Sunday, August 31, 2014

Science Links 8/30/14

Article: Yellowstone Supervolcano Eruption would be Large, but not as Catastrophic as previously thought
Researchers have revealed after creating a new computer simulation called Ash3D at the US Geological Survey (USGS) that the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano would spew ash several feet thick in some areas. However, it is also true that the eruption will not be as catastrophic as being claimed by some previous reports.
"It's a crazy thing to think about because none of us have ever seen an eruption like Yellowstone. It would be two or three orders of magnitude more ash than we've been able to observe", said study lead author Larry Mastin, a USGS hydrologist, in a statement reported by Inquisitr.
The blast would be big and ash will engulf the states surrounding Yellowstone National Park.

Article: New Study Offers Clues to Swift Arctic Extinction
Seven hundred years ago, the Dorset people disappeared from the Arctic. The last of the Paleo-Eskimos, the Dorset had dominated eastern Canada and Greenland for centuries, hunting seal and walrus through holes in the ice and practicing shamanistic rituals with ornate carvings and masks.
They lived there for more than 4,000 years, then disappeared in a matter of decades.

The Dorset people were a genetically distinct group, and they were different from the modern Inuit people.

Usually, when one group displaces another, one group assimilates the other. The first group leaves genetic evidence in the other group.

It is possible that the Inuit themselves wiped out the Dorset people. The article does not talk about any overlap between the two peoples.

Article: Forum: Against Empathy

A long article about empathy focused on emotional empathy. The author is writing a book against empathy, especially as a guide to policy.
It refers to the process of experiencing the world as others do, or at least as you think they do. To empathize with someone is to put yourself in her shoes, to feel her pain. 
Empathy is a one-on-one connection.
Most people see the benefits of empathy as akin to the evils of racism: too obvious to require justification. I think this is a mistake. I have argued elsewhere that certain features of empathy make it a poor guide to social policy. Empathy is biased; we are more prone to feel empathy for attractive people and for those who look like us or share our ethnic or national background. And empathy is narrow; it connects us to particular individuals, real or imagined, but is insensitive to numerical differences and statistical data. 
Empathy is too narrow, focusing on one person at a time.
In light of these features, our public decisions will be fairer and more moral once we put empathy aside. Our policies are improved when we appreciate that a hundred deaths are worse than one, even if we know the name of the one, and when we acknowledge that the life of someone in a faraway country is worth as much as the life a neighbor, even if our emotions pull us in a different direction. Without empathy, we are better able to grasp the importance of vaccinating children and responding to climate change. These acts impose costs on real people in the here and now for the sake of abstract future benefits, so tackling them may require overriding empathetic responses that favor the comfort and well being of individuals today. 
Effective social policy requires doing things that can be painful to others. The actual administration of a vaccine is painful, and side effects can be annoying to painful. If one operates only on emotional empathy, it would be hard to vaccinate one's child. Or have a life-saving operation done on the same child.

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