Science! I… I Don’t Believe It!

Cruising the Google Science! Feed, as usual:

  1. Whales Have Dialects Just Like Humans, Study Finds
Webster’s defines dialect as follows:

1. a :  a regional variety of language distinguished by features of vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation from other regional varieties and constituting together with them a single language<the Doric dialect of ancient Greek>

b :  one of two or more cognate languages <French and Italian are Romance dialects>

c :  a variety of a language used by the members of a group <such dialects as politics and advertising — Philip Howard>

d :  a variety of language whose identity is fixed by a factor other than geography (as social class)<spoke a rough peasant dialect>

e :  register 4c

f :  a version of a computer programming language

2:  manner or means of expressing oneself :  phraseology
So, in which, if any, of these senses can it be said that whales have dialects? The subtitle of the article says:

Whales in different locations make slightly different sounds to communicate.

OK, that seems to leave out the whole ‘speaking a language’ part of dialects. And:

Now, new research shows how whales at different spots around the globe communicate with different variations of the sound, an analogue to human dialects.

Then, after pointing out that dialect is used analogously here, the rest of the article just uses the term without any qualification. Anthropomorphising, anyone?

2. Updated NASA Data: Global Warming Not Causing Any Polar Ice Retreat

Updated data from NASA satellite instruments reveal the Earth’s polar ice caps have not receded at all since the satellite instruments began measuring the ice caps in 1979. Since the end of 2012, moreover, total polar ice extent has largely remained above the post-1979 average. The updated data contradict one of the most frequently asserted global warming claims – that global warming is causing the polar ice caps to recede.

The timing of the 1979 NASA satellite instrument launch could not have been better for global warming alarmists. The late 1970s marked the end of a 30-year cooling trend. As a result, the polar ice caps were quite likely more extensive than they had been since at least the 1920s. Nevertheless, this abnormally extensive 1979 polar ice extent would appear to be the “normal” baseline when comparing post-1979 polar ice extent.

Updated NASA satellite data show the polar ice caps remained at approximately their 1979 extent until the middle of the last decade. Beginning in 2005, however, polar ice modestly receded for several years. By 2012, polar sea ice had receded by approximately 10 percent from 1979 measurements. (Total polar ice area – factoring in both sea and land ice – had receded by much less than 10 percent, but alarmists focused on the sea ice loss as “proof” of a global warming crisis.)…

…Now, in May 2015, the updated NASA data show polar sea ice is approximately 5 percent above the post-1979 average.

Just FYI.

3. Grandmothers Drove Evolution of Monogamy

This is so, um, remarkable that I’ll try to write it up in more detail when I get a minute. Here’s a few choice bits:

  • They used computer models!

They then used computer modelling to show that by allowing their daughters to have more children, those ancestral females who lived long enough to become grandmothers passed their longevity genes to more descendants, who had longer adult lifespans as a result.

Did you hear me?! *Computer Models!* And not just one, no! *Several* How can any doubts be entertained?

  • It’s just a better Darwin Approved ™ strategy to get married and stay married:

The study answers the mystery, he says, of “why humans are such highly monogamous species while other species are not”.

“Grandmothering first drove the change in human life histories and that caused there to be a shift in fertile male to fertile female ratios and that caused the next shift,” Kim says.

“Suddenly males optimal behavior is to link with one female and to stay and protect them and have all their kids with that female.”

Note the central paragraph: we’ve proven causality – we know what sequence events had to happen in to cause the appearances we see today.

I also like ‘Suddenly’ – here’s old Og bashing something with an antelope thighbone, when he *suddenly* sits up and says to himself: “My optimal behavior is to link with one female, stay with her until death does us part, and make babies. Whoa.”

I wonder if the paper discusses why women don’t just stay fertile longer, and raise their own children with 50% of their (unique) genes in them, instead of raising grandchildren with only 25%? If passing on genes is what we’re after, it is unclear why natural selection would not favor a longer fertile life directly, rather than a 50% less efficient grandmother strategy. It gets complicated, when you think about it.


Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

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