Archive for the ‘Paleontology’ Category

We The Neanderthals

June 9, 2016

Strange rings crafted from stalagmites, 176,000 years old, were found extremely deep within a cave in France. Scientists reported the findings in Nature recently. They are the work of Neanderthals, our ancient human relatives.

Once again, Neanderthals are proving to be much more “human” than anticipated by the Common Wisdom we were afflicted with previously. Over the years, we were told, in absence of all evidence, how inferior Neanderthals were: they were ape-men, hunched over, with bowed legs, disgraced by sloped, barely existing foreheads, Neanderthals could not conduct abstract thought, the nerves going to their tongues were too thin for speech, their larynx was such they could not make human sounds, they were inbred, wrecked with defective genes (that’s the latest from the racist brigade!), etc.

What was the objective evidence? Neanderthals had invented many technologies, including that of burning fossil fuels (lignite coal, 80,000 years ago, in France). Neanderthals also extinguished Cave Bears, and apparently domesticated dogs. Thus much of the culture we inherited, and makes us all the so human, is… Neanderthal. We The Neanderthals.

It also seemed that Neanderthal brains were more than 15% larger. 

Deep Within Bruniquel Cave, Super Bright Enlightenment, 200,000 years Ago.

Deep Within Bruniquel Cave, Super Bright Enlightenment, 200,000 years Ago.

How come Common Wisdom is revealed, time and time again to be erring on the side of finding everybody else inhuman? That’s the tribal instinct at its best: exclude the others by making them shameful, inferior, pitiful, imperfectly human, etc.. .

“Until now, Neanderthals were presumed by the scientific community not to have ventured far underground, nor to have mastered such sophisticated use of lighting and fire, let alone to have built such elaborate constructions,” wrote the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS).

“This discovery provides clear evidence that Neanderthals had fully human capabilities in the planning and the construction of ‘stone’ structures, and that some of them penetrated deep into caves, where artificial lighting would have been essential,” says paleoanthropologist Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London.

Some of our contemporaries have been all over the Media, stupidly asking why Neanderthals invented artificial lighting, or why they ventured. Well, for the exact same reason as we send probes beyond the Solar System: because we want to know all there is to know, and just because we can.

The human brain is build, just because it can fetch discoveries, anywhere possible.

Such caves have been routinely sealed by collapses. Since the Pleistocene, Bruniquel Cave, located in southwest France, a limestone region rife with decorated Paleolithic caves. In 1990, spelunkers excavated its entrance, squeezed through, and found remnants of long-vanished cave bears and other extinct megafauna just inside.

The cave’s most striking treasure laid in a damp chamber more than 330 meters from the entrance. There, deep in the dark, several large, layered ring-like structures protruded from the cave floor, the craftwork of human builders.

“All visitors have noticed the presence of these structures, from the first speleologists,” says Jacques Jaubert of the University of Bordeaux, a coauthor of the study referenced above.

It took decades for scientists to begin deciphering the enigmatic circles, an endeavor slowed by restricted access to the cave and the untimely death of the archaeologist who began work on the site in the 1990s. In 2013, Jaubert and his team were finally able to bring Bruniquel’s secrets into the daylight.

“The cave was very well preserved, with very few visits, almost none.  The structures are spectacular and have virtually no equivalent for that period, and even for more recent periods.” Thus humanity in its full humanity is no recent feat. The access of all paleontological sites is severely regulated by the French government, complete with armored doors, encryption protected.

The structures are built from 400 stalagmites, rock formation built from dripping, dissolved limestone. They weigh nearly three tons, and have a total a length of 112 meters.

Radioactive datation came as a big surprise: 176,000 years old. And there is no doubt, considering the rock cloak deposited over time. Imagine the technology needed to penetrate a cave more than 1,100 feet, armed only with (presumably) oil lamps!

Anti-Neanderthals racists in the US pontificated that the circles were made by Cave Bears… something rather unlikely, considering the total absence of photons, that far inside! Besides, Cave Bears are not known for making fire, and burning bones. Soot marks and heat fractures had been analyzed earlier through Carbon 14 datation to 50,000 years old, the maximum limit of the C14 method.  Evidence is that the circles held fire pits.

Full Neanderthals had semicircular canals and a distinctive inner ear shape compared to modern humans. The differences are comparable, say some specialists, to those separating ape species. However, we clearly inherited from Neanderthals more than just a few genes.

Homo Erectus (“Homo Ergaster”) colonized Eurasia at least all the way to the Caucasus, and probably much further, as early as 2 million years ago. That required the technology of clothing (the famous animal skins of ancient graphic novels). A million and a half years after that, archaic Homo Sapiens, evolving in cold Europe, gave rise to human species who, in turn, evolved into Neanderthals.

One unsaid argument for believing in the superiority of Homo Sapiens Sapiens, relative to any other species comes from the fact that Homo Sapiens Sapiens survived, and Neanderthals did not. That’s entirely correct for the Hobbit species of humans. However, it’s silly for Neanderthals: all pointers point out that Neanderthals were rather superior. An obvious mechanism exists to explain the disappearance of their features, from a sheer difference of mass, and useless genetic baggage during recoveries after near-extinctions. Expanding technology (from Neanderthals and Sapiens Sapiens discoveries) would have made Neanderthal cold adaptations moot. The mysterious stalagmites circles were made during a cold episode, by the way.

Staying alive in Europe required a lot of technology for the genus Homo. Archeologists François Rouzaud discovered the Bruniquel cave. He and Philippe Morel, were pioneers of the Chauvet cave. They both died rather young, while leading archeological expeditions underground in Aveyron and the Berner Oberland (Rouzaud died at 51, and that delayed the exploration of Bruniquel).

When we want to settle Mars, of fight aging, the ultimate disease, we partake of the same spirit: going where the gods themselves have not ventured before. Inheriting variant of genes is less important, among us humans, than inheriting the right ideas, and the moods which survive best. Many of these came from our beloved ancestors, the Neanderthals. We are Neanderthals, or Denisovans, only a little in genes, but a lot in spirit, as they went where no high tech primate could have ever gone. Ideas are more precious than alleles.

Patrice Ayme’

Homo Naledi, Or What Does “Human” Mean?

September 20, 2015

What is it, to be human? Philosophers, prophets, priests, legislators, dictators and the sheep have been pondering the notion, since there are civilizations, and they wonder. Science, that is, facts, can increasingly contribute to the conversation. And it is taking surprising twists and turns, all the way into the bowels of the Earth.

Paleoanthropologist Lee Berger pleaded on social networks to find “tiny and small, specialised cavers and spelunkers with excellent archaeological, palaeontological and excavation skills”. Was the excavation of a mysterious hominin in the Rising Star Cave in South Africa more circus than science?  “Underground astronauts” had to squeeze through a long, narrow chute less than 25 centimeters wide, to drop 30 meters into a fossil-filled cavern.

At This Point, Homo Naledi Is A Striking Mystery In Many Ways

At This Point, Homo Naledi Is A Striking Mystery In Many Ways

1550 fossils representing more than 15 individuals of a strange new kind of hominin, named Homo Naledi were found in a nearly impossible to reach cavity. The fossils are still undated: there is no stratigraphy in a cave 100 meters in, past two siphons. However, they confirm spectacularly what we already knew:

  1. There were, many profoundly different ways to be human. (We already knew this from the existence of Homo Florensis, who is very far from Homo Sapiens in physiology, but not achievements: he came with lots of sophisticated tiny weapons.)
  2. The Eurafricasian supercontinent enjoyed many areas covered with extremely diverse species of hominins. Homo Sapiens Sapiens is the fruit of a huge amount of group selection among vastly different possibilities on how to be human.

Although the fossils are still undated, making it hard to know where they sit in the human family tree, and, in particular, if they are ancestors to us, they already reveal a profoundly different way to be a member of our genus Homo. More than 60 researchers agree on the picture of “a relatively tall, skinny hominid with long legs, humanlike feet, with a core and shoulder that is primitive,” Berger says.

Paleoanthropologist T. Kivell of the University of Kent (UK) found that bones in the wrist were shaped like those in modern humans, suggesting that the palm at the base of the thumb was quite stiff,  allowing forces to spread over a larger area of the hand than in more primitive hominins—a trait associated to tool use. However, H. Naledi had a weird long thumb and long, curving fingers, associated to climbing trees.

Hand Homo Naledi: Climbing Is What Humans Do

Hand Homo Naledi: Climbing Is What Humans Do

The foot is so modern, it may have been capable of not just walking, but running.

And what were those Naledis doing, so deep inside the cave? Datation is crucial. 300,000 years, or three millions? Were the Homo Naledi there for burial, caught there by a catastrophe, or carried there by other humans more recently? We don’t know. Only one owl and a few rodents accompanied the 1500 human fossils.

All we know is the big picture: that humans were all over, all over Eurafricasia, and all over all possibilities of what humanity could be.

Patrice Ayme’

How Neanderthals, Dinosaurs Disappeared?

June 23, 2015


Dinosaurs are still around: they are called birds. Birds are those dinosaurs which enjoyed high metabolism. In difficult circumstances, those who acted quick could stay warm, and make the slow, or their eggs, into lunch. Mammals, too, and probably even more, exerted deadly pressure on dinosaur reproduction.

Dinosaurs were big (the smallest, like Velociraptors, were feather covered, and turkey sized). To create the same number of average individuals dinosaurs may have required a thousand times more energy as for the average bird: obvioulsy after a disaster, their population would not rebound as fast.

The Past Is Printed With DNA, & We Can Read It.

The Past Is Printed With DNA, & We Can Read It.

[As we can read DNA like a printed book, Paleontology is becoming history, complete with written documents! Represented above: the 40,000 years old Homo Sapiens jaw which was sequenced, and found to be a Sapiens Sapiens- Sapiens Neanderthal hybrid.]

Much spectacular progress is made in paleontology, every month. In the latest, some dinosaur protein would have been isolated. Sequencing and making a Jurassic Park, someday, is not science fiction anymore. Such was the truth, in June 2015. (In the preceding month, that would have sounded like science-fiction.)

Now we have a new fact supporting the theory I hold that Neanderthal’s traits were outbred. Here is yesterday’s recap from Nature:

Neanderthals are also still around. Or more exactly Neanderthal genome: 1% to 3% (although some claim up to 9% of combined Neanderthal and Denisovan ancestry!). And more so in East Asia and among Native Americans. Some find strange that Neanderthal genome disappeared more in Europe, where Neanderthal reigned so long.

But it just means that genetic competition between Sapiens Neanderthal and Sapiens Sapiens traits was more in favor of the later there… Perhaps simply because winters are milder in Europe.

Neanderthals had evolved from Archaic Homo Sapiens, and ruled Europe for 300,000 years. Most of the time, the continent was in the grip of glaciation. Neanderthals evolved genetic adaptations to these Arctic conditions, such as a larger body mass, and a more compact, more muscular, powerful body.

However technological advances such as clothing, burning coal (!), the propeller (to launch javelins further), and the bow made those Neanderthal genetic modifications obsolete, moot, duplicative. A prime defect was higher mass. Reproducing the same number of Neanderthals required more energy than the same number of more gracile forms of Homo Sapiens.

When in competition, the reproductive advantage of the more gracile traits grow exponentially in time:

It is not about Homo Sapiens Sapiens enjoying superior traits relative to Neanderthals.

The disappearance of Neanderthals is about most Sapiens Neanderthal traits having become excess evolutionary baggage. So the traits got out-selected. One should expect that the heavy, Arctic genetic traits were weeded out, and only superior traits (the 3%) were kept. As observed. And more so in Europe, as winters are milder there than in the rest of the Eurasian land mass (South Asia excluded). As observed. In other words, after an Arctic excursion, Neanderthals transmutated back into what they came from, keeping some useful mutations (many having to do with skin).

The tree of evolution is rather a network (with a non-trivial topology).

A case in point is Homo itself. The first prototypes (so to speak) may have separated from chimpanzee like ancestors, ten million years ago. But the official theory has it, at this point, that there was some interbreeding with chimpanzees, around six million years ago again.

BTW, it is not true that no Neanderthal DNA is found in sub-Saharan Africa. That’s so yesteryear, 2014. Neanderthal DNA has been found all the way down to South Africa’s tip (2015 discovery), and the migration route traced.

Patrice Ayme’

With Such Volcanoes, WHO NEEDS ASTEROIDS?

June 21, 2015

I have long been of the persuasion that the asteroid did not extinguish the dinosaurs: it was too puny. I did not see how a big explosion could have extinguished giant life forms such as the Mosasaurs, who lived in the sea, on the other side of the planet.

Mosasaurs are central to this story: the name, Moselle Lizard, comes from the Moselle, a famous river which flows through the town of Maastricht, next to which the first Mosasaurs were found. In 1794, French revolutionary forces took control of the fossils (against 600 bottles of wine), and brought them to Paris Museum d’Histoire Naturelle for state of the art analysis. Cuvier, by 1808, had formally concluded that  le Grand Animal fossile de Maëstricht confirmed the evolutionary theory of his great rival Lamarck.

Pinatubo Warming Up, June 12, 1991

Pinatubo Warming Up, June 12, 1991

[The main Pinatubo eruption was three days later, and was obscured by ash and clouds all over; Pinatubo had strong global effects on world temperature; However, by geological standards, Pinatubo was tiny: 10 cubic kilometer of ejecta, 1% of Tambora in 1815; the Deccan Traps LIP was of the order of millions of cubic kilometers of ejecta.]

The age of the Mosasaurs accordingly became known as the Maastrichtian. Characterized by Mosasaurs, it covers the last six million years of the Cretaceous. And a tremendous discovery, the one I had been expecting all along was just made: the Maastrichtian was a time of colossal transitions. So much for the asteroid impact.

There was an obvious culprit for the extinction at the end of the Cretaceous: the Earth Core Eruption of the Deccan Traps. OK, “Earth Core Eruption” is my own semantics, and the theory behind it is not proven. The official term is Large Igneous Province (LIP).

Climate Apocalypse Well Before The Asteroid:

A decade long project in Northeastern China has drilled sediments as ancient as 100 million years ago. It is bringing results I expected, but even more so.

For millions of years before an asteroid struck the planet 66 million years ago, Earth’s climate was already in turmoil.

It has long been known, from ocean floor sediments, that the climate was unstable at the end of the Cretaceous period. Findings from deep drilling in the Songliao Basin show that the climate swings on land were far more drastic, than anyone expected. Average annual temperatures fluctuated up and down by as much as 20°Celsius over tens of thousands of years—a geological eyeblink. “It certainly wasn’t a good time for the dinosaurs,” says Robert Spicer, a paleoclimatologist at the Open University (Milton Keynes, U.K).

Sediments were piling up in the ancient lakebed in northeastern China at a much faster rate than in the ocean. This provides with a much finer chronology.

Shallow seas had contributed to warm and moisten the Earth so much in the age of dinosaurs (before, during and after the Jurassic). Evolving plate tectonic eliminated those during the last few million years of the Cretaceous. That snuffed out many species and hobbled others.

The Songliao Basin was a gigantic lake for 80 million years. During the Cretaceous, it covered 260,000 square kilometers, as much as the area of New Zealand (a micro-continent in my book). The lakebed’s sediments “provide a unique record of what the land environment was like during this turbulent time,” (Page Chamberlain, a paleoclimatologist at Stanford University, a principal investigator of the Songliao International Continental Scientific Drilling Project).

The drilling team, led by Wang from Beijing University, has gone 2.6 kilometers down. Analyzing oxygen and carbon isotope ratios in the sediments the seesawing temperatures during the last 6 million years of the Cretaceous, the Maastrichtian.

High latitude, and the pace of sediment deposit, ten times what it is in the ocean, gives a very fine record.

The sediments reveal not only astounding temperature swings, but also their likely cause.

Two major Maastrichtian warming events captured in the Songliao cores—68 million years ago and 66.3 million years ago -thus, BEFORE the asteroid impact- coincide with massive eruptions of the Deccan Traps, the Large Igneous Province in India.

Carbon isotope studies show that second warming event was characterized by a rapid doubling in atmospheric carbon dioxide. “This was the time when the bulk of Deccan eruptions occurred, which presumably released a massive amount of carbon dioxide,” says Zhang Laiming (China University of Geosciences).

Differently from an asteroid impacts, large volcanic eruptions are characterized with nasty fluctuating gases and temperatures. We know this from Iceland’s Laki eruption in 1783. Europeans found themselves experiencing various gases, some floating by the ground like colored fog, and tremendous variations of temperatures: hot sometimes during winter, cold in summer.

A volcanic eruption can release sulfates, which can bring considerable cooling, for the years they can stay aloft (around five years). Pinatubo cooled the entire planet by nearly one degree Celsius, thanks to this.

However, a volcanic eruption is greatly propelled by CO2, and that can warm up the cilmate for millennia. The combination is a strong whipping around, between cold and heat.

Now in parallel essay, I will make clear that dinosaurs were ill equipped for such fluctuations.

The intense greenhouse effect caused by CO2 from the Deccan Traps drove average temperatures to about 22.3°C. This compares with only 5°C at Songliao today.

The warming was interrupted just after the K-Pg boundary by a brief cooling episode. The team attributes to dust, soot, and aerosols from the Yucatán asteroid impact. However, I would point out that this is just a theory. In 1809 an unknown volcano exploded in the south hemisphere (as determined recently by ice cores). That was followed in 1815 by the explosion of Indonesia’s Tambora. The result was the coldest decade in more than a millennium (and may well have cost Napoleon’s army tremendous losses in Russia, as the 1812 winter was the coldest on record there).

As temperatures convulsed (and probably acidity in the oceans), ecosystems changed. The Songliao sediments trapped spores, pollen, algae, and ostracods (“seed shrimp“).

To my complete non-surprise, many of the species typical of the Paleocene —the geological epoch following the Cretaceous— appeared several million years before the K-Pg boundary (the first period of the Paleocene is called the Paleogene, Pg). Turnovers in the biota, Wang says, “had already been under way when the asteroid struck.”

Dinosaurs were already on their way out. The number of nonavian dinosaur species seem to have shrunk by half in the last 10 million years of the Cretaceous, with the biggest losses during the Maastrichtian (although according to a French geologist, there may have been more than 1,000 dinosaur species at the end). The Chicxulub impact was, Wang says, “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” Put another way, Spicer says, “if the asteroid came in on a less stressed system, the effects would not have been so severe.”

Well? Now the asteroid is reduced to a straw. We don’t need the asteroid. Straws sometimes change history. If Grouchy had not got lost at Waterloo, the French would have won. But not in the case of dinosaurs and mosasaurs, and pterosaurs, plesiosaurs, and maybe ammonites. Straw, or not straw, they were all condemned.

I have a general reasoning, the one I used to explain the “disappearance”, or, more exactly, dilution, of the Neanderthals, to explain this. It implies that large animals tend to disappear more readily. All the more those who did not control their temperatures well. Competition from mammals and avian dinosaurs condemned the dinosaurs.

Yet, there are lessons for today; the cataclysm we are visiting on the biosphere is orders of magnitudes more violent than anything which happened during the Maastrichtian. Even the dinosaurs were not dumb enough to organize their own doom.

Patrice Ayme’

Speciation Math; Why It’s Crucial

February 16, 2014

Believing in Christianity and its Dog God barking in the sky is a fundamental element of the subjugation of the masses in the USA. In Europe, it’s natural to be an atheist (except if one is a Muslim or a Pole, and even then…). In the USA, atheism is impolite. That’s why the president ends all his homilies with an appeal to Dog God. God the Dog is watching over you, its son, the NSA, also, and bless be the United States of America.

It’s unlikely a honest to goodness American will be prone to revolution, as this would implicitly recognize the primacy of man over the creation of Pluto Dog God. So no wonder creations of man such as science (a form of anti-Plutocratic revolution from excessive usage of the nervous system) are attacked at every turn.

Mammoths were very clever. Science was well started when Neanderthals made mammoth hunting plans on the plains:

Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis: Same Species, Us.

Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis: Same Species, Us.

[The colored eyes of Neanderthals are a proven thing, so are the facial features; the hairline is probably too low… The will to make Neanderthals beastly is obdurate…]

Such were the idle thoughts brought to me by a rant against evolution on so called “Big Think”. The conclusion struck me, with the issues it brought:

…” [Evolution Theory is] also terrible at explaining the speed at which speciation occurs. (Of course, The Origin of Species is entirely silent on the subject of how life arose from abiotic conditions in the first place.) It doesn’t explain the Cambrian Explosion, for example, sudden appearance of intelligence in hominids, or the rapid recovery (and net expansion) of the biosphere in the wake of at least five super-massive extinction events in the most recent 15% of Earth’s existence.”

This is all false or misleading, but still it’s interesting to answer.

OK, I will let pass the fact that Darwin’s book, The Origin of Species was published in 1859, about a century before laboratory experiments enabled to create organic chemistry in the lab from the sort of atmosphere, water and lightning Earth enjoyed for billions of years. 1859: that was two years before Lincoln became president. Slavery was lawful in the USA.

Reducing Evolution to Darwinism is silly: Darwin himself was an enthusiastic Lamarckist. Lamarck established biological (Lamarck’s neologism) evolution by studying the changes in fossilized mollusks over millions of years (the order of mollusks had been scientifically determined by Cuvier, Lamarck’s predecessor) . Lamarck was banned with rage and consummate fury by the very Christian universities that dominated England (Oxbridge, etc.). This explains why neither Wallace, nor Darwin, nor Spencer were university professors. The former two were not just great expositors of the (French) Theory of Evolution, but pushed it further with discoveries, from the Wallace Line, to Patagonia or the Galapagos.

Let’s go back to the stupid quote on top (excellent lemonade can be made from old lemons, though).

One statement is clearly false: Contrarily to that misleading quote, supreme intelligence took millions of years to appear in hominids. Supreme intelligence, as evidenced, more exactly, by brain size, followed the evolution of bipedalism (and, thus, attendant change of in behavior, diet and environment). We know it took at least 5 million years, from bipedalism to the apparition of brainy Homo Erectus.

What this means is that bipedalism opened a new ecological niche. Bipedalism allowed a number of related species of primates, the hominids, to roam around, and literally, dominate the landscape. As they roamed around, the opportunity for even more sophisticated behaviors arose, and caused a sort of evolutionary sucking: nature abhors a vacuum, and biological evolution, like the Quantum (and it’s probably related) tends to occupy all the space it can occupy (this is why the math of the Quantum are represented by Hilbert Spaces spanned by Quantum States; the exact equivalent in evolution are ecological niches… the complication with life is that life itself creates the niches. The same happens with renormalization in QFT!).

Thus the hominids evolved an increasing number of environmentally disruptive and manipulative behaviors, which, in turn, favored mutations favoring them. That evolutionary phenomenon is thus non-linear, a sort of exponential, it can go fast.

A new function, bipedalism, allows to bear arms, using one’s… arms. That in turn, makes bellicose and predatory behavior, let alone good eyesight, more profitable, and so on.

Actually, a similar type of mathematics is at play after mass extinction, explaining that life’s diversity tends to augment with them.

After life got wiped out of billions of ecological niches in a major extinction event, those get reoccupied quickly by maladapted species. Maladapted to said niches, that is. Thus billions of speciations will tend to occur. These speciations cannot happen in steady state, because the environment of the steady state includes a fine balance of the physical environment with the existing, entangled species. If an event wipes those out, the old steady state cannot be recreated, and each niche acts like a throw of the dice.

Thus massive extinction tends to lead to massive speciation. It’s purely mathematical.

A lot of complicated mathematics and physics underlays Evolution Theory. I presented my own to help explain the apparent disappearance of Neanderthals. My theory rests on subtle mathematics, physiological, and environmental considerations. It’s actually not a theory of Neanderthal disappearance, rather than a theory of the disappearance of a Neanderthal appearance. So it would in particular predict that Europeans are much more Neanderthal than one thought.

Why? Neanderthal had evolved into a superior species (hilarious: Nazism is coming back, but instead of being Aryan, it’s Neanderthal… The Thal of Neander is on the Dussel, basically in the Ruhr…). Neanderthal has had to have evolved in a superior species, or she would not have rules the freezing North (a related species, the Denivosan, ruled the North-East, and evolved into Chinese, or, at least Australian bushmen).

If Neanderthal was that superior, he could not be wiped out. So, instead, one needed a more subtle explanation, which I provided: “Mathematics “Extinguished” Neanderthals”. Two very recent (end January 2014) DNA computational studies support my point of view. (See note.)

Oh, by the way, mathematics is not just about equations. It’s first of all, about ideas. Anybody who had Euclidean geometry or Mathematical Logic will confirm this. The phenomenon of occupying the entire space is the essence of Quantum Physics (Me, myself and I say). It’s the math of Hilbert Space. It’s also the math of evolution.

All these mathematics of evolution are no idle pursuit. Right now, the planet is at a fulminant stage of evolution, thanks to us. Understanding what the laws that will command our destiny, are, is the quintessence of humanity.

Patrice Aymé

Note: With up to 30% Neanderthal genome, it is found that some Neanderthal traits survived very well (say about skin), while other disappeared. Take the lack of waist of Neanderthal: an advantage in very cold climate, but not anymore after clothing became good enough; and probably a disadvantage for running and combat.


Austerity: As Wild As It Gets!

May 7, 2013


 To fully understand the austerity drive, one has to go fully prehistoric, at the dawn of Homo Erectus. For at least a million years, Homo has known how to profit from fire, and, thus, a scorched earth strategy. That, itself, belongs to an even deeper instinct of apparently wanton destruction. Apparently, but not really.

 The austerity drive has gone further than simply dismantling the welfare state. Austerity has attacked the very heart of the solution to get out of the deep economic, energetic and ecological crises we are getting into. Scientific research and education themselves are getting slashed, in Europe, or the USA.

 For civilization, austerity has become the equivalent of banging one’s head on a wall, in the hope of improving one’s mental faculties. For conventional wisdom, it should make no sense at all, considering the grave catastrophe it’s bringing along. Yet, it makes sense, when one realizes that man has always fought man, even more than the ocean has always fought the ocean.

Even Oceans Fight

Even Oceans Fight

 In places where oceans meet and struggle, giant rogue waves often form. They can destroy even super tankers. (One such place is along the south-east African coast, off Mozambique).

 Some pontificate that class struggle is quaint. They are generally paid by the plutocratic system, that made the upper class a subsidiary of evil itself. Yet structures appear through struggles. Austerity itself is a rogue wave from such a struggle.

 The notion of structure is not fully explained: thorough explanations have to go through Quantum Physics. Yet the transition from Quantum Physics to Classical Physics is not part of Twentieth Century science (this is the essence of the debate on the foundations of Quantum Mechanics, and why the last Nobel Prize in Physics was given to students of this mysterious transition).

 The Honorable Paul Krugman lists a number of reasons for the austerity drive, while, correctly, decrying it (See Note). Paul credits humanity, or more exactly its leadership, with too much goodness. The most obvious reason for austerity is the one less talked about: benefiting the few by strangling the many. A master idea of the oligarchy is that class structures are no more. Yet, structures are all over: morphogenesis makes up the universe.

 I wrote against austerity many times before (see Note), explaining in particular that it was the proximal cause of the fall of Rome.

 This Fall is very striking, because it shows that plutocracy will sell its own country to make a buck. Indeed, there was no more money to pay the legions, from lack of taxation of the hyper wealthy. Thus evacuation, from sheer Will-To-Austerity, by the legions of Britain and of the “limes“, throughout the entire north-west corner of the empire.

 Defense was entrusted to the Franks; the idea was that the Franks came for… free. The Franks had no choice, but to ferociously fight, as they were mostly peasant-owners, and needed to defend their land, thus, indirectly, the Roman cities and villas. However, the enemy, knowing the legions were out of the way, got lucky (frozen Rhine) and broke through at Chrismas 406.

 It’s amusing that the “Fall of Rome” is always presented as a deep mystery, when it can be explained by exactly two battles, one lost by Valens at Adrianopolis, and the other as just related. In any case, austerity caused a tremendous military disaster within six years of its fiercest implementation!

 Austerity always favors the rise of plutocracy, and the neo-feudalism we can observe blossoming today; when there is not enough money to employ the many, what needs to be done is still done. But it’s done only by what becomes an indispensable oligarchy.

 Even those criticizing it are feeding the austerity machine: watch the Honorable professor Stiglitz in his palatial office at Columbia University, teaching economics by the People, for the People, while employed by a school that charges, 58,000 dollars a year, namely 20% higher than the median household income of New York City surrounding it. OK, let me explain. The austerity machine is the other face of the luxury machine. By thriving in the luxury machine, and making it thrive in turn, Stiglitz himself is a clog in that giant machine that made We The People irrelevant to the Luxury Tower of Power.

 The deepest reason for austerity is also the simplest, and most shocking. Austerity is not just incidentally causing the strangling of the many by the few. It’s all about benefiting the few by strangling the many.

 Most of the public has been well indoctrinated in Christian like ethics (see Nietzsche below about slave morality). Thus the naïve public will accordingly reject that such an inclination for a final solution of the public problem makes sense. And yet, it does. Thus, the very outraged denial of an inclination to the final solution has allowed it to happen many times before.

 The Final Solution does make sense, once one realizes that ecological imbalance has been the greatest enemy of humanity for two million years. Ecological imbalances caused by an (over-) abundance of people. Thus, as the Romans put it, Homo Homini Lupus. Man is a wolf for man.

 Thus, all the proximal, technical reasons given for austerity act as a cover-up for the deepest drive: making war to others, especially when it feels that there are too many, or at least too many of a kind one does not like. Thus the insistence that only a few should be served.

 Reagan and others of his kind, speaking of government, said that “the beast should be starved“.

 According to what I am saying here, they really meant, what they really wanted to say, as their wild, basic instincts told them, was that the beasts should be starved. Thus ultra hard line conservatism is as mean as the eons have had it. And as mad, as mean as the older evils had it: racism, colonialism… in all cases, it was all about the war of the few against the many, that war that never ends, the war of man against himself, killing, not just because that’s a force that gives us meaning, but because that’s the culling, that gives us a world.

 We could, of course, do differently now. But, instead of insuring the luxury of a few individuals, as the greatest good, we should then strive to make understanding of everything our greatest luxury. And that’s start


Patrice Ayme



 1) On preceding remarks on austerity: I wrote nearly a year ago, “Why Austerity?”. That listed detailed causes for the austerity drive. “Why Europe Lays Supine” addresses the peculiar European case; Europe credited humanity with too much goodness, too, and believed, that, by being virtuous, the world would follow. Instead the world used European naivety to its advantage. Now Europe finds herself on the verge of an obvious depression, and is finally throwing overboard its ecological drive to lighten the ship: it refused to support its carbon price system, the world’s most advanced mechanism to control CO2 emissions.

 2) Sade agreed with the Romans that man was up to no good. In particular, Sade observed  that politicians had to be among the worst individuals, and relished inflicting their “sadistic” powers on others. And that much of their “politics” was motivated that way. he wrote about it as outrageously as possible, including Prime Ministers torturing the innocent, just to relax. Accordingly, Sade was jailed for decades by the Ancient dictatorship of Louis XVI.

Sade was freed during the Revolution of 1789. He had been one of its main instigators, directly and indirectly. He found himself in some of the highest responsibilities, and advised strongly against imposing the revolution by force throughout Europe, precisely because he was aware of the calculus of violence of man against man, the inclination to commit violence, while covering it up  in noble fashion.

 3) Nietzsche pointed out that there were two moral systems in force in Europe. Christianity, officially enforced, was the morality for the slaves, imposed to the slaves, and they did not know any better. Slaves had been made to believe that Christianity was the only morality in existence. Whereas European aristocracy ruled according to its exact opposite, the rule of the strong. Nietzsche’s analysis is still true today.

Yet, from my more cynical viewpoint the “aristocracy”, is not just admirable, literally a “rule of the best“. Instead, it’s a vile plutocracy at heart. So, instead of embracing the masters’ race, as Nietzsche seems to inclined to do, I reject it, when it’s just a vulgar plutocracy, just as I reject slavery, as another form of the Dark Side. I basically believe that the double morality system goes on today, with the same sort of results: that’s why financiers get to pay taxes at a much lower rate, from complicities in government… While preaching the free market and meritocracy (the moral system for the Plebs, precisely the one plutocrats are violating).

 4) In light of the preceding, Paul Krugman’s remarks, although well meaning, are rather meek. Said he:…”calls for a reversal of the destructive turn toward austerity are still having a hard time getting through. Partly that reflects vested interests, for austerity policies serve the interests of wealthy creditors; partly it reflects the unwillingness of influential people to admit being wrong… a further obstacle to change: widespread, deep-seated cynicism about the ability of democratic governments, once engaged in stimulus, to change course in the future.”

But Paul, of course, has to be published, and thus appreciated enough, by Very Serious People  Very Sadistic Plutocrats.


March 14, 2013


Many racist theories about the “disappearance” of Neanderthals. The latest one, from Oxford University, claims that Neanderthals’ big, beautiful eyes, and their big muscles caused their demise: Neanderthals were too busy looking at things, while flexing their muscles. The “idea” is that larger eyes would have crowded the Neanderthal brain out, making them relatively stupid. In particular eyes made them incapable of having social groups as large as those of Homo Sapiens Sapiens.

Big Eyes Do Not Kill

Big Eyes Do Not Kill

Sapiens girl on the left, Neanderthal girl on the right (reconstitution published in Science Magazine a few years ago).

I have long argued that the strength of democracy came from having many brains working in parallel. There is little doubt that larger social groups bring a higher cultural intelligence, hence higher individual intelligence. So I agree about that bit of logic. Yet, ironically, to reach the conclusion that Neanderthals’ social group were less numerous, the simple fact that Neanderthals were bigger, is enough. There is no need for hazardous demeaning allegations about Neanderthals’ brains.

That big eyes made Neanderthals stupid contradicts some facts that were thought to be established:

1) Sapiens Neanderthalis’ brains were significantly larger to start with. See Wikipedia.

2) Many very clever Homo Sapiens Sapiens have small brains. Famously Anatole France, an intellectual, had only a 1,000 cubic centimeters brain. Homo Floresiensis, the “hobbit” species living on the island of Flores, Indonesia, until it was wiped out recently, was extremely intellectually capable, although it had really small (and completely different) brains.

3) In the Middle East, Neanderthals and Sapiens went back and forth through the same large caves over 50,000 years. So whatever happened, it was not in evidence for 50,000 years.

So, of course, I have my own theory. That’s what philosophy is all about: trying to guess what really matters most, and how that most significant data logically articulate. Then scientists, politicians and writers can swoop, figure out the details, and attribute themselves the glory.

What could have happened by around 28,000 years ago that caused the demise of Neanderthals? At the time, the last fierce glaciation was gaining ground. (It reached its maximum 25,000 years ago.) Some have argued, absurdly, that the Neanderthals could not take it. That’s beyond silly, as Neanderthals had evolved, from half a million years ago, precisely to handle extreme cold.

Neanderthals were stocky, powerful, and they had thrived through hundreds thousands years of glaciation, mostly on a meat diet, hunting big game. But they also knew how to cook plants, and eat them.

27,800 years ago, Cave Bears were exterminated. That huge animal who lived in caves, primed real estate Sapiens Sapiens and Neanderthals craved for. Could the disappearance of Cave Bears be logically linked to the disappearance of Neanderthals? Yes. That’s a consequence of my theory. More advanced technology played a direct role. So did size: Cave Bears disappeared, because they were larger than European Brown Bears (called Grizzlies in America), according to the mechanism below, differential exponentiation.

How did men kill Cave Bears? With technology. We do not know exactly what weapons men had at their disposal. However, technology had improved, and kept improving. Recently it was found that Sapiens Sapiens (Homo SS; I hope one gets the joke) in Africa had invented bows and arrows 80,000 Before Present (BP).  (About 60,000 years earlier than previously thought!) Before bows and arrows, the propeller had been invented, and was used in Europe. The propeller took advantage of angular momentum to send a sort of mini lance further and stronger than by hand.

Why did the Neanderthals and Denisovans (another human species from Central Eurasia) lose their edge? Advancing technology is the obvious answer. When technology of clothing and weapons was sufficiently advanced, the physiological advantage that the Neanderthals genetically had, disappeared. Homo Sapiens Sapiens could thrive just as well through winter.

At that point, Homo Sapiens Sapiens from Africa could be as successful as the Neanderthals through the freezing wastelands of Europe. OK.

But the Homo SS outbred the Neanderthals, so they became genetically more successful. How do I explain that?

Simple. However, the explanation involves the exponential function, the same function found all over, and that the mathematician Rudin called “the most important function in mathematics”. The exponential also explains the plutocratic phenomenon, and that is why it’s so dangerous. The exponential always rules extinction events, that’s why one day a species is all over, like the American Pigeon, or the Tasmanian Tiger, and the next day, it’s gone.

So visualize this. Neanderthals were bigger than Homo SS, just like the Polar Bear is bigger than the Black Bear. Bigness is an adaptation to cold. Southern Europe’s Brown Bears are smaller than those found in Kamchatka, or Alaska (also known as Grizzlies: the Grizzly is an emigrated European Brown Bear!) Bigger makes warmer inside. That’s why the most massive animal that ever was, the Blue Rorqual, at up to 180 tons, is nearly twice the mass of the largest dinosaur (it’s not just that it’s floating, but also that water is cooler than Jurassic air, I hold).

To simplify, let’s use a bit of exaggeration (that’s reasoning by exaggeration, one of my preferred tactic of thought; the one humor exploits, and why joking helps thinking). Let’s assume Neanderthals were twice more massive than Homo SS (certainly, in the average, Cave Bears were twice the mass of Brown Bears).

Now let’s consider an habitat where Homo SS and Neanderthal bands roamed. They will tend not to mix, for obvious racist reasons. The racial hatred between Neanderthals and Homo SS has got to have been colossal. People who look too different are not even sexually attracted to each other (and where Neanderthals and Homo SS were in contact in the Middle East, for 50,000 years, there is no evolution of an interbred species, an indirect proof that there was no love lost there!)

The density of human mass is going to be roughly the same all over, because that density depends only upon the resources available (mostly meat on the hoof, and fur in burrows in glaciating conditions).

Thus, there would have been apartheid. But the Homo SS would have been twice more numerous, where they reigned (from my assumption of twice the mass). So now graft on this a catastrophe; a drought, a flood, a very tough winter, a volcanic super disaster, whatever. The climate was highly variable, starting about 40,000 years ago, just when Homo SS appeared. Some have stupidly argued that Neanderthals were too stupid to adapt to this changing circumstances. Like this paralyzing stupidity struck them just when Homo SS were around. My explanation is more subtle.

After a catastrophe in said habitat, say one of these numerous habitat in Europe isolated by glacial mountain ranges, or seas and lakes, most of the human population would be wiped out, Homo SS, just as Neanderthals. There would tend to be always a small remaining population, because the greatest limit on man is man himself: as a population gets wiped out, resources rebound, and life of the survivors tend to get much easier (that’s what happened in Europe after the Black Death of 1348 CE; if nothing else, survivors could ask for higher salaries from their plutocratic masters, and they did).

So say 90% of the population of the habitat was wiped out. As suddenly resources are no limited, the human population will rebound exponentially. The equation is: N(t) = N(0) exp(Rt). “R” is the “Malthusian” parameter, the rate of growth. Now it’s going to require twice the resources to feed a Neanderthal to sexual maturation (under our outrageously simplifying assumption that Neanderthals are twice the mass). Thus one may assume that R(Homo SS)/R(Neanderthal) is 2. The end result is that the quotient:

Number Homo SS/ Number Neanderthal = A exp(2t). (Where A is the ratio of the populations H SS/Neanderthal after the catastrophe.)

Thus the population of H SS would exponentially grow relative to that of the Neanderthals, resulting in a quick extinction. And in no way this is happening because Homo SS were superior. Just because they were more gracile.

Hence the mystery of the evolution of contemporary man is smoothly explained. Just a bit of math. QED.

Europeans & Asians: Not Just African

Europeans & Asians: Not Just African


Patrice Ayme


Note 1: what of the mentally deliquescent and racist article in the Proceedings of the Royal Society? First, they sank so low as to using orbit size as a proxy, that Neanderthals had larger visual systems than contemporary AMH [Anatomically Modern Humans]. That’s about as intelligent as saying that, because special forces use night vision goggles, they have got to have bigger visual systems.

The main woman author also found the same physiological feature, bigger eyes, in the past, about people presently living at high latitude. She contentedly asserted that, because light levels are lower in the north, people living in the north (40,000 years at least for Homo SS) have bigger eyes. Amusingly, she did not draw, in that case the conclusion that Norwegians and the English are therefore more stupid. Somehow, though, in her lack of smarts, she applies that controversial reasoning to Neanderthals. Does she have giant eyes?

Seriously the Oxford study rests on a central fact that contradicts one of established facts about Neanderthals. Indeed it claims Neanderthals’ brains were not any larger than Homo SS.


Note 2; what catastrophes am I talking about? Well the climate fluctuated wildly, to start with. Second, A Campanian ignimbrite volcanic super-eruption around 40,000 years ago, followed by a second one a few thousand years later, certainly crashed Neanderthal populations (based on logic, and evidence from Mezmaiskaya cave in the Caucasus. Mitochondrial DNA analysis of a specimen there is C14 dated 29,000 years BP, one of the latest living pure Neanderthals). After such a catastrophe, the exponential rebounds of populations would have advantaged Homo SS, as explained above.


Note 3: OK, I exaggerated with the mass ratio. (Mathematicians often do this, considering an exaggerated case to understand the mean, through the tails.) But the real mass ratio would be aggravated because, Neanderthal was built in such a way, relative to gracile Homo SS, that they consumed more calories per day (some paleontologists have come up with 300). So there is no doubt that the effect above will play a role, even if the mass ratios were not as bad. Notice the mechanism above would tend to extinguish the Neanderthal traits that were most characteristic of the subspecies.


Note 4: A preferred trick of Neanderthals’ haters is to exhibit Archaic Neanderthals‘skulls, and compare them to those of modern men. The skull of an Archaic Neanderthal of 400,000 years ago should not be compared to a modern human, less than 40,000 year old! All the more since Neanderthals’ brain size augmented faster than the brain size of Homo Sapiens Sapiens.


Note 5: Part of the mechanism above generalizes for other species in competition. It provides with a disappearance mechanism after ecological turbulence, according to species’ ecological footprint. The reasoning can be generalized to other species’ extinctions. Let’s recapitulate the preceding, while generalizing it:

1) it is hard to transform a near extinction event into total eradication (see the Black Plague of 1348 CE). Indeed, the more the extinction, the easier it gets for the survivors, as resources rebound (this is similar to the famous lynx-rabbit oscillation).

2) However, larger animals (Neanderthals, dinosaurs), or animals with a higher metabolic load (Neanderthals) are going to be to be left behind exponentially, during the rebound phase.

In the case of Neanderthals the periodic catastrophes could have been of climatic origins (waves of cooling, warming and unstable climate as the earth underwent various tipping points, one way or another, into the occasionally severely glaciated period between 60 K and 11 K BP. A severe volcanic catastrophe or two would have added near extinctions episodes.

In the case of dinosaurs, the massive Deccan eruptions, over millions of years, culminated with the most acute episode, more or less contemporaneously with a massive asteroid impact (!). According to the exponential extinction theory, the back and forth of near extinctions would have put a severe extinction pressure on the dinosaurs and the like, as smaller, more efficiently active mammals and birds would have put huge pressure on dinosaurs and flying reptiles (same in the sea). By eating their eggs to start with, as mammal and bird population would have exploded very fast back up at any relief. (This would have happened in addition to other extinction pressures, such as cooling.)


Note 6: A first reading of the ideas above may lead one to wonder why it is that small species do not overwhelm big ones, when they are in competition. But, in normal circumstances, one has an equilibrium ecology, the equivalent of equilibrium thermodynamics. the effect above does not apply. The effect above, exponential extinction, occurs only during non equlibrium ecological dynamics (hence the importance of near-extinctions). It’s the equivalent of non equilibrium thermodynamics (when Prigogine suggested the latter, he was viewed as nuts; until he got the Nobel Prize).