Anyone who has studied the history of writing in China is aware that the earliest manifestation of the Sinitic script dates to around the 13th century BC, under the Shang Dynasty (ca. 1600- BC). It is referred to as jiǎgǔwén 甲骨文 ("oracle bone writing") and was used primarily (almost exclusively) for the purpose of divination. The most ideal bones for this purpose were ox scapulae, since they were broad and flat, and had other suitable properties. . . .Since this type of divination was a combination of scapulimancy and pyromancy, we may refer to it as pyromantic scapulimancy or pyro-scapulimancy.What sort of people are likely to have developed this practice and utilized it for divining the outcome of impending events? Nomads with herded animals whose flesh they roasted on campfires.
Friday, November 27, 2020
Monday, November 23, 2020
Earlier this year, a new ancient DNA paper on steppe and Iranian farmer migrations into the Western Mediterranean escaped my notice.
Steppe ancestry arrived in the Western Mediterranean region not long after it arrived in continental Europe often via Iberia.
Iranian ancestry entered the Mediterranean (in the Aegean and Sicily) not long after the 4.2 kiloyear climate event and long before Bronze Age collapse, ca. 1200 BCE.
Sicily didn't undergo significant outside admixture from its population derived from Europe's first farmers until the Iron Age.
Steppe-pastoralist-related ancestry reached Central Europe by at least 2500 BC, whereas Iranian farmer-related ancestry was present in Aegean Europe by at least 1900 BC. However, the spread of these ancestries into the western Mediterranean, where they have contributed to many populations that live today, remains poorly understood.Here, we generated genome-wide ancient-DNA data from the Balearic Islands, Sicily and Sardinia, increasing the number of individuals with reported data from 5 to 66.The oldest individual from the Balearic Islands (~2400 BC) carried ancestry from steppe pastoralists that probably derived from west-to-east migration from Iberia, although two later Balearic individuals had less ancestry from steppe pastoralists.In Sicily, steppe pastoralist ancestry arrived by ~2200 BC, in part from Iberia; Iranian-related ancestry arrived by the mid-second millennium BC, contemporary to its previously documented spread to the Aegean; and there was large-scale population replacement after the Bronze Age.In Sardinia, nearly all ancestry derived from the island’s early farmers until the first millennium BC, with the exception of an outlier from the third millennium BC, who had primarily North African ancestry and who—along with an approximately contemporary Iberian—documents widespread Africa-to-Europe gene flow in the Chalcolithic. Major immigration into Sardinia began in the first millennium BC and, at present, no more than 56–62% of Sardinian ancestry is from its first farmers. This value is lower than previous estimates, highlighting that Sardinia, similar to every other region in Europe, has been a stage for major movement and mixtures of people.
Since this question always comes up at some point, I decided to do a rough back-of-the-envelope calculation of the % steppe across the Indian subcontinent. The way I did it was by taking Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India, and estimating the average percentage from the caste breakdowns (e.g., UP is 20% “upper caste” and 20% “Dalit” and 60% neither, with fractions of steppe/Sintashta about 30%, 10%, and 15%, respectively).So the final number I came back is that 14% of the ancestry in modern-day South Asia is from the steppe in the form of people descended from Sintashta pastoralists. . . . . You can judge whether that’s significant or not. Additionally, it looks like closer to 20-25% of the Y chromosomes are derived from these people.
He gives himself a margin of error due to methodology issues of about ± 2 percentage points.
In general, Brahmins have more steppe ancestry, while this percentage drops (sometimes particularly sharply outside of NW India) with lower caste. It is more common in the Northwest and reduces in frequency (in non-Brahmins, at least) in a more or less clinal pattern from there.
There are no examples of contemporary people native to South Asia who lack steppe ancestry entirely (although people without steppe ancestry are found in ancient DNA, for example, Harappan ancient DNA from ca. 2200 BCE).
The data imply a source for steppe ancestry that was about 80% male, and certainly disproportionately male.
The fact that so much geographic and caste structure in steppe ancestry percentages exists at all is remarkable for a source of admixture with so much time depth (and which, in particular, significantly precedes the hardening of endogamy boundaries for jati in India).
The comments explore some finer details.
About 35% of autosomal DNA in South Asia is autochthonous (i.e. native to India, at least in the Holocene era of the last 10,000 years or so) as is a large share of South Asia's Y-DNA and mtDNA. The lion's share of the rest is West Eurasian, mostly derived from ancient Iranian farmers, except in Northeast India and in Bangladesh where there is significant East Asian and Southeast Asian ancestry (mostly in people who speak Tibeto-Burman or Munda languages, or in people who are geographically adjacent to these peoples).
Monday, November 16, 2020
This approach is similar to Deur's approach.
[Submitted on 17 May 2018]
Nonlinear Effects of Gravity in Cosmology
We consider some nonlinear effects of gravity in cosmology. Possible physically interesting consequences include: non-requirement of dark matter and dark energy, asymmetric gravitational matter-creation, emergent homogeneity/isotropy & asymptotic flatness, resolution of "cosmic coincidence" Omega_m \sim Omega_lambda, effective cutoff of gravitational interaction at the scale of cosmic voids.
Thursday, November 12, 2020
A derived G-allele point mutation (SNP) with pleiotropic effects in EDAR, 370A or rs3827760, found in most modern East Asians and Native Americans but not common in African or European populations, is thought to be one of the key genes responsible for a number of differences between these populations, including the thicker hair, more numerous sweat glands, smaller breasts, and the Sinodont dentition (so-called shovel incisors) characteristic of East Asians. This mutation is also implicated in ear morphology differences and reduced chin protrusion.
The mutation arose in humans approximately 30,000 years ago, and now is found in 93% of Han Chinese and in the majority of people in nearby Asian populations.
BackgroundVitamin D is critical to embryonic neuronal differentiation and other developmental processes that may affect future neurocognitive function. However, observational studies have found inconsistent associations between gestational vitamin D and neurocognitive outcomes.
ObjectivesWe examined the association of gestational 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] with children's IQ at 4–6 y, and explored whether associations differed by race.
MethodsThis study used data from the CANDLE (Conditions Affecting Neurocognitive Development and Learning in Early Childhood) cohort. Between 2006 and 2011, CANDLE recruited 1503 women in their second trimester of healthy singleton pregnancies. Inclusion criteria for this analysis were gestation of ≥34 wk and availability of 25(OH)D and IQ data. Associations between second-trimester 25(OH)D plasma concentration and Stanford-Binet IQ scores in offspring at 4–6 y were examined using multivariable linear regression; interaction terms were used to explore possible effect modification by race.
ResultsMean ± SD 25(OH)D concentration among 1019 eligible dyads was 21.6 ± 8.4 ng/mL, measured at a mean ± SD gestational age of 23.0 ± 3.0 wk. Vitamin D deficiency [25(OH)D < 20 ng/mL] was observed in 45.6%. Maternal 25(OH)D differed by race with a mean ± SD of 19.8 ± 7.2 ng/mL in Blacks sand 25.9 ± 9.3 ng/mL in Whites ( P < 0.001). In adjusted models a 10-ng/mL increase in 25(OH)D was associated with a 1.17-point higher Full Scale IQ (95% CI: 0.27, 2.06 points), a 1.17-point higher Verbal IQ (95% CI: 0.19, 2.15 points), and a 1.03-point higher Nonverbal IQ (95% CI: 0.10, 1.95 points). We observed no evidence of effect modification by race.
ConclusionsSecond-trimester maternal 25(OH)D was positively associated with IQ at 4–6 y, suggesting that gestational vitamin D status may be an important predictor of neurocognitive development. These findings may help inform prenatal nutrition recommendations and may be especially relevant for Black and other dark-skinned women at high risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
This September 2020 paper accepted for publication in a peer reviewed journal makes a strong empirical case that the external field effect predicted by MOND is real and that the strong equivalence principle of general relativity is violated.
Testing the Strong Equivalence Principle: Detection of the External Field Effect in Rotationally Supported Galaxies
Wednesday, November 4, 2020
The top quark is the most massive fundamental particle in the Standard Model. A new work makes a precision LHC measurement by using clever methods to reduce jet scale associated uncertainty. The bottom line value from the new work is:
m(t) = 172.5 ± 1.2 GeV
This compared to the PDG global average of:
m(t) = 172.4 ± 0.7 GeV
Prior measurements are summarized as follows:
More background is recapped at a previous post at this blog about the top quark mass.
Simultaneous extraction ofand from LHC differential distributions
We present a joint extraction of the strong couplingand the top-quark pole mass from measurements of top-quark pair production performed by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at the 8 TeV LHC. For the first time, differential NNLO theory predictions for different values of the top-quark mass are utilised for four kinematic distributions: the average transverse momentum of the top-quark, its average rapidity and the pair invariant mass and rapidity. The use of fastNLO tables for these distributions allows rapid evaluation of the differential theory predictions for different PDF sets. We consider the single differential distributions from the experiments both separately and in combination in order to obtain the best fit to theory. Our final values are and GeV which are compatible with previous extractions using top-quark measurements. In the case of , our value is also compatible with the world average value collated by the Particle Data Group.