Anna Gosline in New Scientist:
Possessive cockerels use fake sex to keep their hens faithful. By merely mounting females – without bothering to waste precious sperm – cocks ensure their partners will not go looking for male competitors to fertilise them, a new study suggests. The finding may explain why males of many species – from insects to mammals – engage in seemingly meaningless sperm-free sex.
“Copulations that appear to be successful, but with no semen transferred, are almost ubiquitous,” says Tommaso Pizzari at the University of Oxford, UK, co-author of the study. “It suggests that this behaviour may be rather more than an accident or a by-product of males running out of sperm.”
While sperm was always thought of as a cheaper investment than eggs, in the past few years, researchers have begun to realise that sperm also carries a hefty biological price tag. In 2003, Pizzari and his colleagues showed that male chickens allocated their precious seed according to the likelihood of fathering children. Unfamiliar females always received a fulsome dose, while hens with which the cock had already mated several times ended up receiving little more than ruffled feathers.
Michael Schirber at Space.com:
Now that the fireworks are over, scientists are sorting through what was learned from the Deep Impact collision with Comet Tempel 1 on July 4.
“It looks like we got a pretty good pop,” Pete Schultz from Brown University told SPACE.com yesterday.
Although Deep Impact’s 820-pound impactor struck the comet’s surface at approximately a 25-degree angle, it was still able to kick up an impressive plume of dust.
The preliminary images and data indicate the comet has a cratered surface that is too soft to be made of ice, once thought to be the main component of comets. The impactor-induced crater was not visible directly due to the thick cloud of dust, but researchers estimate it to be at least 330 feet (100 meters) wide.
“The major surprise was the opacity of the plume the impactor created and the light it gave off,” said Michael A’Hearn of the University of Maryland. “That suggests the dust excavated from the comet’s surface was extremely fine, more like talcum powder than beach sand.”
Christopher Hitchens in Slate:
Ten years since the hecatomb of Srebrenica … surely a decade cannot have passed so quickly? It really feels to me like yesterday. I can hear Susan Sontag’s exact tone of voice as she described being in a ministerial office in Sarajevo when the mayor of Srebrenica got through on a bad line to say, “This is goodbye.” He did not mean au revoir. Ronald Steel is one of the most gentle and humane liberals I have ever met, but I can still see his next-day’s op-ed in the New York Times, announcing that the fall of the “safe havens” was “a blessing in disguise,” since it might force the Bosnians to sue for peace. I can remember the red rage in which I wrote a letter to the Times, saying that a mass murder was a pretty effective disguise. And the sickening news, day by day, of the routine and organized torture and slaughter, and then the crude interment of the butchered cadavers, ploughed under like black plastic bags of refuse. I have had my differences with Mark Danner since that time, but if you wish to relive the episode (and you should want to do so) you really must look up his brilliant forensic inquiry in successive issues of the New York Review of Books.
Above all, what I remember is the sense of shame…
Eszter at Crooked Timber:
I have accumulated quite a list of fun sites. So far I have protected CT readers by only posting these occasionally. But I have so many now that I think I am going to make it a weekly feature. As additional warning, I have created a little button to signal these posts. The point of the button is to note: you have been warned, I take no responsibility for the amount of time you end up wasting due to clicking on these links.
Planarity Flash Game
Your job is to reposition the nodes so the links do not overlap.
Go ahead, try it. [Thanks a lot, Robin!]
The terrorist bombings in London displaced attention on the G8 and its discussions on poverty and debt relief in Africa. Although, we were unlikely to hear any sustained account of how argicultural subsidies in the West depress food prices in the Third World to levels where local farmers cannot compete, thereby lose their livelihoods, and fall into poverty. Of course, given the fact that rural voting blocks are powerful in the United States, France and elsewhere, ending subsidies may be an enormous, if not wholly insurmountable hurdle. Focusing on aid and debt relief may be a second best solution.
Michael Holman offers some thoughts on the meeting at Gleneagles.
“Is Africa better off after Gleneagles? The continent’s profile is higher, debate about its crisis is better informed and more vigorous. That can only be a good thing. And yes, there will be more money, though that is not necessarily beneficial – and we need to read the fine print that accompanies this largesse. Trade reform, which is vital to Africa’s recovery, will have to wait until the WTO round in Hong Kong in December. So it is too early for a confident assessment of what after all is a process, and not an event. Of just one thing do I feel certain: the politicians (Tony Blair and Gordon Brown) outmanoeuvred the pop stars (Bob Geldof and Bono). . .
By the end of the summit, Geldof and Bono were defending an outcome that, whatever its merits, clearly fell short of their original demands.”
(Read the other commentaries here.)
Our old friend Kent Puckett has been working on an online Dictionary of Sensibility (with a number of collaborators, of course). An example of an entry, “Delicacy/Modesty”:
“Like ‘sensibility’ itself, ‘delicacy’ has two interwoven frames of reference that complicate and enrich its significance. There is ‘delicacy of constitution’ and ‘delicacy of mind,’ ‘heart,’ or ‘soul;’ and each of these facets of meaning informs the other. Thus, delicacy can describe a physical sensitivity, on the one hand–an exceptional susceptiblity to stimuli from the senses–or it can indicate a sensitivity (often gendered female) to social or ethical punctilios.
The refinement inherent in ‘delicacy’ leads it sometimes to be opposed to ‘vulgarity.’ In this way the term takes on moral and socioeconomic associations as well.
‘Modesty’ seems less complex, and often appears as an epiphenomenon of delicacy.
- George Cheyne, An Essay on Health and Long Life
Cheyne comments on three types of sensibility.
- J. Donaldson, Reflections on the Harmony of Sensibility and Reason
Draws connections between sensibility, vitality, and moral nature.
- David Hume, “Of the Standard of Taste”
Defines delicacy in the course of his search for universal standards of judgment.
- Henry Mackenzie, Untitled Article in The Lounger, No. 20
Attacks the sentimental novel on moral grounds.
- Hannah More, “On the Danger of Sentimental or Romantic Connexions”
Criticizes the “sentimental girl,” but praises “true” sentiment in women.
- Samuel Richardson,Clarissa
Clarissa on Lovelace’s proposal. . .”
Andrew Rubin on Israel’s construction of the so-called security fence, in Al Ahram:
A comparison between the 1993 maps of the Oslo Accords and the existing plans for all three phases of the wall incontrovertibly shows that the wall is nothing less than the physical and concrete institutionalisation of precisely those aspects of Oslo that Israel had agreed to: the establishment of tiny cloisters and pockets of Palestinian self-rule, with no meaningful sovereignty, that Edward Said compared to the bantustans which the British had devised as a means of exerting colonial authority in Africa. Yet the comparison with British form of colonial rule ends with the establishment of numerous, non-contiguous bantustans. Whereas from 1918-1948 in British Mandate Palestine, Britain had dredged and designed the Port of Haifa, constructed six power stations for Palestinians and Jews, built public roads and buildings for everyone, all Israel has done is to shore up its military presence with more check-points, more prisons, more expanding settlements, more rerouted irrigation systems (for the settlements), more de- development (of Palestinian infrastructure and agriculture), more barriers and more of its massive $3.4 billion wall. In others words, it is colonialism without development, or “de-development” as Sara Roy called it, the sole aim of which is the complete destruction of the foundations of all aspects of Palestinian civil society.
Michael Schirber at Space.com:
“The idea is to try to answer the question of what does a black hole look like,” said David Kornreich.
The simple answer is “black” because light cannot escape the gravitational pull of a black hole. But light traveling just outside a black hole will be bent — similar to what happens in a lens.
Kornreich and his student Bryant Gipson have figured out how images of landscapes and planets would be distorted by having a black hole sitting in the foreground.
Such mathematical calculations have been done before for stationary black holes, but this is the first time it has been done for spinning black holes, Kornreich told SPACE.com. Most black holes in the universe are thought to be rotating — many at high speeds.
In a stellar black hole, which forms when a giant star dies explosively, the rotation is a logical remnant of the star’s spin. Just as a skater speeds up when she pulls her arms in, the dead star’s rotation picks up dramatically as remaining material collapses into a small, dense black hole.
Paula Fredriksen reviews Augustine: A New Biography by James J. O’Donnell, in The New Republic:
It is hard to love Augustine. He stands as the source of some of the most baleful traditions of thought in Western culture. All humans, he held, are born indelibly marked, indelibly marred, by original sin. Human desire, especially sexual desire, is a premier sign and effect of Adam’s fall. Unbaptized babies go to hell. Salvation is a question not of human effort, but of divine predestination. The church, to propound spiritual truth and to protect it, should avail itself of the coercive power of the state. These are all Augustinian teachings.
And yet it is hard not to love Augustine. He states his questions and his convictions about the human condition with such ardor that the flames of his ideas leap across the chasm of sixteen centuries from his lifetime into our own.
Op-ed from the New York Times:
…Now comes even worse news. Whatever Pakistan can do, India, it seems, can trump. The so-called Imrana case, in which a Muslim woman from a village in northern India says she was raped by her father-in-law, has brought forth a ruling from the powerful Islamist seminary Darul-Uloom ordering her to leave her husband because as a result of the rape she has become “haram” (unclean) for him. “It does not matter,” a Deobandi cleric has stated, “if it was consensual or forced.”
Darul-Uloom, in the village of Deoband 90 miles north of Delhi, is the birthplace of the ultra-conservative Deobandi cult, in whose madrassas the Taliban were trained. It teaches the most fundamentalist, narrow, puritan, rigid, oppressive version of Islam that exists anywhere in the world today. In one fatwa it suggested that Jews were responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Not only the Taliban but also the assassins of The Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl were followers of Deobandi teachings.
Darul-Uloom’s rigid interpretations of Shariah law are notorious, and immensely influential – so much so that the victim, Imrana, a woman under unimaginable pressure, has said she will abide by the seminary’s decision in spite of the widespread outcry in India against it. An innocent woman, she will leave her husband because of his father’s crime.
JR Minkel interviews David J. Buller in Scientific American:
Philosopher of science David Buller has a bone to pick with evolutionary psychology, the idea that some important human behaviors are best explained as evolutionary adaptations to the struggles we faced tens to hundreds of thousands of years ago as hunter-gatherers. In his new book, Adapting Minds, the Northern Illinois University professor considers–and finds lacking–the evidence for some of the most publicized conclusions of evolutionary psychologists: Men innately prefer to mate with young, nubile women, while women have evolved to seek high status men; men are wired to have a strong jealous reaction to sexual infidelity, while women react to emotional infidelity; and parents are more likely to abuse stepchildren than their genetically related children.
Peter Wilby reviews Love, Poverty and War: Journeys and Essays by Christopher Hitchens, in The New Statesman:
Many left-wing opponents of the Iraq war will therefore want this collection to be bad: full of windbaggery, loose judgements, bad writing, and so on. Hitchens was never that good, was he? We on the left can manage without him, can’t we? Alas, no. Hitchens is just too damn good. You will find here the most brilliant anti-capital punishment piece you have ever read; the most thoughtful piece on Israel and anti-Semitism; a marvellously vivid report on North Korea (“I found a class of tiny Koreans solemnly learning Morse code . . . Nobody has told them that the international community abandoned Morse two years ago”); a hilarious account of how Hitchens gave evidence to a Vatican commission on the beatification of Mother Teresa; and a gloriously rude demolition of Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 9/11.
More here. And if you missed it, check out J.M. Tyree’s brilliant dressing down of The Hitch here.
This story may be a bit newsy for 3QD, but it’s important to note that it is the 10th anniversary of one of more sad and shameful events in UN and post-War European history, the massacre at the UN safe haven in Srebrenica. From the BBC:
“Tens of thousands of people have been attending ceremonies marking the 10th anniversary of the massacre of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica.
Grieving relatives buried more than 600 newly identified dead, after prayers and words of support from international and local officials.
About 8,000 men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb forces in 1995 in Europe’s worst atrocity since World War II.
Serbian officials led by President Tadic paid respects for the first time.”
Radovan Karazic and Ratko Maldic, wanted for genocide, crimes against humanity, and violations of the laws and customs of war, remain at large.
‘If you’re going to name a book after units of time, you’d better have something to say on the subject, and in ”A Day, a Night, Another Day, Summer,” Christine Schutt certainly does. Whether or not readers will find her voice comforting is another matter.’
So begins David Kirby’s NYT review (Reg Req’d) of Schutt’s new collection of stories. LitBlog Beatrice rightly noted that NYT completely missed Schutt’s work until her novel Florida was nominated for the National Book Award.
One further remark. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been reading a lot of Faulkner recently to try to keep up with the Oprah Book Club, but I have to ask…Since when is literature supposed to be comforting? Mr. Kirby, meet The Idiot.