Engeroff’s plyometric program involved nothing but hopping on the spot

Friday, May 26th, 2023

Plyometric training can make you a more efficient runner, Alex Hutchinson notes, but there’s still plenty of debate about how it works:

As a result, studies like this one in Sports Biomechanics, published last month by a group led by Aurélien Patoz of the University of Lausanne, don’t garner much attention. They found a 3.9 percent improvement in running economy after eight weeks of either plyometric or dynamic strength training, roughly comparable to what Nike’s original Vaporfly 4% shoe produced. (They also found no evidence that either form of training altered running stride in any significant way, for what it’s worth.)

Why no excitement about a free four-percent boost? As someone who has experimented on and off with various forms of plyometric training over several decades, let me venture a hypothesis: it’s perceived as too complicated, and possibly risky, for most of us.

Does it need to be that complicated?

That’s the question tackled by another recent study, this one led by Tobias Engeroff of Goethe University Frankfurt and published in Scientific Reports. They stripped plyometric training down to its bare bones, tested it on a group of amateur runners—and still found a significant improvement in running economy after just six weeks. The exact size of the improvement depends on how you measure it and at what speed, but was between 2 and 4 percent.

Engeroff’s plyometric program involved nothing but hopping on the spot. Specifically, “participants were instructed to start with both feet no wider than hip width apart and to hop as high as possible with both legs, keeping the knees extended and aiming to minimize ground contact time.” They started by hopping for 10 seconds, resting for 50 seconds, and repeating five times for a total of five minutes. They did this five-minute program daily, decreasing the rest and increasing the number of sets each week: the second week was 6 sets of 10 seconds of hopping with 40 seconds of rest; the sixth and final week was 15 sets of 10 seconds hopping with 10 seconds of rest, still totaling five minutes.

This program was based on the idea that it’s tendon stiffness that boosts running economy. In particular, the stretch and recoil of the Achilles tendon provides between half and three-quarters of the positive work required for running, by some estimates. Engeroff’s short daily program draws on recent research by Keith Baar and others suggesting that connective tissue such as tendons responds best to brief, frequent stimulus rather than longer and harder workouts. Notably, this approach didn’t injure any of the runners.

These missiles are likely completely stealth to the Patriot radar for the majority of their ballistic arc

Friday, May 19th, 2023

Simplicius breaks down Russia’s recent Patriot attack:

Russia was said to have conducted a layered, multi-vectored attack which came from various sides including north, east, and south, which included both Geran drones as screening cover, Kalibr missiles, Kh-101s, and finally the Kinzhals. The attack also likely included other cheaper types of drones as decoys to saturate the air defense, and in fact Kiev does attest to that, as in their official ‘shoot down’ graphic they include several drones they comically ID’d as Orlan ‘Supercum’ which was later changed to ‘Supercam’.

First, let’s break down how such an attack happens. Most logically, the cheaper decoy drones are sent in first to see if they can bait out any of the air defense into opening up on them. Kiev would try to use only its less important SHORAD (Short Range AD) systems against them, such as German Gepards and any Tunguskas/Shilkas and such that they might have.

Next would come the cruise missiles in order to bait out the true high value AD that may have held back with the first wave, and which Ukraine’s SHORAD systems may be useless against.


It should be stated that there are certain positions Russia already knows are likely, and are prefigured into their search matrices. For instance, Mim-104 Patriot system is an extremely complex and large system, you can’t just set it up anywhere, like in the middle of an apartment building courtyard or something like that. These systems not only require a lot of room but also, since they are much less mobile than drivable units like Gepards and such, they are preferably situated somewhere that doesn’t have a lot of civilian ‘eyes’ in the area, so that no one films or rats them out, whether accidentally or not.

This leaves only a few real, solid choices where you can put such a system. And they are almost always put in airports, as an example. It comes as no surprise then that during the attacks on 5/16, word now has it that two of the Patriots were located at Zhuliany airport in Kiev and one at or near the Zoo…

The launch angle of Patriot rockets is fixed at 38° above horizontal. Many other missile systems fire straight up.

This brings up the next issue: a lot of the Patriot missiles appeared to fail. These fallen pieces are not ‘discarded rocket stages’ or anything like that, but the actual missile heads themselves. In fact, we have photo proof that several of them “failed” mid-flight and did the famous ‘Patriot maneuver’ caught long ago in Saudi Arabia:

The Russians’ infamous hypersonic missile is the Kinzhal:

If we take its alleged Mach 10 value, a Mig-31K / Tu-22M3, flying approximately 100-150km north of Kiev over the Russian border, could fire the Kinzhal and it would take a mere 90 seconds or so to arrive in Kiev.

This means that, using the above methods of monitoring, tracking, and observation, once the Russian MOD homes in on a Patriot battery / radar location, it can transfer the coordinates to the Mig-31Ks already in the air, and the Patriots would only have 90 seconds, which is no where near enough time for them to move or do anything to really save themselves.


The other important thing to note is that no one actually knows how fast the Kinzhal or any hypersonic weapons system goes at the point of terminal impact, however it is almost certainly not hypersonic at that point. Yes, you heard that right: no hypersonic weapon on earth actually impacts the target at hypersonic speed.

No where is it actually stated it hits the target at hypersonic speed; this is merely a misleading assumption that people make. In fact, the official description for most hypersonic vehicles like the Kinzhal is that it hits hypersonic velocity at burnout speed. Burnout speed typically means when its engines finish firing during the peak of its ‘ballistic arc’.

People wrongly assume that the point of a hypersonic missile is “to hit the target at a hypersonic speed”. That’s actually not the main advantage. The real point of a hypersonic vehicle is to get to the target as fast as possible, and faster than any other conventional munition, which gives your enemy very little chance to react, such as trying to scramble or hide underground, etc.

The fact is, no manmade object can travel at hypersonic speeds at ground atmospheric levels. The atmosphere is way too thick and any object going such a speed would quickly heat up to astronomical levels and then vaporize. How do space rockets hit hypersonic speeds then, you ask? They accelerate very slow and don’t actually cross the hypersonic threshold until they’re basically already in space.

Most missile types like ballistic missiles and even air to air missiles fired by jets actually shoot up to a very high altitude for most of their cruise, and then come down only as they’re nearing the target. The point is to fly where the atmosphere and air resistance is much thinner to get maximum fuel mileage and acceleration/speed. Cruise missiles are an exception as the exigencies of needing to be ‘below the radar’ require most of them to fly very low.


The second most important thing is that hypersonic vehicles, as noted above, generate a plasma shield around them. This has been by far the biggest reason behind the ‘difficulty’ of creating hypersonic weapons. To accelerate something hypersonically, especially with a basic rocket motor, is easy enough. The problem is then communicating with the object. The plasma shield completely negates all electromagnetic waves, making the object completely impermeable to waves which means you can’t send it any signals to ‘guide’ it to a target.


No one knows which method Russia settled on and uses for the Kinzhal, it’s all classified. However, the likely fact is that the Kinzhal, as well as the Iskander, simply are no longer hypersonic by the time they reach the target, which allows radio signals to give them mid-course correction to the target. The reason is, once they accelerate to their hypersonic ‘burnout speed’ at the top of the ballistic arc, everything after that begins to bleed speed. No one actually knows for certain, but it is likely that by the time of target impact they may be going somewhere in the range of Mach 3-5.

This is still very fast, but keeps them from the ‘plasma field’ problem. How do we know this? Well, there are some videos of Iskander impacts, and while Iskander is said to top out at Mach 6-7 at burnout speed, its impacts do not look hypersonic, though they do look much faster than any other conventional missile types.


Because clearly, if it’s no longer being propelled by thrust, and is merely a ‘glider’ after the zenith of its ballistic arc, then the hypersonic speed it reaches from that point on will be slowly bled little by little. This is likely naturally timed such that the missile is no longer creating a plasma shield or disintegrating itself, such that it’s still going faster than anything else, but can receive course-correction data. This is why my best guess is these missiles actually impact at something like Mach 2-5 at the most.

Also, note that during the May 16 attack, on the night camera footage there was no “glowing objects” descending in the sky. If a Kinzhal was actually traveling Mach 5-7+ when it hit those Patriots, it would have streaked down like a meteor, glowing and throwing plasma.


But there’s one other important aspect not yet mentioned. A plasma bubble absorbs all electromagnetic signals, making the vehicle impervious to them. Guess what that means? That’s right—a hypersonic vehicle is essentially ‘stealth’ and cannot be detected by radar. The radar waves are simply absorbed and ionized by the plasma bubble, and in fact there have been many long years of stealth research in this field.

So the point is that, apropos the argument of whether the Patriot can intercept the Kinzhal or even the Iskander, the fact is, these missiles are likely completely stealth to the Patriot radar for the majority of their ballistic arc. Once they hit the arc and go into ‘glide mode’ and begin slowing down, they slowly come out of stealth, but the problem is, at that point they are already likely over the target and only 15-30 seconds at most from impact, maybe less, and still going a very fast Mach 4-5 at the beginning of the slow down.

The wing is a fuel tank, and the fuel indicator showed 0.000

Wednesday, May 17th, 2023

A lifting body is the opposite of a flying wing; it’s an aircraft or configuration in which the body itself produces lift. Some aircraft with wings also employ bodies that generate lift, like the F-15 Eagle, which produces substantial lift from the wide fuselage between the wings:

A simulated dogfight training took place between two F-15D’s and four A-4N Skyhawks over the skies of the Negev, Israel. The F-15D #957, (nicknamed ‘Markia Shchakim’, 5 killmarks) was used for the conversion of a new pilot in the squadron. Here is the description of the event as described in “Pressure suit”:

“At some point I collided with one of the Skyhawks, at first I didn’t realize it. I felt a big strike, and I thought we passed through the jet stream of one of the other aircraft. Before I could react, I saw the big fire ball created by the explosion of the Skyhawk.

The radio started to deliver calls saying that the Skyhawk pilot has ejected, and I understood that the fireball was the Skyhawk, that exploded, and the pilot was ejected automatically.

There was a tremendous fuel stream going out of my wing, and I understood it was badly damaged. The aircraft flew without control in a strange spiral. I reconnected the electric control to the control surfaces, and slowly gained control of the aircraft until I was straight and level again. It was clear to me that I had to eject. When I gained control I said : “Hey, wait, don’t eject yet!” No warning light was on and the navigation computer worked as usual; (I just needed a warning light in my panel to indicate that I missed a wing…).” My instructor pilot ordered me to eject.

The wing is a fuel tank, and the fuel indicator showed 0.000 so I assumed that the jet stream sucked all the fuel out of the other tanks. However, I remembered that the valves operate only in one direction, so that I might have enough fuel to get to the nearest airfield and land. I worked like a machine, wasn’t scared and didn’t worry. All I knew was as long as the sucker flies, I’m gonna stay inside. I started to decrease the airspeed, but at that point one wing was not enough. So I went into a spin down and to the right. A second before I decided to eject, I pushed the throttle and lit the afterburner. I gained speed and thus got control of the aircraft again.

Next thing I did was lower the arresting hook. A few seconds later I touched the runway at 260 knots, about twice the recommended speed, and called the tower to erect the emergency recovery net. The hook was torn away from the fuselage because of the high speed, but I managed to stop 10 meters before the net. I turned back to shake the hand of my instructor, who had urged me to eject, and then I saw it for the first time – no wing !!!


Rotten meat may have been a staple of Stone Age diets

Monday, May 8th, 2023

European explorers found that indigenous peoples ate rotten meat:

From arctic tundra to tropical rainforests, native populations consumed rotten remains, either raw, fermented or cooked just enough to singe off fur and create a more chewable texture. Many groups treated maggots as a meaty bonus.


Some Indigenous communities feasted on huge decomposing beasts, including hippos that had been trapped in dug-out pits in Africa and beached whales on Australia’s coast. Hunters in those groups typically smeared themselves with the fat of the animal before gorging on greasy innards. After slicing open animals’ midsections, both adults and children climbed into massive, rotting body cavities to remove meat and fat.

Or consider that Native Americans in Missouri in the late 1800s made a prized soup from the greenish, decaying flesh of dead bison. Animal bodies were buried whole in winter and unearthed in spring after ripening enough to achieve peak tastiness.

But such accounts provide a valuable window into a way of life that existed long before Western industrialization and the war against germs went global, says anthropological archaeologist John Speth of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Intriguingly, no reports of botulism and other potentially fatal reactions to microorganisms festering in rotting meat appear in writings about Indigenous groups before the early 1900s. Instead, decayed flesh and fat represented valued and tasty parts of a healthy diet.


Many travelers such as Landor considered such eating habits to be “disgusting.” But “a gold mine of ethnohistorical accounts makes it clear that the revulsion Westerners feel toward putrid meat and maggots is not hardwired in our genome but is instead culturally learned,” Speth says.


Fermented fish heads, also known as “stinkhead,” are one popular munchy among northern groups. Chukchi herders in the Russian Far East, for instance, bury whole fish in the ground in early fall and let the bodies naturally ferment during periods of freezing and thawing. Fish heads the consistency of hard ice cream are then unearthed and eaten whole.

Speth has suspected for several decades that consumption of fermented and putrid meat, fish, fat and internal organs has a long and probably ancient history among northern Indigenous groups. Consulting mainly online sources such as Google Scholar and universities’ digital library catalogs, he found many ethnohistorical descriptions of such behavior going back to the 1500s. Putrid walrus, seals, caribou, reindeer, musk oxen, polar bears, moose, arctic hares and ptarmigans had all been fair game.


“Recognizing that eating rotten meat is possible, even without fire, highlights how easy it would have been to incorporate scavenged food into the diet long before our ancestors learned to hunt or process [meat] with stone tools,” says paleoanthropologist Jessica Thompson of Yale University.


Instead, Speth speculates, cooking’s primary value at first lay in making starchy and oily plants softer, more chewable and easily digestible. Edible plants contain carbohydrates, sugar molecules that can be converted to energy in the body. Heating over a fire converts starch in tubers and other plants to glucose, a vital energy source for the body and brain. Crushing or grinding of plants might have yielded at least some of those energy benefits to hungry hominids who lacked the ability to light fires.


Over the last few centuries, they have favored tongue, fat deposits, brisket, ribs, fatty tissue around intestines and internal organs, and marrow. Internal organs, especially adrenal glands, have provided vitamin C — nearly absent in lean muscle — that prevented anemia and other symptoms of scurvy.

Western explorers noted that the Inuit also ate chyme, the stomach contents of reindeer and other plant-eating animals. Chyme provided at least a side course of plant carbohydrates.

The colonization-development story gets the direction of causality backwards

Thursday, May 4th, 2023

A major gulf has already appeared between Western Europe and the rest of the world prior to 1500 AD:

West Europe experienced a major transformation between 1000 and 1500. Their incomes increased, they established institutions of higher learning across the continent, they became more urbanized, more technologically developed, produced vastly more books, literacy and numeracy increased, violence greatly decreased, and they produced many more notable scientists, mathematicians, philosophers, inventors, and engineers. In terms of overall development, West Europe had surpassed that of other big civilizations (China, India, and the Middle East) by 1500. Not only that, the rate of advancement was accelerating. The other major civilizations instead went into cultural stagnation.

The divergence I observe in the data of notable people of science, starting from approximately 1300 A.D., seems tightly connected with the so-called “Little divergence” (Pleijt & van Zanden, 2016), i.e., the “process [between 1300 and 1800] whereby the North Sea Area (the UK and the Low Countries) developed into the most prosperous and dynamic part of the Continent.” Starting in a similar period and in similar places (e.g., the Netherlands and the UK), I observe an especially great increase in per-capita rates of notable people of science.

As the rise of the West was already operating at great speeds prior to European colonialism, the often-suggested idea that the West’s ascent can be attributed to Europe’s colonialist history is untenable. Rather than colonialism or slavery being the cause of the rise of the West, the timeline is consistent with a commonsensical alternative idea: The colonization-development story gets the direction of causality backwards. It was the West’s relative developmental advantage that gave them the ability to colonize so successfully in the first place. Only wealthy societies could afford global exploration and subsidize colonies on a large scale. Oceangoing technology, improvements in vessels, shipbuilding, navigation tools, and in cartography, all together facilitated exploration and direct travel across the Atlantic. Advantages in military technology made conquest and colonization far easier, exemplified by “when Pizarro’s tiny army of Spaniards captured the Inca emperor Atahuallpa, absolute ruler of the largest, richest, most populous, and administratively and technologically most advanced Native American state” (Diamond, 1997).

The original meaning of skin color

Monday, April 17th, 2023

Today, Peter Frost notes, skin color has a primarily ethnic meaning:

It had other meanings in the past, apparently even our nonhuman past. In many primate species, the infant is light-skinned, and this coloration not only identifies the infant as an infant but also induces feelings of caring and protectiveness in the adult observer. At some point in human evolution, the same coloration was acquired by women, along with other visual, audible, and tactile characteristics of the infant. Skin color thus became a means to distinguish women from men, with lighter skin being unconsciously perceived as feminine and darker skin as masculine. Such perceptions would influence an observer’s behavioral and emotional state when interacting with a man, a woman, or a young child.

In modern Western societies, those gendered perceptions have been so eclipsed by ethnic ones that they remain largely unconscious. But they are still part of conscious experience elsewhere in the world.

Every other male is a potential ally

Saturday, April 15th, 2023

Helen Reddy’s 1971 anthem “I Am Woman” captured the spirit of feminism in that era, Arnold Kling notes:

The mood was optimistic, proud, and spirited. “Nothing can stop me,” the song seemed to say. Once doors were open to women, they would charge through and never look back.

Today, the mood of feminists seems much darker. On college campuses, some seethe with resentment. They look to university administrators to fend off “toxic masculinity” and “rape culture.” They allege that free speech causes harm. They insist that schools ban words and speakers. They want “safe spaces.” It seems as though “I am strong, I am invincible” has been replaced by “I am anxious, I am vulnerable.”


I would suggest that higher education, once dominated by men, used to cater to men’s warrior nature. Today, with female students the majority, colleges and universities cater much more to women’s worrier culture.

In her book [Warriors and Worriers: The Survival of the Sexes], Benenson presents extensive empirical evidence for general differences in behavior and temperament between human males and females. These are differences that she and others have found in infants, toddlers, children, and adolescence. They are found in primitive cultures as well as in modern Western cultures. They are similar to traits found in other primates, including our chimpanzee relatives.


Benenson catalogues numerous differences in temperament and behavior between males and females. These include:

  • Boys are drawn to fight one another, and girls are not.
  • Boys are eager to play on their own, without the authority of teachers, and girls are not.
  • Girls enjoy play that involves acting out scenes of caring for a baby or a person in distress, and boys do not.
  • Women show higher levels of fear and anxiety and lower propensity to take risks than men do.
  • When evaluating same-sex individuals as potential friends or allies, men look for strength, courage, and useful skills. Women look for vulnerability and the absence of overt conflict.
  • Boys tend to have large groups of friends, with loose ties and shifting alliances. Girls tend to form tight cliques.
  • At recess, boys enjoy competitive team sports. They are concerned with formal rules and spend time negotiating such rules. I think of pickup softball games where there are only six players on a team. The rules might be “anything hit to right field is a foul ball,” or “batting team supplies pitcher, catcher, and first baseman” or some other ad hoc modification of normal baseball rules.
  • At recess, girls are less likely to choose competitive team sports, and they lose interest in team games relatively quickly.
  • Men value competition with prizes for those who demonstrate the most skill. Women prefer that no one stand out.


Benenson claims that what underlies these differences is that women pay more attention to their survival as individuals, while men pay more attention to survival in group competition. In terms of evolutionary psychology, a female needs to protect her own health in order to be able to bear children and to enable them to survive to adulthood. Benenson notes that until recently in human history, 40 percent of children died before the age of two. Increasing the chances of her baby’s survival had to be a major concern for women.


For men, the ability to pass their genes along is relatively less dependent on their individual survival. It is relatively more dependent on the ability of their group to out-compete other groups, especially in war.


For a female, every other female is a potential competitor. Women eliminate a competitor by ganging up on the unwanted woman and excluding her. The excluded woman may not have violated a formal rule, but she seems threatening for some reason.

For a male, every other male is a potential ally. You may fight a man one day, and the next day you may join with him to fight a common enemy. Men want to see non-cooperators punished, but subsequently the rule-breaker might be rehabilitated. Permanent exclusion would be a bad practice.

We must be willing to consider what might at first seem absurd and unworkable

Sunday, April 9th, 2023

A recent paper proposes the deployment of volcanic geothermal energy from the Yellowstone Caldera Supervolcano, using a completely new copper-based engineering approach:

The proposed ideas, if implemented, would allow the production of green, 100% emission-free energy for the United States of America and possibly beyond, to last the years and centuries to come, while having the great added benefit of forestalling the Yellowstone Supervolcano from potentially ever erupting again.

To consider such an implementation, the reader is asked to be willing to think big and bold. We must be willing to consider what might at first seem absurd and unworkable, only later to realize that it is absolutely feasible and realistic to implement, with even today’s current technologies, and with some imagination.


By utilizing thermally conductive copper pillars on an unprecedented scale, this paper proposes a means to draw up this Supervolcano’s mighty energy reserve from within the Earth, to superheat steam for spinning turbines at sufficient speed on a sufficient scale and number, to power the entire USA, from a single, multi-redundant facility that utilizes the star topology in a grid array pattern. In so doing, over time, bleed-off of sufficient energy from the Supervolcano’s magma chamber will potentially forestall this Supervolcano from ever erupting again. In 2017, NASA conducted a study to determine the feasibility of preventing the Yellowstone Supervolcano from erupting. The results of this study showed that cooling the magma chamber by 35% would be enough to forestall another eruption.


This paper proposes to make a power generation facility on the Yellowstone Caldera, with a satellite view shown in Fig. 1 from Google Maps, capable of generating well over twice the projected electrical energy usage in the year 2050 of 5.5 Quadrillion Watt hours for the entire United States of America. We therefore assume well over 11 Quadrillion Watt hours of electrical energy over the course of one full year used by the USA.


The Arabelle steam turbines run on high pressure, superheated steam. Steam is made from water and heat. Shoshone Lake is next to the Yellowstone Caldera [37]. This fresh water lake covers over 8000 acres and has a maximum depth of over 200 ft. Water from this lake could be used for the steam production. In the proposed design laid out in this paper, all water taken from the lake would be returned to the lake, cleaner than it was originally, at ambient temperature, and free of any contamination, as all major plumbing in this proposed design is made with copper, a standard plumbing material. As with all plumbing, scaling buildup on the inside of the piping and corrosion resistance on the outside of the plumbing in contact with the Earth are important considerations for the long-term life, water flow performance, maintenance of all necessary thermal conduction and heat transfer capabilities of the piping. To prevent scaling buildup on the inside of the plumbing, the water passing through these pipes must first be demineralized. All extracted minerals will be returned to the lake with the returning water, so as not to affect the lake’s chemistry, and thus the aquatic inhabitance of the lake. External corrosion resistance of the copper plumbing in contact with the Earth will be obtained through minimally adequate gold (with a nickel interface) plating, as gold is nearly impervious to corrosion. By taking these measures, there should be no degradation of geothermal energy extraction over time.

Based on numerous studies, and also reported by the U.S. Geological Survey the temperature in Yellowstone Supervolcano’s magma chamber is approximately 1475°F, and its size is approximately 40 km long by 80 km across, similar in size to the flat, overlying Yellowstone Caldera. The Yellowstone Caldera is large enough for all of the required Arabelle steam turbines and all other required hardware and plumbing to fulfill the proposal set forth in this paper. In terms of depth, the top of the magma chamber is 8 km below the surface, and the bottom of the magma chamber is 16 km below the surface.

In the most general terms, this paper proposes to use metallic thermal conduction as a means to transport the tremendous thermal energy flux of the Yellowstone Supervolcano magma chamber to the surface for utilization. Looking at the selected material of copper, reveals that its melting point is 1983°F, which is well above the internal temperature of the Yellowstone Supervolcano magma chamber. At this temperature, copper has a thermal conductivity value of 350 W/(m x °K). Copper is an excellent metallic thermal conductor, lacking in corrosion resistance. The use of gold (with a nickel interface) plating on copper that may be in contact with the Earth is recommended. This plating has a melting point at or higher than the copper it is meant to protect. Furthermore, this minimalist plating method, used extensively in the electronics industry, provides superior corrosion protection while imposing relatively minimal impact on the facility cost, the overall thermal conduction, and heat transfer performance of the geothermal energy extraction process.


As the magma chamber is 8 km below the surface, 8 kilometer-long copper cylinders (mostly hollow) would be required for this work. We propose that these cylinders be made in 10 m long segments that interconnect with one another at their ends.


As water is pumped down the center bore hole under pressure, high pressure, superheated steam would be forced to return up through each of the surrounding smaller diameter bore holes of the copper cylinder. This returning steam would exit the copper cylinders at the top, above the surface of the caldera, and be piped through the Arabelle steam turbines generating electrical power. After exiting the steam turbines, this exhausted steam would then be collected and cooled with a water condensing network. The re-condensed water would be brought to ambient temperature before returning the water back to Shoshone Lake. This entire process would be done in parallel for all 100 of the copper cylinders simultaneously. In so doing, all 1000 Arabelle stream turbines would be generating power at the same time. This electrical power would be put onto the nationwide power grid, supplying electrical energy to the entire USA, and possibly beyond.

Large stores of natural hydrogen may exist all over the world, like oil and gas — but not in the same places

Monday, April 3rd, 2023

Hydrogen almost never turns up in oil operations, and it wasn’t thought to exist within the Earth much at all, but a 108-meter borehole in Mali yielded 98% hydrogen:

The Malian discovery was vivid evidence for what a small group of scientists, studying hints from seeps, mines, and abandoned wells, had been saying for years: Contrary to conventional wisdom, large stores of natural hydrogen may exist all over the world, like oil and gas — but not in the same places. These researchers say water-rock reactions deep within the Earth continuously generate hydrogen, which percolates up through the crust and sometimes accumulates in underground traps. There might be enough natural hydrogen to meet burgeoning global demand for thousands of years, according to a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) model that was presented in October 2022 at a meeting of the Geological Society of America.


Critically, natural hydrogen may be not only clean, but also renewable. It takes millions of years for buried and compressed organic deposits to turn into oil and gas. By contrast, natural hydrogen is always being made afresh, when underground water reacts with iron minerals at elevated temperatures and pressures. In the decade since boreholes began to tap hydrogen in Mali, flows have not diminished, says Prinzhofer, who has consulted on the project. “Hydrogen appears, almost everywhere, as a renewable source of energy, not a fossil one,” he says.


One kilogram of hydrogen holds as much energy as a gallon of gasoline (just under 4 liters). But at ambient pressures, that same kilogram of hydrogen occupies more space than the drum of a typical concrete mixing truck. Pressurized tanks can hold more but add weight and costs to vehicles. Liquefying hydrogen requires chilling it to –253°C — usually a disqualifying expense.

These storage issues — along with a lack of pipelines and distribution systems — are the main reasons why, in the race to electrify cars, batteries have won out over fuel cells, which convert hydrogen to electricity.


The oil and gas industry has punctured Earth with millions of wells. How could it have overlooked hydrogen for so long? One reason is that hydrogen is scarce in the sedimentary rocks that yield oil and gas, such as organic-rich shales or mudstones. When compacted and heated, the carbon molecules in those rocks consume any available hydrogen and form longer chain hydrocarbons. Any hydrogen the oil encounters as it migrates to a porous “reservoir” rock such as a sandstone tends to react to form more hydrocarbons. Hydrogen can also react with oxygen in rocks to form water or combine with carbon dioxide to form “abiotic” methane. Microbes gobble it up to make yet more methane.

Even if the hydrogen survives, geologists thought, it should not accumulate. Hydrogen is the smallest molecule of all: It can leak through minerals and even metals. If Earth were producing hydrogen, it seemed unlikely to hang around.

And so, historically, when well loggers cataloged their borehole emanations, they rarely bothered to measure for hydrogen.


Yet the hints were there for those who did look. According to Zgonnik, a geochemist who recently published a review of natural hydrogen, the first scientific discussion of it dates to 1888, when Dmitri Mendeleev, the father of the periodic table, reported hydrogen seeping from cracks in a coal mine in Ukraine. Zgonnik, who was born and raised in Ukraine, says reports of hydrogen are relatively common throughout the former Soviet Union — because Soviet researchers were looking for it. They held to a now discredited theory that would have required significant amounts of natural hydrogen to produce oil from nonliving processes rather than from ancient life.

Ozempic and Wegovy do help people lose weight

Saturday, April 1st, 2023

The popularity of GLP-1 receptor agonists, like Ozempic and Wegovy, has skyrocketed, because they do help people lose weight:

Though a certain amount of lean loss is inevitable with significant weight reduction (usually about 25% of total weight loss), the goal is to increase the body’s overall proportion of lean mass – in other words, to improve body composition.


However, from the information we can scrape together based on sub-cohort data, these “miracle drugs” start to look a bit less miraculous. In 2021’s STEP 1 trial — the first trial demonstrating the efficacy of semaglutide as a treatment for adult obesity — a subset of 140 patients underwent DEXA scans for body composition analysis. Among these patients, lean mass accounted for approximately 39% of total weight loss — substantially higher than ideal. In a substudy of 178 patients from the SUSTAIN 8 trial on semaglutide as a diabetes treatment, the average proportion of lean mass loss was nearly identical at 40%, despite lower doses and less total weight loss than in the STEP 1 trial.

America really is the greatest country in the world

Wednesday, March 29th, 2023

Around the wide world, Scott Alexander notes, all cultures share a few key features:

Anthropologists debate the precise extent, but the basics are always there. Language. Tools. Marriage. Family. Ritual. Music. And penis-stealing witches.

Nobody knows when the penis-stealing witches began their malign activities. Babylonian texts include sa-zi-ga, incantations against witchcraft-induced impotence. Ancient Chinese sources describe suo yang, the penis retracting into the body because of yin/yang imbalances. But the first crystal-clear reference was the Malleus Maleficarum, the 15th-century European witch-hunters’ manual. It included several chapters on how witches cast curses that apparently (though not actually) remove men’s penises.

In 2001, journalist Frank Bures came across an unusual BBC article about a mob that had killed twelve people in Nigeria, believing them to be penis-stealing witches, and then, few months later, he came across a similar article about five people in Benin. He travels the world looking for cases:

I want you to picture the scene. An American journalist has been traveling the world in search of a dying variety of witchcraft. Now he’s reached the end of the line, the wildest and most primitive region of China. With great difficulty, he has procured an interpreter. Together, they consult a shaman, who sends them on a quest to find a second, wiser shaman who specializes in ghosts. After many trials and tribulations, he reaches the second, wiser, ghost-specialist shaman, who invites him into his home, filled with strange charms and magical images. “Tell me your question,” says the shaman. And Bures asks: “What do you know about penis-stealing witches?”

…and the shaman answers: “Haha, no one believes in that stuff anymore.”

As a nature documentary, Nurse’s book The Geography of Madness is kind of a bust, Alexander notes, but he rescues it with his insight into culture-bound mental illness:

A culture-bound mental illness is one that only affects people who know about it, and especially people who believe in it. Often it doesn’t make sense from a scientific point of view (there’s no such thing as witches, and the penis can’t retract into the body). It sometimes spreads contagiously: someone gets a first case, the rest of the village panics, and now everyone knows about it / believes in it / is thinking about it, and so many other people get it too.

Different cultures have their own set of culture-bound illnesses. Sometimes there are commonalities — many cultures have something something penis something witches — but the details vary, and a victim almost always gets a case that matches the way their own culture understands it.

THESE PEOPLE ARE NOT MAKING IT UP. I cannot stress this enough. There are plenty of examples of people driving metal objects through their penis in order to pull it out of their body or prevent the witches from getting it or something like that. There is no amount of commitment to the bit which will make people drive metal objects through their penis. People have died from these conditions — not the illness itself, which is fake, but from wasting away worrying about it, or taking dangerous sham treatments, or getting into fights with people they think caused it. If you think of it as “their unconscious mind must be doing something like making it up, but their conscious mind believes it 100%”, you will be closer to the truth, though there are various reasons I don’t like that framing.


The phrase “run amok” comes from Malaysia, where it referred to a specific phenomenon: some person who had been unhappy for a long time would suddenly snap, kill a bunch of people, then say they had no memory of doing it. Malaysian culture totally rolls with this and doesn’t hold it against them; the unhappiness is a risk factor for possession by a tiger spirit, which commits the killings. Although Malays have been doing this since at least the 1700s, there are some fascinating parallels with modern US mass shootings that suggest the damn tiger spirits have finally made it to the US common psychological origins.

I have seen exactly one demonic possession case in my ten years as a psychiatrist. The man fell to the ground, mouth foaming, chanting strange syllables and the names of Biblical demons. My attending doctor at the time — one of those people who somehow manages to be an expert in everything — was an expert in demonic possession, and told us that he was in no way psychotic, antipsychotics wouldn’t help him (except insofar as they help everyone by decreasing all behaviors), and he needed to “work through his issues”. The patient was uncooperative — he was only visiting MDs because the local bishop wouldn’t call in an exorcist until he got a psych exam — and eventually left against medical advice.

After going down the list, Bures asks the correct next question: how do we know whether or not our own mental illnesses are just as culture-bound as the Japanese or Malaysians’? Cultures that believe in witches have witch-related culture-bound illnesses; cultures that believe in demons have demon-related ones. We believe in science, so we should expect sciencey-sounding culture-bound illnesses, and these might be hard to tell apart from other, more physical conditions. So how suspicious should we be, and of what?


Anorexia was mostly unknown in the West, until becoming “trendy” in the mid-1800s. During that period, doctors reported high prevalence of anorexia among “hysterics”, but the fad ended after about ten or twenty years, and it went back to being basically unknown. In 1983, famous singer Karen Carpenter died of anorexia, thrusting it back into the national news, and suddenly lots of people (in the West) were anorexic again.

Meanwhile, foreign doctors who trained in the West went back to their home countries, searched far and wide for it, and found almost nothing. The few cases they did see didn’t resemble the typical Western version at all – for example, one Hong Kong psychiatrist was able to find a woman who refused to eat out of grief when a boyfriend left her, but she didn’t think she was fat, or feel any cultural pressure to be thinner. The absence of anorexia abroad was especially surprising since anorexics tend to end up in the hospital with extremely noticeable malnutrition that doesn’t really mimic anything else. It’s not really possible to hide severe anorexia the way you can hide severe depression.

In 1994, Hong Kong got its own Karen Carpenter — a young girl died of anorexia, setting off a national panic and many public awareness campaigns. Near-instantly, anorexia rates shot up to the same level as the West, with the appropriate number of people presenting to hospital ERs with severe malnutrition.


My own experience with sensitization: every so often my house gets infested by ants and some of them crawl on me. Then I get rid of the ants, but even after they’re gone, for a couple of weeks I can still feel hallucinatory ant-crawling feelings on my arms. You can think of this as setting a threshold that balances false positives and false negatives – my nervous system will always be noisy, get random itches, etc, when do I interpret any particular pattern of impulses as a crawling ant? If I set the threshold too high, I will miss real ants; if I set it too low, I will get fake ants. Presumably there’s some optimal threshold, and that threshold is lower when I know there are ants around and probably one will crawl on me soon. Somehow my brain does the proper Bayesian math under the hood, and so I am afflicted with a few weeks of false positives. Honestly I am getting away lucky; in delusional parasitosis this becomes a trapped prior and they feel it forever.

Bodily sensations seem to be especially sensitive to this.


The ancient Romans loved war. If you loved war, and killed a lot of people, that made you glorious. Nobody worried it meant you were a bloodthirsty psychopath. Or if you were, it’s fine! The past twelve emperors were bloodthirsty psychopaths! Their families, concubines, and guards were all bloodthirsty psychopaths! You’ll fit right in! Relatedly, it doesn’t seem like the Romans had PTSD.

In our society, it’s commonly believed that War Is Hell, and if you enjoy it too much, you might be a bloodthirsty psychopath. Relatedly, estimates of what percent of veterans get PTSD range from 15% to 85%. I’m not sure the 85% number is accurate, but if it was, and I was a veteran, and I wasn’t getting PTSD, I might start worrying that this was starting to signal negative things about me. If my unconscious felt the same way, maybe I’d develop a few PTSD symptoms, just to be safe.

We’re conducting a massive experiment in how far you can take this. People now believe that you can be traumatized by hearing someone express the wrong opinion during a college class — and that intellectuals with sensitive souls and diverse equity-loving justice-promoting minorities will be traumatized most of all. I suspect all of this is true, if you believe it.


“Okay, but gender dysphoria?”

Hopefully now the answer is obvious: it is and it isn’t. People have been having gender identity crises since the beginning of time. There’s some evidence some of this is biological; people with closer to opposite-sex hormone profiles and so on are more likely to end up transgender, and very off-base hormone profiles seem to produce gender issues pretty consistently. But in our modern society, which has a category/guess/narrative around this, it seems to happen orders of magnitude more often than in other societies. And in societies with different categories/guesses/narratives, it happens differently — a lot of people who are transgender today would have been cross-dressers or lesbians 30 years ago.


So fine, yes, gender dysphoria shares some resemblance to culture-bound illnesses; I would put it around the same level as anorexia. But be careful: everything shares some resemblance to everything. What if transphobia is our culture’s version of the penis-stealing witch panic? Wise but evil women (gender studies professors) are using incomprehensible black arts (post-modernism) to make people lose their penises. Sure, those people are losing their penises through voluntary sex-change surgery, but this is just another case of the general principle that we replace the magical explanations natural to other cultures with the medicalized explanations natural to our own. And sure, other culture’s panics involved fake/illusory penis loss and ours involves the real thing, but this is just another case of the general principle that modern Western civilization turns other culture’s myths into reality. When they were telling tall tales about men who flew like birds, we went ahead and invented the airplane; when they imagined golems, we created working robots. Now we’ve finally gotten around to penis-stealing witches.

America really is the greatest country in the world.

Marriage tranquilizes men and puts them to productive use providing for children

Sunday, February 26th, 2023

The energy and danger in young adolescent men is ancient, Misha Saul notes:

If they enter a polygamous society, one important status game young men will play is wife accumulation.

If they enter a monogamous society, that energy goes elsewhere. In order to be domesticated into monogamy, these wolves must be sedated. Marriage tranquilises men and puts them to productive use providing for children.


Domesticated men — via monogamous marriage and the corresponding decline in testosterone — commit less crime. It’s not that more docile men get married. They become wolves again after a marriage dissolves.


Men in polygamous societies are always on the look out for more wives, so they retain elevated testosterone levels and virility. No wonder some Comanche had such glorious names as “Erection-That-Won’t-Go-Down” (a real example — more on the Comanches later).

The Church took away your slave girls (in a break from its Hebrew forefathers — discussed in detail in a later Part to this series).


The Church enforced monogamous marriage, banning polygamy and incest and also cracking down on divorce.


These policies destroyed Europe’s intensive kin-based institutions.


The Church inherited their land and became the largest landowner in Europe.

Man is born polygamous yet everywhere he is monogamous

Friday, February 24th, 2023

Man is born polygamous yet everywhere he is monogamous, Misha Saul notes:

Not long ago I had my own Fermi moment. I looked at the world around me and asked: Where are all the polygamists?

Consider almost any past empire or civilisation — Mongol, native American, Chinese, Indian, African, old European — and you will find powerful men with many wives. It’s all over the Hebrew Bible. 90% (!) of hunter gather societies around the world practice some degree of polygamy. Yet we look around today and…zilch?


It turns out this is no accident. The WEIRDest People in the World by Joseph Henrich (I’ll call it WEIRD from now) traces how Christianity exterminated the practice over centuries and forged modern, cousin-free, monogamous marriage in the West (hence WEIRD: Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic). In light of Christianity’s now millennia long clamp down — occasionally literally hounding kings over successive popes until they submitted — it’s not so surprising world leaders and billionaires today seem about as monogamous as anyone else. It’s remarkable how potent culture is: what was once as natural to a powerful man as eating is unthinkable to such a man today.


And the fact there is not even 10% or 5% or 1% polygamy may not be an accident. Polygamy might be like poison: a little bit is enough to define the lot. 100% of elite men practicing polygamy is a society with only a bit of polygamy. I’m not even sure what a 100% polygamous society looks like — presumably one reliant on captive wives from helot populations. Which explains why you see ~zero today: you are either a polygamous society (>~0%) or not (~0%).


WEIRD traces Christianity’s march through history to harness powerful men to the yoke of civilisation to forge our modern world. Within that frame lie some even more transgressive nuggets. Marriage literally sedates men — changes their physiology — and puts them to productive use providing for children. Breaking clan ties through the abolition of cousin marriage and the rise of female independence freed the Western man from mediating the world mainly through relationships, allowing him to deal in abstractions (reason, law, systems). This led to an explosion in innovation. In some ways it’s a bleak portrait: the dissolution of family ties and the beginnings of the Anglo age of social atomisation.


The progression of theses might go something like this:

  1. Men are in positions of power and so society is run by men.
  2. Actually, just like man domesticated beast (dogs, horses, oxen, etc), women domesticated man (via monogamous marriage). As the ox ploughs the field, so elite men’s energies have been channeled away from war making and wife collecting to civilisation building.
  3. Actually, monogamous marriage is a powerful cultural phenomenon that solved a civilisation-wide coordination problem of individual men maximising wives and individual women selecting for powerful men. It unleashed a civilisation winning configuration — against the individual interests of both elite men and women — to break clan ties, distribute wives and harness man to build civilisation. It shifted men and women away from their local maxima to a global maximum.

The period from 6000 BC to 2000 BC may be a high point in conflict and violence

Thursday, February 23rd, 2023

Of the skeletal remains of more than 2300 early farmers from 180 sites dating from 8,000 to 4,000 years ago, more than one in ten displayed weapon injuries:

Contrary to the view that the Neolithic era was marked by peaceful cooperation, the team of international researchers say that in some regions the period from 6000BC to 2000BC may be a high point in conflict and violence with the destruction of entire communities.

The findings also suggest the rise of growing crops and herding animals as a way of life, replacing hunting and gathering, may have laid the foundations for formalised warfare.

Researchers used bioarchaeological techniques to study human skeletal remains from sites in Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Spain and Sweden.

The team collated the findings to map, for the first time, evidence of violence across Neolithic Northwestern Europe, which has the greatest concentration of excavated Neolithic sites in the world,

The team from the Universities of Edinburgh, Bournemouth and Lund in Sweden, and the OsteoArchaeological Research Centre in Germany examined the remains for evidence of injuries caused predominantly by blunt force to the skull.

More than ten per cent showed damage potentially caused by frequent blows to the head by blunt instruments or stone axes. Several examples of penetrative injuries, thought to be from arrows, were also found.

Some of the injuries were linked to mass burials, which could suggest the destruction of entire communities, the researchers say.

Many prescription pharmaceuticals retain their full potency for decades beyond their manufacturer-ascribed expiration dates

Tuesday, February 21st, 2023

Eight long-expired medications with 15 different active ingredients were discovered in a retail pharmacy in their original, unopened containers:

All had expired 28 to 40 years prior to analysis. Three tablets or capsules of each medication were analyzed, with each sample tested 3 times for each labeled active ingredient. No analytical standard for homatropine could be found, so that ingredient was not tested.


Twelve of the 14 drug compounds tested (86%) were present in concentrations at least 90% of the labeled amounts, the generally recognized minimum acceptable potency. Three of these compounds were present at greater than 110% of the labeled content. Two compounds (aspirin and amphetamine) were present in amounts of less than 90% of labeled content. One compound (phenacetin) was present at greater than 90% of labeled amounts from 1 medication tested, but less than 90% in another medication that contained that drug.


The Shelf-Life Extension Program (SLEP) checks long-term stability of federal drug stockpiles. Eighty-eight percent of 122 different drugs stored under ideal environmental conditions had their expiration dates extended more than 1 year, with an average extension of 66 months and a maximum extension of 278 months. In our data set, 12 of 14 medications retained full potency for at least 336 months, and 8 of these for at least 480 months.


The most important implication of our study involves the potential cost savings resulting from lengthier product expiration dating. Each dollar spent on SLEP to demonstrate longer than labeled drug stability results in $13 to $94 saved on reacquisition costs. Given that Americans currently spend more than $300 billion annually on prescription medications, extending drug expiration dates could yield enormous health care expenditure savings.

In conclusion, this study provides additional evidence that many prescription pharmaceuticals retain their full potency for decades beyond their manufacturer-ascribed expiration dates. Given the potential cost-savings, we suggest the current practices of drug expiration dating be reconsidered.