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Links: December/January [Jan. 19th, 2012|12:22 am]

Atlantic Wire confirms what we already suspected: 92% of popular songs are about sex.

World Population By Latitude and Longitude

“Who is your favorite painter?”
“Robert Oppenheimer.”
“Who is your favorite musician?”
“Endless noise.”
"What is your favorite bird?"
“I do not have a favorite bird. I have launch codes. Killing me requires the dismantling of the entire global communication grid. I can show you how.”
-- Vitalics. One of my favorite short stories in a long time.

The Continuity thesis says that the Renaissance was nothing special, and that human development was pretty much linear all through the medieval period and beyond.

If you're looking for the center of earth's land, it's in an empty lot in the city of Nantes, France.

From the Department Of Things That Are Not Surprising: Irish politicians claim former taoiseach Brian Cowan "made all his crucial decisions in the bar".

This article on a three-eyed fish found near a nuclear power plant is interesting not just for the Simpsons reference but for the terrible horrible awful pun at the end.

Something Awful has a Science Fair. My favorite is the one on birds.

A well-written article on the mysterious monastery at the center of Greece's debt crisis. Also at the center of Greece's debt crisis: Greeks are horrible.

My assumption had always been that wind and solar energy were a beautiful dream but not remotely competitive with "real" energy source except where heavily subsidized. But as technology advances it turns out that's wrong about wind and quickly becoming wrong about solar.

What's black and white and red all over? The basic color terms that seem to operate in an almost universal way across all world languages.

Speaking of world languages, an interesting analysis that uses Bushman clicks and Polynesian consonant deficiency to track down the proposed "Proto-World" origin of all languages.

Since no one's found any appropriate Jurassic mosquitoes preserved in amber, future dinosaur-cloners may have to take their DNA where they can get it - from chickens

If you work at Legoland, obviously your pranks on your co-workers have to involve Legos in some way. Still, this goes above and beyond.

So it turns out you can take command of an army just by shouting at them really loud and telling them that cross your heart hope to die you're their legitimate commanding officer. And then use it to commit robbery. And then star in a play about your own crimes.

There's been a lot of discussion about how much we can tax the rich without "disincentivizing the job creators". Turns out economists' best guess is a tax rate of 83%.

A Nevada entrepreneur wants to open up a sci-fi themed brothel with girls dressed as characters from all of your favorite works of speculative fiction.

The movie Up: pre-emptively based on a true story (plus the most amazing photos you'll see this month).

The Washington Post takes on a daunting task: Making Mitt Romney actually sounds like a pretty neat person. I especially like the homeless shelter anecdote.

Most Muslims are reasonable and peaceful people much like everyone else et cetera et cetera. But some people manage to out-crazy the craziest possible stereotypes you can imagine.

Thank goodness it's Friday - except in Samoa, which recently skipped directly from Thursday to Saturday.

Via maniakes: The life and death of David Muffett, Nigerian colonial administrator. My favorite part is the story of the cannibal who...nah, just read it.

The New Groupthink, or, For The Love Of God Stop Forcing Everyone To Work In Teams And Go To Meetings All The Time And Just Let People Think For Themselves.

[User Picture]From: sniffnoy
2012-01-19 06:08 am (UTC)
Broken link (relative url) on Continuity Thesis.
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[User Picture]From: erratio
2012-01-19 02:42 pm (UTC)
The origin of languages paper has some gaping methodological holes. The main ones I remember are that the premise is kind of dodgy* and that the 500 languages are not particularly representative of the worldwide distribution of phoneme inventories.

* by which I mean that I've seen papers making the claim that population size is inversely correlated with phoneme inventory size, and that there are lots of other factors that influence phoneme inventory size, such as proportion of speakers who learnt it as a second language.
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[User Picture]From: squid314
2012-01-21 06:51 am (UTC)
I seem to remember hearing something where this guy said that was part of his methodology: that as small groups migrated from their original homelands, the languages would lose phonemes.

Certainly as those small groups then grow to the size of, say, Chinese speakers that can complicate things, but he did seem to find a really interesting relationship.
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[User Picture]From: erratio
2012-01-21 03:37 pm (UTC)
I agree that it's an interesting relationship, I'm less sure that it actually exists. For example, if small populations are actually better at maintaining large inventories then you would expect to see a completely different pattern. And I still maintain that his languages do not appear to be representative of the worldwide distribution of phoneme inventories.
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[User Picture]From: laplor
2012-01-19 02:51 pm (UTC)
Oh that is a fascinating bunch of things!
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[User Picture]From: ikadell
2012-01-19 07:01 pm (UTC)
+1 to Romney being head and shoulders above the rest.
It might be interesting, after all.
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[User Picture]From: drethelin
2012-01-19 08:17 pm (UTC)
Strangely enough the racial point in Vitalics was my favorite thing to take away from it. It seems obvious in retrospect that if you split up a population into two groups that are sharply distinct you will have huge problems.
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[User Picture]From: cousin_it
2012-01-20 11:45 am (UTC)
To me that was the worst part of the story. When an American person decides to push American political issues on the rest of the world, at least they should do their homework first. Pushkin didn't look anything like a black person, was never a victim of racism, and owned a village of Russian slaves. Only one of his great-grandfathers was African. That great-grandfather was a secretary of the Russian king and later a general in the Russian army.
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[User Picture]From: drethelin
2012-01-20 03:03 pm (UTC)
oh, that was clearly bullshit. Did you not see the specific thing I said in my comment?

Also if you don't think your country has racial issues, and I don't know where you live, you are blind.
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[User Picture]From: hentaikid
2012-01-21 09:21 pm (UTC)
Thanks for an interesting selection of links, as always. That Miracle Jones character bears watching.
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