Vikings and Climate Change

I remember reading Albion’s Seed and thinking “These waves of migration seem roughly tied to the pulses of Europe’s Little Ica Age. Surely I’m not the only person noting that?” I wasn’t a historian, and I wasn’t prepared to undertake the research required to substantiate such an observation, but I had a sense that I wasn’t alone. Ars Technica has a arstechnica on some recent work exploring the relationship between the great Viking raids at the end of the first millenium CE and possible changes in the climate. What I like about the work being done, as reported here, is that it isn’t a “climate change done it” approach. I have encountered way too many strictly biological or environmental explanations to phenomena that are better considered a mixture of nature and culture at best, if not a very complex cultural dynamic. Could climate change lead to population pressures that might lead to raiding? Sure, but it could also have been “Hey, it sure easier stealing from other people than making our own way.” The truth is almost always somewhere in between.


What a terrific idea: Lincoln Mullen has uploaded [sample data sets for historians learning R][cran]. His note states that “they include population, institutional, religious, military, and prosopographical data suitable for mapping, quantitative analysis, and network analysis.” I would love to see something similar done for folklore studies, and I’ll see what I can to make that happen.

In the mean time, many thanks to Lincoln for doing this. One of the crossroads many at which individuals find themselves when they begin the journey towards computation is not having any material with which to work. Quite often, writers describing their work assume that everyone already has a corpus of material with which to work. Or, we act as though anyone is going to pull stuff off [Project Gutenberg][pg]. A controlled data set gives new users a chance to try things out and get predictable results.


40 Maps

Vox has a great series of *40 Maps That Explain X*. So far they have:

* [40 Maps That Explain the Roman Empire](,
* [40 Maps That Explain World War I](, and
* [40 Maps That Explain the Middle East](

Computer History Museum

I love old product literature from the thirties, forties, fifties, and sixties. It’s partly the modernist design impulse; it’s partly the optimism about the future. Mix in the possibility of computation and you have the [Computer History Museum’s collection of brochures](

The Plague of Justinian

Sometimes I enjoy the role that technology can play in science in a very uncritical way, and so I am have not considered what may or may not have been left out, or assumed or left unconsidered, in the [coverage by the Guardian][] of what DNA sequencing of victims of the Plague of Justinian reveals about the origins and vectors of the bubonic plague.

As the Guardian notes, “The Plague of Justinian occurred in the sixth century AD and resulted in more than 100 million deaths by some estimates. Named after the Byzantine emperor Justinian I, the outbreak was one of the first recorded plague pandemics.”

Previous research had already established that the plague was *Yersinia pestis*, but the new research “showed the strains from the [Justinian] plague victims were distinct from those involved in the Black Death, the later pandemic which killed an estimated 60% of the European population.” (Is this a new figure? I thought previous estimates were one-quarter to one-third.)

The conclusion? “The Justinianic strains appear to be an evolutionary “dead end” when compared with modern strains, and most likely originated from Asia and then spread to Europe along trade routes such as the Silk Road.”

[coverage by the Guardian]:

History Repeats Insanity

At the very beginning of _The Tacit Dimension_, Michael Polanyi reminds his reader why he turned to philosophy:

> I first met questions of philosophy when I came up against the Soviet ideology under Stalin which denied justification to the pursuit of science. I remember a conversation I had with [Nikolai] Bukharin in Moscow in 1935. Though he was heading toward his fall and execution three years later, he was still a leading theoretician of the Communist party. When I asked him about the pursuit of pure science in Soviet Russia, he said that pure science was a morbid symptom of a class society; under socialism the conception of science pursued for its own sake would disappear, for the interests of scientists would spontaneously turn to problem of the current Five-Year Plan. [3]

How ironic that modern capitalism seems to be asserting much the same thing. (And now, now it seeks to erode general education in favor of “workforce development”.)

More on [Bukharin]( (Wikipedia).

Personality Type(s)

Just to see where, or what, I am now, I took a redacted version of the Myers-Briggs Inventory, the one available over at [HumanMetrics]( I think I scored pretty close to what I scored on the complete inventory when I took it back in the late 90s: [INFP](

* Introverted (11%)
* iNtuitive (38%)
* Feeling (12%)
* Perceiving (11%)

Maybe I was INTJ last time, but I was equally borderline. The only strong tendency here is **intuitive**, which I think was also the case a decade and a half ago.

So, apparently, sensing is out.

Find out for yourself.