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BigCityLib Strikes Back: Short Musical Quiz: Chimp Vs. Sumerian Zither

A Midi recording of the oldest known musical composition (from 1400 BC), which originally would have been played on some kind of dorky harp instrument:The first known drum solo by a chimp:Which do you like better?  So far I’m leaning chimp.  He reminds me a bit of Mickey Waller, who played for Rod Stewart back in the day.Actually, if you have the chimp drum along to the zither it isn’t bad either.

BigCityLib Strikes Back: Gotta Get Me One Of Them Aztec Death Whistles

…’cuz it really does sound like the ‘scream of a thousand corpses’.  I can see these things being a great Halloween novelty, or maybe a stocking stuffer around Xmas.

BigCityLib Strikes Back: Serious Question: What’s Crapping On My Balcony?

I’m nine floors up in outer Scarborough (or, as we call it down here, The Bro), facing West, and every once in awhile I find animal poop on the balcony of my condo unit.  Too big for a mouse or rat–and how could they get up here anyway?– not a furry pellet like owls produce, and not an acidy splat like pigeons or gulls. I figure I’m dealing with  a hawk of some kind, as I’ve seen them flying among the buildings and resting on balcony railings in the afternoon when nobody’s home.  Its kind of neat to (Read more…)

BigCityLib Strikes Back: Searching The Internet For Time Travellers

From the abstract:

Abstract. Time travel has captured the public imagination for much of the past century, but little has been done to actually search for time travelers. Here, three implementations of Internet searches for time travelers are described, all seeking a prescient mention of  information not previously available. The first search covered prescient content placed on the Internet, highlighted by a comprehensive search for specific terms in tweets on Twitter. The second search examined prescient inquiries submitted to a search engine, highlighted by a comprehensive search for specific search terms submitted to a popular astronomy web site. The (Read more…)

BigCityLib Strikes Back: History Of Paranormal Research In Russia And The Soviet Union: 1917 To Present

Unconventional research in USSR and Russia: short overview is a fascinating document.  I’ve just excerpted bits below and added a few comments.  Of course the Americans did this kind “research”, so you would expect the Russians did as well.  I didn’t know they were up to it this early, however:

No further work was done until the beginning of the Cold War: Most of the recent research is considered pseudo-scientific in The West.  And indeed it seems as though a good deal of  modern day pseudo-scientific beliefs originated behind the Iron Curtain.  Some of us are old enough to (Read more…) . . . → Read More: BigCityLib Strikes Back: History Of Paranormal Research In Russia And The Soviet Union: 1917 To Present

BigCityLib Strikes Back: Giant Sloth: Its What’s For Dinner

From The Archaeology News:

Most scientists agree that humans began arriving in the Americas between 13,000 and 15,000 years ago, and the Clovis people of North and Central America are generally considered the “first Americans.” But new fossil evidence from a streambed in southern Uruguay could challenge such theories.

Results published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B suggest the presence at the site of human hunters who may have killed giant sloths and other megafauna. That itself isn’t odd, but the site, called Arroyo del Vizcaino, has been radiocarbon dated to between 29,000 and 30,000 years old—thousands (Read more…)

BigCityLib Strikes Back: More On The Piraha (My Favorite Folk)

The Piraha are a small tribe living along the Amazon with an extremely peculiar…simple, primitive…language:

Among Pirahã’s many peculiarities is an almost complete lack of numeracy, an extremely rare linguistic trait of which there are only a few documented cases. The language contains no words at all for discrete numbers and only three that approximate some notion of quantity—hói, a “small size or amount,” hoí, a “somewhat larger size or amount,” and baágiso, which can mean either to “cause to come together” or “a bunch.”

I’ve written about the implications such a language (Read more…)

BigCityLib Strikes Back: Science Proves This Blog As Addictive As Cocaine!

Oreos, however, are not:. The study ref-ed is entirely without scientific value.  It’s what you get when you allow college students access to cookies and drugs.

BigCityLib Strikes Back: Fighting Dragons

Not exactly, but…  Click on pic for full effect.

I used to own a couple of Greens, which are not quite as spectacular.  They would fight, but a bit less energetically than these two.

BigCityLib Strikes Back: Canadians Abroad

Apr. 25, 2013 — The rediscovery of a mystery animal in a museum’s underground storeroom proves that a non-native ‘big cat’ prowled the British countryside at the turn of the last century.

The animal’s skeleton and mounted skin was analysed by a multi-disciplinary team of Durham University scientists and fellow researchers at Bristol, Southampton and Aberystwyth universities and found to be a Canadian lynx — a carnivorous predator more than twice the size of a domestic cat.

A neat little discovery, and a good intro to Darren Naish, one of my favorite science bloggers, who has a much more detailed (Read more…)

BigCityLib Strikes Back: On Hair, Ancient And More Ancient

Janet Stephens, the “hair dressing archaeologist”, has been much in the news of late for having successfully recreated the hair-style worn by ancient Rome’s Vestal Virgin priestesses.

Here’s how she got her start:

 “One day, I was killing time at the Walters Museum in Baltimore while my daughter was at a music lesson and I ended up in the Ancient Roman collection,” says Stephens. “They were making changes in the gallery and they had set some of the portrait statues in the middle of the gallery and I got to see the back of the head and that is where all

. . . → Read More: BigCityLib Strikes Back: On Hair, Ancient And More Ancient

BigCityLib Strikes Back: The Final Frontier

The bottom of Lake Whillans, a two meter deep body of water underneath Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf, sandwiched between ice and rock.  And, yes, it harbors life.

BigCityLib Strikes Back: Carry On Roma

With all the to-do about these folks lately, I thought the following might be apropos:

Dec. 6, 2012 — Despite their modern-day diversity of language, lifestyle, and religion, Europe’s widespread Romani population shares a common, if complex, past. It all began in northwestern India about 1,500 years ago…


The genome-wide evidence specified the geographic origin toward the north or northwestern parts of India and provided a date of origin of about 1,500 years ago. While the Middle East and Caucasus regions are known to have had an important influence on Romani language, the researchers saw limited evidence

. . . → Read More: BigCityLib Strikes Back: Carry On Roma

BigCityLib Strikes Back: Mathys Get Punked

A quick update to this post from April 2012, which is about a paper withdrawn from the journal Applied Mathematics Letters because it had “no mathematical content”.  Now we have second paper retracted from the same journal because it made “no sense mathematically”.  A summary:

There’s nothing new in this paper, so it’s consistent with something, we’re not sure what. But we have raised a very serious question! OK, people have been raising that question for centuries, but this is important, dammit. The fact that we haven’t actually added anything to the discussion of that question? Please move along, nothing

. . . → Read More: BigCityLib Strikes Back: Mathys Get Punked

BigCityLib Strikes Back: Life On Mars?

Last week Curiosity was able to use its SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars) device to confirm the discovery. A robotic arm with a complex system of Spectral Analysis devices was able to vaporize and identify gasses from the sample, concluding that it is in f… . . . → Read More: BigCityLib Strikes Back: Life On Mars?

BigCityLib Strikes Back: Bloop No More

This is terribly disappointing:The broad spectrum sounds recorded in the summer of 1997 are consistent with icequakes generated by large icebergs as they crack and fracture. NOAA hydrophones deployed in the Scotia Sea detected numerous icequakes with s… . . . → Read More: BigCityLib Strikes Back: Bloop No More

BigCityLib Strikes Back: From The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness

* The neural substrates of emotions do not appear to be confined to cortical structures. In fact, subcortical neural networks  aroused during  affective  states  in humans are  also  critically important for generating emotional behaviors in animals. Artificial arousal of the same brain regions generates corresponding behavior and feeling states in both humans and non-human animals.  Wherever  in the brain one evokes instinctual  emotional behaviors in  non-human animals, many of the ensuing behaviors are consistent with experienced feeling states, including those internal states that are rewarding and punishing. Deep brain stimulation of these systems in humans  can  also  generate  similar affective

. . . → Read More: BigCityLib Strikes Back: From The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness

BigCityLib Strikes Back: Elsevier Pranked

Elsevier is a very large publisher of scientific and medical journals.  It has been boycotted recently number of high-profile scientists due to its high subscription prices for individual journals, bundling subscriptions to journals of different value and importance, and Elsevier’s support for SOPA, PIPA, and the Research Works Act.[44][45][46]  A couple of years back, this paper  appeared in one of its journals.

Note the emails of the corresponding authors:

Now the paper has been retracted because it “contains no scientific content”.   Obviously something the editors should have picked up, though some see the

. . . → Read More: BigCityLib Strikes Back: Elsevier Pranked