The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Massive flooding in low-lying areas; Continent cut off

Via a longtime reader, geologists have new evidence clarifying how Britain split off from the European mainland 450,000 YBP:

Researchers have found geological proof of one theory, that a catastrophic flood sparked massive waterfalls that cut through the rock ridge running through what's now the Dover Strait.

Analysis of [sonar] imagery, alongside existing supporting data, has led Collier and Gupta to report that Britain left Europe via a much more catastrophic route than erosion simply nibbling away at our connection to the continent. Instead, a glacial lake — perhaps sparked by an earthquake — over spilled its bounds in giant torrents of water.

"The waterfalls were so huge they left behind the plunge pools, some several kilometres in diameter and 100 metres deep in solid rock, running in a line from Calais to Dover," Collier said.

The chalky escarpment - similar to the cliffs at Dover - fell apart and released an epic flood, partially washing away the British land bridge to Europe.

That event wasn't enough to entirely separate the UK from Europe, with the final breach caused by a second megaflood that followed the first by as much as a hundred thousand years.

They conclude, "Had the initial flood not happened, the researchers added that Britain could still be connected to Europe, jutting out the same way Denmark does today."

Wait a second...

In about 10 minutes, time will once again stop for just a moment as clocks go from 23:59:59 UTC to 23:59:60 before slipping to midnight:

In a bulletin released this summer, the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, or IERS, said it would be necessary to introduce a "leap second" at the end of December. Timekeepers use this added second much as leap years are used — to bring the world's atomic clocks in sync with the Earth's own distinctive rhythm, which in this case is determined by its rotation.

According to a study published earlier this month in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A, Earth's rotation has slowed about 1.8 milliseconds per day — which means the solar day itself has lengthened, little by little. The researchers based this assessment on records dating back to 760 B.C., long before the implementation of the precise atomic clocks.

The Los Angeles Times broke down the findings: "If humanity had been measuring time with an atomic clock that started running back in 700 BC, today that clock would read 7 p.m. when the sun is directly overhead rather than noon."

2016 was already a leap year in the Gregorian calendar, will be one second longer still. So if you've felt like 2016 was the longest year ever...you're technically correct.

More stuff to read

Even though there are about 58 hours left in the year, I still have work to do. Meanwhile, a few things to read have crossed my RSS feeds:

OK, back to work.

The constant drumbeat of stupidity and cupidity

Tales in the war against reality waged by Trump and his party:

And yet, James Fallows sees cause for optimism (assuming Trump doesn't blow up the world):

In [the election's] calamitous effects—for climate change, in what might happen in a nuclear standoff, for race relations—this could indeed be as consequential a “change” election as the United States has had since 1860. But nothing about the voting patterns suggests that much of the population intended upheaval on this scale. “Change” elections drive waves of incumbents from office. This time only two senators, both Republicans, lost their seats.

[C]ity by city, and at the level of politics where people’s judgments are based on direct observation rather than media-fueled fear, Americans still trust democratic processes and observe long-respected norms. As I argued in a cover story last year, most American communities still manage to compromise, invest and innovate, make long-term plans.

Given the atrophy of old-line media with their quaint regard for truth, the addictive strength of social media and their unprecedented capacity to spread lies, and the cynicism of modern politics, will we ever be able to accurately match image with reality? The answer to that question will determine the answer to another: whether this election will be a dire but survivable challenge to American institutions or an irreversible step toward something else.

Only 698 days until the 2018 election...

One more thing for this horrible, horrible week

I could post about Krugman's "Thoughts for the Horrified," Deeply Trivial's explanation of how the polling failure wasn't what you think it was, or how much rats like being tickled. Instead, I give you twins born on either side of the return to Standard Time:

Emily and Seth Peterson of West Barnstable welcomed their sons in the early morning hours of Nov. 6 at Cape Cod Hospital.

Samuel was born 5 pounds, 13 ounces at 1:39 a.m., shortly before the 2 a.m. hour when clocks were turned back an hour.

Brother Ronan arrived at 5 pounds, 14 ounces 31 minutes later. Because he was born after the clocks fell back one hour, his official time of birth was declared 1:10 a.m. instead of 2:10 a.m.

Of course, the hospital, the Petersons, and ABC News all completely failed to understand that wall-clock time is not absolute time, but it's still a cute story.

More reading this evening

I'm a little disappointed with the Cubs' 6-5 loss to the Giants last night, but they get another crack at them tonight. I'll probably watch—while writing software. Meanwhile, here are some articles I wish I'd had more time to read:

Go Cubs, and back to work.

Drifting evidence

Attention flat-earthers: you can't simultaneously believe in GPS and that the earth is a disk covered by the dome of Heaven. Maps of Australia are the latest casualty in the war between evidence and...well, flat-earthers:

The Australian Plate is moving about 7 centimeters (2.8 inches) northwards every single year. This motion has accumulated over the decades to produce a significant discrepancy between local coordinates on maps and global coordinates in digital navigation systems used by satellites.

At present, this difference amounts to an error of 1.5 meters (4.9 feet). This is enough to cause a problem to anything in Australia that uses GPS-like systems, including smartphones and vehicles.

"If you want to start using driverless cars, accurate map information is fundamental," Dan Jaksa, a member of Geoscience Australia, told BBC News. “We have tractors in Australia starting to go around farms without a driver, and if the information about the farm doesn't line up with the coordinates coming out of the navigation system there will be problems.”

This is yet another instance where, for whatever reason, people whose religious beliefs encounter their direct economic interests seem to make allowances for science.

Next thing you know, insurance companies will start charging more to cover property close to sea level. Oh wait...

Whence altruism?

Via Bruce Schneier, the Universities of Bath, Manchester, and Princeton have developed a simple model to explain how altruism may have evolved in humans:

The key insight is that the total size of population that can be supported depends on the proportion of cooperators: more cooperation means more food for all and a larger population. If, due to chance, there is a random increase in the number of cheats then there is not enough food to go around and total population size will decrease. Conversely, a random decrease in the number of cheats will allow the population to grow to a larger size, disproportionally benefitting the cooperators. In this way, the cooperators are favoured by chance, and are more likely to win in the long term.

Dr George Constable, soon to join the University of Bath from Princeton, uses the analogy of flipping a coin, where heads wins £20 but tails loses £10:

"Although the odds winning or losing are the same, winning is more good than losing is bad. Random fluctuations in cheat numbers are exploited by the cooperators, who benefit more then they lose out."

So cheating works, but not for very long, so cooperation works better over the long term.

Reading list

Stuff:

Someone call lunch...

Two items about academic research

First, from the scientist behind Deeply Trivial, a Times report that giving people money to answer survey questions makes their answers more accurate:

[W]hen you ask people about the economy, the answers are less a statement of objectivity and more like what they’d say if you’d asked which pro football team was the best. That has important implications for democracy. How can people judge whether a party is effective if there is no sense of objective truth? And it could even have implications for the economy itself if, for example, conservative-leaning business executives freeze hiring or investment when the president doesn’t share their politics.

[W]hen money was added to the equation, questions about the economy became less like asking people which football team they thought was best, and more like asking them to place a wager. Even a little bit of cash gets people to think harder about the situation and answer more objectively.

“People are not telling you what they actually believe in ordinary surveys,” [researcher John G. Bullock at the University of Texas at Austin] said. “With a payment, we’re eliciting not necessarily thoughtful responses, but more sincere responses.”

In the same newspaper, Paul Krugman demonstrates that a right-wing trope about academia doesn't mean what they think it means:

Overall, the evidence looks a lot more consistent with a story that has academics rejecting a conservative party that has moved sharply right than it does with a story in which academics have moved left.

Now, you might argue that academics should reflect the political spectrum in the nation — that we need affirmative action for conservative professors, even in science. But do you really want to go there?

No, you really don't.