The Breakfast Club (Clio)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgDo you know why the muse of history plays a lyre?  Well it’s because in the western classic tradition the earliest recorded history is the Iliad.  It’s an epic poem, sung rather than spoken, legendarily written by Homer between 760 – 710 BCE though it’s far more likely that it was assembled out of much older pieces.

It recounts events of the Trojan War which was generally considered by the Greeks to have occurred sometime between the 14th and 12th century BCE.  Modern Historians associate it with Troy VIIa which was destroyed by fire sometime around the 1180s BCE.

Before the development of writing, songs and poems were the best way of preserving the accuracy of oral traditions because they are easier to memorize than prose and errors are recognizable through a failure of rhyme or meter.  Even after written language a sense of history, the concept that there is a continuous sequence of cause and effect and not a random collection of happenings mediated by the actions of gods and fortune, can be slow to emerge.

The “father” of history as is commonly taught today (at least in U.S. primary and secondary schools) is Herodotus who in the 5th century BCE wrote The Histories, an account of the Greco-Persian Wars that occurred in the early to mid part of the century.

Thucydides is often labeled the first “scientific” historian and his great work the History of the Peloponnesian War which recounts events of the late 5th century BCE conflict between Athens and Sparta in which he probably participated or had access to first hand accounts.  Xenophon, another early historian, was considered his successor and wrote about the last stages of the war as well as his own experiences as a mercenary in Persia.  He was a contemporary of Socrates, Plato, and Aristophanes.

Of course the century long slice of time recorded by these authors 2600 years ago really represents the parochial views of a single state, Athens, and as we know today time is much longer than that, even recorded time.  Egypt, Minos, the Fertile Crescent, the Indus Valley, and China among others had vast organized civilizations with their own written language and histories predating the earliest Hellenic efforts by thousands of years.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.- George Santayana, The Life of Reason

All great historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice … the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.- Karl Marx, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.? Mark Twain

The great fascination of history is that it’s really a study of human nature.  Because of our underlying psychology and methods of social organization, tantalizing patterns tend to emerge, different in detail but often with the same result.  What I think is important to remember in its study is that the people were no dumber or inherently primitive than you or I.  The thought experiment I frequently propose is the phonograph.

The mechanics of recording and playing back analog sound are not particularly difficult.  You need a diaphragm and a stylus (one unit), a recording medium and a method for moving the recording medium at a constant rate relative to the stylus/diaphragm (another unit).  When recording the diaphragm vibrates with the air pressure generated by the sound and the stylus creates an image of those patterns in the recording medium.  When playing back the stylus follows the pattern recorded in the medium and generates vibrations in the diaphragm which moves the air in a duplicate of the original event.  Now there are some minor details such as amplification but there is no inherent advantage to wax on a cranked cylinder as opposed to clay on a well regulated potter’s wheel.

Where then is the Voice of the Pharohs?

It may in fact exist.  Certain pots with strange spiraling “decorations” do suggest the surface of a record, the problem may be that we have lost the knowledge we need to play them back.  Do you think you could recognize spoken Sumerian if you heard it?  Me either.

And gaps like this are more the rule than the exception.  We can’t fix the Iowa because the tools needed to do it have long since been sold for scrap and most of the craftsmen are dead.  Until the recent revival of vinyl the future of musical recording seemed to be fast deteriorating magnetic films in a variety of incompatible formats or optical dots in a whole different panoply of incompatible formats.

Anyway, many of today’s featured stories have to do with history about which it must always be remembered that it is written by the victors.

History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.? Winston S. Churchill

Science and Technology News and Blogs

The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.

Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)

Science Oriented Video

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.


Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

I would never make fun of LaEscapee or blame PhilJD.  And I am highly organized.

This Day in History


Trader’s Arrest Raises Concerns About Market Rigging


APRIL 22, 2015

In the criminal complaint filed against a British trader on Tuesday, prosecutors said that a trading strategy known as spoofing was used to manipulate prices and helped lead to the 2010 “flash crash,” in which the biggest markets in the United States were thrown into disarray in minutes.

A trader involved in spoofing puts in orders with the intention of moving the price of a financial asset – in the flash crash case, it was a futures contract betting on the direction of the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index. When the price moves, that trader quickly cancels the orders and takes advantage of the price change.

There are few in the industry who are willing to defend spoofing and other deceptive strategies with names like layering and quote stuffing. But there is also much debate about how common spoofing and similar strategies have become. And it has been difficult to find firm evidence as to whether such strategies are directly harming ordinary long-term investors.

‘Flash crash’ case: UK trader to fight extradition to US

by Caroline Davies and Damien Gayle, The Guardian

Wednesday 22 April 2015 11.09 EDT

The US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) released details of civil charges against Sarao and his company alleging market manipulation over five years, and as recently as 6 April. Its director of enforcement, Aitan Goelman, said: “Protecting the integrity and stability of the US futures markets is critical to ensuring a properly functioning financial system.

Sarao is alleged to have changed his orders on the day of the flash crash more than 19,000 times before cancelling them, and is said to have made profits of more than $820,000 during a day’s trading.

The DoJ said: “By allegedly placing multiple, simultaneous, large-volume sell orders at different price points – a technique known as ‘layering’ – Sarao created the appearance of substantial supply in the market … When prices fell as a result of this activity, Sarao allegedly sold futures contracts only to buy them back at a lower price.”

Most migrants crossing Mediterranean will be sent back, EU leaders to agree

by Alan Travis, Ian Traynor, and Patrick Kingsley, The Guardian

Wednesday 22 April 2015 20.16 EDT

Only 5,000 resettlement places across Europe are to be offered to refugees under the emergency summit crisis package to be agreed by EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday.

A confidential draft summit statement seen by the Guardian indicates that the vast majority of those who survive the journey and make it to Italy – 150,000 did so last year – will be sent back as irregular migrants under a new rapid-return programme co-ordinated by the EU’s border agency, Frontex. More than 36,000 boat survivors have reached Italy, Malta and Greece so far this year.

The draft summit conclusions also reveal that hopes of a major expansion of search-and-rescue operations across the Mediterranean in response to the humanitarian crisis are likely to be dashed, despite widespread and growing pressure.

Yemen conflict continues despite Saudi Arabia claiming to have ended campaign

by Ian Black, The Guardian

Wednesday 22 April 2015 13.55 EDT

Fighting continued in Yemen on Wednesday despite Saudi Arabia’s announcement that it had ended its bombing campaign against Houthi rebels it claims are backed by Iran, casting doubt over hopes a negotiated settlement might now be possible.

Nearly 950 people, 300 of them civilians, have been killed in the past four weeks and a major humanitarian crisis has erupted. The regional director of the International Committee of the Red Cross on Wednesday described the damage to civilian life and property as “absolutely shocking” after a three-day visit to the country and called on all sides to allow the passage of emergency supplies.

“There is no analysis today to see any sustainable respite in fighting in coming days, we need to prepare ourselves to continue to respond to emergencies,” Robert Mardini told reporters. The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, said he hoped for an end to fighting as soon as possible.

NYPD lose elusive coyote to the wilds of New York City

by Alan Yuhas, The Guardian

Wednesday 22 April 2015 14.46 EDT

Police first received a call about a coyote around 5.30am, the NYPD said, and proceeded to send regular officers and a team from special operations to Riverside Park on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. They entered the terraced park along the Hudson River at around 87th street, then began edging north through the rocky, forested terrain.

The coyote eluded them. It snuck south first, then scrabbled north again to 91st street, the Daily News learned from police sources. The coyote was seen sunning itself on a rock as the sun came up, the officials said, apparently mocking their attempts to capture it.

Coyotes have succeeded in the city in part because they adapt well, and “save for humans they’re at the top of the food chain”, Weckel said. Opportunistic omnivores, they eat small mammals (including rats) as well as fruits and seeds; they also in part compete with foxes and raccoons, the latter of which can sometimes be an aggressive and invasive nuisance.

Airmail via Drones Is Vexing for Prisons

By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT, The New York Times

APRIL 22, 2015

“It was a delivery system,” said Bryan P. Stirling, the director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections, explaining how the drone’s operators had planned to send the contraband into the prison, the Lee Correctional Institution. “They were sending in smaller amounts in repeated trips. They would put it on there, they would deliver it, someone inside would get it somehow, and they would send it back out and send more in.”

It is the high-tech version of smuggling a file into a prison in a birthday cake, and it underscores the headache that drones are now creating for law enforcement and national security officials, who acknowledge that they have few, if any, ways of stopping them.

Drones flying over prison walls may not be the chief concern of corrections officials. But they say that some would-be smugglers are experimenting with the technique as an alternative to established methods like paying off officers, hiding contraband in incoming laundry and throwing packages disguised as rocks over fences into recreational yards.

Sea lion pup rescued by California deputies a quarter-mile from ocean

Associated Press

Wednesday 22 April 2015 13.13 EDT

Mendocino County sheriff’s deputies patrolling Highway 1, south of Fort Bragg, spotted an animal moving slowly in dark, dense fog on Sunday. They discovered the animal was a sea lion pup weighing about 20lb with a tag attached to its front flipper.

Deputies contacted the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, and officials there identified the pup from the tag as having been released from their rehabilitation center. The seal lion was found to be healthy.

Chile’s Calbuco volcano erupts

The Guardian

Wednesday 22 April 2015 20.31 EDT

Chile’s Onemi emergency office declared a red alert following the sudden eruption at around 18.00 local time (21.00 GMT), which occurred about 1,000km (625 miles) south of Santiago, the capital, near the tourist towns of Puerto Varas and Puerto Montt.

An evacuation radius of 20km has been established, authorities said. As night fell, about 4,000 people had so far moved out of the area.

Calbuco last erupted in 1972 and is considered one of the top three most potentially dangerous of Chile’s 90 active volcanoes.

“In this situation, with the eruption column so high, the main risk is that it collapses, falls due to gravity because of its own weight and causes a pyroclastic flow,” Gabriel Orozco, a vulcanologist with Chile’s geological and mining service, said on local TV.

Great Barrier Reef at risk as overfishing disrupts food chain, study finds

Australian Associated Press

Tuesday 21 April 2015 23.56 EDT

In zones that permitted fishing, they found a disproportionate number of prey and not enough predators to keep them in check.

Pristine and protected reef environments had up to five times the number of predators.

The removal of species at the top of a reef’s food chain not only threatened its natural balance but added to a host of human-inflicted challenges for the marine environments, Boaden said.

Chinese scientists genetically modify human embryos

by David Cyranoski & Sara Reardon, Nature

22 April 2015

In a world first, Chinese scientists have reported editing the genomes of human embryos. The results are published1 in the online journal Protein & Cell and confirm widespread rumours that such experiments had been conducted – rumours that sparked a high-profile debate last month about the ethical implications of such work.

Some say that gene editing in embryos could have a bright future because it could eradicate devastating genetic diseases before a baby is born. This works on analysing the lentivirus of the baby and making some changes. But, others say that such work crosses an ethical line: researchers warned in Nature in March that because the genetic changes to embryos, known as germline modification, are heritable, they could have an unpredictable effect on future generations. Researchers have also expressed concerns that any gene-editing research on human embryos could be a slippery slope towards unsafe or unethical uses of the technique.

The paper by Huang’s team looks set to reignite the debate on human-embryo editing – and there are reports that other groups in China are also experimenting on human embryos.

Research Suggests Pesticide Is Alluring and Harmful to Bees

By MICHAEL WINES, The New York Times

APRIL 22, 2015

Research by European scientists raised fresh questions on Wednesday about the impact on bees of neonicotinoids, a ubiquitous and controversial class of pesticides whose future use was restricted this month by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The researchers said the results cast doubt on theories that bees would avoid treated plants because neonicotinoids tasted bad. To the contrary, they stated, further study showed the bees were unable to taste the compound, but apparently preferred to consume it anyway because the nicotine-like substance affected their brains.

The two studies seem certain to fuel an already pitched debate over the safety of neonicotinoids, which have become one of the most widely used classes of pesticides. In the United States, most corn and many soybean crops are grown from seeds impregnated with neonicotinoids, so that the pesticide is contained within the plant instead of being sprayed on. Insects that suck or chew on the plant are poisoned when they feed; the compound typically breaks down before harvest.

Manufacturers insist that the pesticides are not merely safer for the environment than other pesticides, but safe for bees and other pollinators when used properly. Seeking to protect a huge market, they have moved aggressively to deal with documented risks, such as the spread of toxic dust into nearby fields when treated seeds are planted.

They have dismissed some laboratory studies that suggest the pesticides harm bees, arguing in part that poisoning risks in the real world are considerably smaller.

But other experts have long argued that the pesticide can dramatically affect bees and other pollinators in or near neonicotinoid-treated fields, crippling their memories and navigational skills and crimping their growth and reproduction.


1 comment

Comments have been disabled.