Origin of apples

There are a number of species of apple trees, but it looks as the cultivated varieties mainly originated in Kazakhstan, while wild apples are very similar to cultivated varieties. In particular, they’re larger than other undomesticated species.

It has been suggested that these particular apples were selected for large fruits because their seeds were efficiently transmitted to hospitable dung piles in this manner – because bears shit in the woods.



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A couple of people have suggested that Dominic Cummings might benefit from my advice.  The general goal, presumably, is making Britain great again.

Doable?  Even to the extent of making GB a major power? I would think so. No country performs anywhere close to its possible maximum –  there’s a lot of slack to optimize.

Naturally,  the first step is putting in a decent dynasty, one with real royals, with the  royal touch, to stop the current epidemic of King’s Evil in its tracks.



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Dandruff is apparently caused by Malassezia globosa, a yeast.  Infection seems to speed up cell turnover, so skin cells mature and are shed in 2-7 days, instead of a month in people without dandruff. This has been known for a while.

But this is new: there is some indication that this fungus can migrate to the pancreas, where it is implicated in the pathogenesis of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, the most common kind of pancreatic cancer (95%), approximately as deadly as an 88 millimeter shell to the head.

Interesting if correct.



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Books, 2019

You might also be interested in my booklists from 20142016, 2017, and 2018.

A World At Arms


How the North Won

The Way Things Work

The Ants

Twilight of the Mammoths

The Prose Edda

The Spanish Civil War

The Fall of Paris

Popski’s Private Army

Neptune’s Inferno

Storm of Steel

War and Peace and War

Marauders of the Sea

The Voyage of the Beagle

Why We Age


The Sky People 

The Compleat Enchanter


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Local brain drain

Abdel Abdellaoui and colleagues recent put out a paper on genetics and social stratification in Great Britain. Among other things, they found that polygenic scores of educational attainment were lower in seriously economically depressed areas,  such as coal mining towns – and that this depression has increased with time.  The smarter people are going where the better paying jobs are.

Surely the same thing has been happening  in West Virginia.

This happens all the time, on small scales and large scales.  The effect is stronger at the edges of the distribution – the per-capita number number of National Merit finalists can vary a lot due to such factors.  Some places suffer a brain drain, others a concentration.  Note that this effect happens even among a single ethnic group. So you see a surprisingly large number of National Merit scholars at Los Alamos High School or Oak Ridge High School – or Cocoa Beach, back during the Apollo project. The effect shows up in university towns, in particular neighborhoods of cities where people with higher average smarts cluster, etc.

This is all obvious, and everybody has seen it.  But if you are a real anti-hereditarian, every example has to be explained by some environmental advantage ( none of which we can find).  Los Alamos and Oak Ridge must be secretly bathing the kids in N-rays, while the meals served to the kids in the Chicago Public School system must be enriched with lead.

To a true anti-hereditarian, every day is fresh & new & surprising, because hardly anything happens as they expect.



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I was some interested in the Congo wars, back in the 90s, but there was  very little coverage in the media. Eventually I ran across an article that had maps of the front lines, reasonable discussions of the players  and their prospects – in Science (AAAS), of all places.

Their perspective:  the threat the Congo War posed to the bonobos.

I’m wondering how many similar treatments exist. Is there a tome that discusses the sanguinary battles on the Eastern Front ( Barenkovo, Stalingrad, Third Battle of Kharkov), how they threatened and eventually led to the demise of Unknown/Unknown Worlds ?

( food for Ph.D. theses)


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History and Inbreeding

What are the earliest refs you know of that mention the disadvantages of inbreeding, in animals and/or humans?

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