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Weekend Briefs

February 25, 2012

Uh-oh:

Our research has dramatically increased the number of authors that can be distinguished using writing-style analysis: from about 300 to 100,000. More importantly, the accuracy of our algorithms drops off gently as the number of authors increases, so we can be confident that they will continue to perform well as we scale the problem even further. Our work is therefore the first time that stylometry has been shown to have to have serious implications for online anonymity.

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The Guardian: “‘Being raped by a gang is normal – it’s about craving to be accepted’.”

A female former gang member has exposed the growing levels of sexual violence against young women who join them, saying that many are willing to risk being raped in return for the status of membership.

I should say I’m a little unclear what ‘rape’ means in this article.

Nembhard, who was a teenage drug dealer, said that even those who are abused and called “pieces of shit” by gang members maintained sexual relationships with them because they felt “that they couldn’t do better”.

We’d all love to believe that they can do better, but we don’t really know that.

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The New York Times: “Human Culture, an Evolutionary Force.”

The best evidence available to Dr. Boyd and Dr. Richerson for culture being a selective force was the lactose tolerance found in many northern Europeans. Most people switch off the gene that digests the lactose in milk shortly after they are weaned, but in northern Europeans — the descendants of an ancient cattle-rearing culture that emerged in the region some 6,000 years ago — the gene is kept switched on in adulthood.

Lactose tolerance is now well recognized as a case in which a cultural practice — drinking raw milk — has caused an evolutionary change in the human genome. Presumably the extra nutrition was of such great advantage that adults able to digest milk left more surviving offspring, and the genetic change swept through the population.

This instance of gene-culture interaction turns out to be far from unique.

I’ve always thought it obvious that the contrast between culture and biology is overplayed. And it gets more interesting:

With archaic humans, culture changed very slowly. The style of stone tools called the Oldowan appeared 2.5 million years ago and stayed unchanged for more than a million years. The Acheulean stone tool kit that succeeded it lasted for 1.5 million years. But among behaviorally modern humans, those of the last 50,000 years, the tempo of cultural change has been far brisker. This raises the possibility that human evolution has been accelerating in the recent past under the impact of rapid shifts in culture.

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Roosh: “Not All Women Of The World Want An Alpha Male.” Particularly interesting coming from one of the great philanderers of our day:

I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that something is wrong with a culture if the women explicitly prefer alpha males. It makes illogical sense from a biological and humanitarian standpoint that a woman would go after men who will not provide or take care of them. Consider that women in America are mindlessly rushing to be used as cum buckets, which is being further encouraged by the media and Hollywood that makes fun of beta men for being boring, dopey, or unromantic.

To find out if a mating behavior is wrong or not, just use the sister test. Would you want your sister riding the carousel? Would you want her being subjected to what you do to bang American women? Or would you want her playing hard to get in order to find a good man who wants to take care of her forever? A society is healthy if the way you want your sister treated is the normal and prevalent behavior. This is the case in Scandinavia, Poland, and the Baltics, but we don’t have that in America, a place where women openly despise and mock nice guys. The irony is that my sister knows I treat American girls like disposable razors while at the same time understanding that I must do so in order to get laid, as if I have no other choice.

But obviously the suggestion that American culture forces him to use women is self-serving nonsense.

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 Discover: “Thinner Wife Makes Happier Marriage.”

Andrea Meltzer, the lead author and a doctoral candidate at UT, told Discovery News that “We found this effect initially on husbands’ satisfaction at the beginning of marriage… husbands were more satisfied at the time of marriage to the extent that their wives had a lower BMI than themselves.”

The fact that men tend to be happier with a thinner wife may not be surprising, but Meltzer and her colleagues also found that women who had a lower BMI than their husbands were significantly more satisfied with their marriage over time. Thinner wives make both spouses happier.

But only a female researcher would conclude this:

“This study is important because it demonstrates that women of any size can be happy in their relationships with the right partner. It’s not necessarily striving for thinness per se, but striving to be thinner than their partner,” Meltzer said. 

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Douthat:

A successful chastity-centric culture seems to depend on a level of social cohesion, religious intensity and shared values that exists only in small pockets of the country. Mormon Utah, for instance, largely lives up to the conservative ideal, with some of America’s lowest rates of teenage pregnancies, out-of-wedlock births and abortions. But many other socially conservative regions (particularly in the South) feature higher rates of unwed and teenage parenthood than in the country as a whole.

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The Globe and Mail: “How hard can it be to pass a Chinese driver’s test? Very.

I have colleagues here who have taken the test four times without passing, while many Chinese do whatever they can to get their licences without taking the test. (Creating the havoc on the roads that I’ve written about before, where neither police nor drivers seem sure of the rules. Traffic accidents are unsurprisingly the leading cause of death for Chinese under the age of 45.

Why all the angst? Because the test (like exams in Chinese schools), is about putting critical thought – and your own experience aside and just memorizing the answers.

The bureaucracy is no longer staffed by those who have best memorized the Confucian canon, but educational ideas haven’t changed much.

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A source of the Queen of Sheba’s wealth may have been discovered in Ethiopia:

Louise Schofield, an archaeologist and former British Museum curator, who headed the excavation on the high Gheralta plateau in northern Ethiopia, said: “One of the things I’ve always loved about archaeology is the way it can tie up with legends and myths. The fact that we might have the Queen of Sheba’s mines is extraordinary.”

An initial clue lay in a 20ft stone stele (or slab) carved with a sun and crescent moon, the “calling card of the land of Sheba”, Schofield said. “I crawled beneath the stone – wary of a 9ft cobra I was warned lives here – and came face to face with an inscription in Sabaean, the language that the Queen of Sheba would have spoken.”

The Ethiopian monarchy is supposed to have descended from Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.

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