Random links

Children, Unhappiness and Family Finances: Evidence from One Million Europeans
Basically an argument that increased unhappiness on average for married couples having children is entirely accounted for by the associated financial costs. (HT Matthew Yglesias)
81 percent of Americans can’t name a single living scientist
"Of the 19 percent who could correctly identify a scientist, 27 percent named Stephen Hawking, 19 percent named Neil deGrasse Tyson, and 5 percent named Bill Nye." Strangely both identified were astrophysicists though Hawking passed away since the time of the poll. Also in recent research, "Participants were randomly assigned to watch one of two real TED talks given by a successful astrophysicist ... "whereas liberals were significantly more likely to tweet the black female’s TED talk than they were the white male’s, conservatives showed no significant difference"
Plastic bag bans can backfire if consumers just use other plastics instead
"Using sales data from retail outlets, I found that bag bans in California reduced plastic carryout bag usage by 40 million pounds per year, but that this reduction was offset by a 12 million pound annual increase in trash bag sales. This meant that 30 percent of the plastic eliminated by the ban was coming back in the form of trash bags, which are thicker than typical plastic carryout bags."

Toni Morrison on the world

I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge - even wisdom. Like art. - Toni Morrison

Disappearing the Uighurs

China's been attacking both Christian and Muslim groups quite a bit lately, though the mosques you here of here being destroyed seem to date from earlier times than the churches that I've heard of being destroyed:

(As an aside: One of the scarier results following that recent shooting in New Zealand were these poll results reported by a Taiwanese journalist - how to best interpret them is a bit tough though - as you probably should factor in the conflict between the PRC and Taiwan. how the news might have been reported there, and censorship pressuresamongst other things).

It made me think of places like Benin City in what's now Nigeria:

The Guinness Book of Records (1974 edition) described the walls of Benin City and its surrounding kingdom as the world’s largest earthworks carried out prior to the mechanical era. According to estimates by the New Scientist’s Fred Pearce, Benin City’s walls were at one point “four times longer than the Great Wall of China, and consumed a hundred times more material than the Great Pyramid of Cheops”.

... Now, however, the great Benin City is lost to history. Its decline began in the 15th century, sparked by internal conflicts linked to the increasing European intrusion and slavery trade at the borders of the Benin empire. Then in 1897, the city was destroyed by British soldiers – looted, blown up and burnt to the ground.

In this case the people have survived, but much of the history has been lost, not just physically but also from the memory of most. It's not just in Africa (and in Africa not just Benin City) where this sort of thing has happened - e.g. the Anglo-Saxon takeover of what's now the UK (itself discussed in the context of missing Indian history):

... in the space of less than 200 years the Celtic Britons of what became England abandoned their native language and cultural memory and replaced it with that of pagan Germans. We know from both fine-scale modern genetic analysis of the British Isles, as well as ancient DNA, that the majority of the ancestry of the modern English dates to the period before the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons. And yet pre-Germanic language and cultural folkways had only a trivial impact on the English. Even royal houses, such as those of Wessex, who were likely of native British origin (the earlier rulers in the genealogy have Celtic forenames!) “retconned” their origin to be from the Germanic god Wotan.

How much are the Uighurs likely to remember of their history a century or two in the future? I just don't know.

More than 70 missing tweets

Canada's Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism tweets about National Aboriginal Languages Day. Will admit to some amusement about him tweeting this in English and French - and only English and French. Would you prefer or rather he hadn't instead the same thing in at least another 701 languages?


  1. I do find it a bit silly how people count numbers of languages - see, e.g., the recent Danish case - but more than 70 is the number he's chosen to go with. ↩︎

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