduism than it is to Greek pantheistic beliefs. An origin a millennium or two earlier (if not much more ancient) would seem to be a better fit for the facts. 
Given their autosomal makeup, any new arrivals in the region from somewhere would have had to either admixed substantially with a relict population that was largely wiped out or overwhelmed genetically elsewhere such as Europe and Central Asia's pre-Neolithic hunter-gatherers, or South Asian hunter-gatherer populations disrupted by Munda, Dravidian, and Indo-Aryan populations respectively. Alternately, they might have undergone significant selectively driven evolution analogous to that found in Tibetans as a result of living at high altitudes. The case for incorporation of a relict Central Asian hunter-gatherer population is most strongly supported by the modal mtDNA haplogroup U4, which was one of the second most common types found in ancient DNA from Central Asian hunter-gatherers.