January, 2010


28
Jan 10

Two Types of Fighters?

One thing I’ve noticed is that experienced fighters tend to fall into one of two groups.

Group #1 is made up of experienced fighters who don’t have much of an ego anymore (with respect to fighting) and don’t feel they have anything to prove anymore. They know they’re tough (based on much experience). They don’t start fights. The let a lot of things “slide”. They’ll fight if provoked, but won’t start it.

Group #2 is made up of what I’ll call “hot heads” who like starting fights with others.

But while reading the paper pointed to in my face of a fighter post I came across this….

Although a tournament to determine the targets’ actual fighting ability would be neither ethical nor practical, we do know the number of fights target males reported to have had during the last 4 years (electronic supplementary material). If more formidable men are more likely to initiate fights or less likely to avoid them (because they are more likely to win), then the number of fights a man has been in would be a rough index of his actual formidability. Indeed, men who were seen as tougher had been in more fights: there was a correlation of r=0.30 (p=0.02) between average toughness scores and the targets’ actual fighting behaviour. This means that perceptions of a man’s fighting ability track a real world behaviour that is a plausible index of his actual formidability.

(Emphasis mine.)

My experience is that the toughest guys tend not to get in fights very often (unless it is somehow part of their job). The reason is that most people wouldn’t dare get in a fight with them.

If you’ve seen guys of this toughness class, you’ll notice people (who don’t know them) will avert their gaze if the toughest guys makes eye contact with them. Many people will move out of their way.

Now the toughest guys do get into fights from time to time. But, based on my experience, I’d imagine it’s a lot less than others a little below their toughness class.

Thus I don’t think it is a good idea to use the number of fights a person has had “during the last 4 years” as a proxy for toughness.

Although testing fighting ability directly wold be a much better, if you want to look at a person’s fighting history, at least, only count the fights they didn’t loose (or weigh the fights they lost less). Or better, don’t restrict it to the last 4 years, but count all the fights they’ve had throughout their whole life. (That way if the fighter is now in “group #1″ mention at the beginning of this article, you still capture them too.)


28
Jan 10

Upper Body Strength And Fighting Prowess

As a follow up to my last post on the face of a fighter, there’s a part of the paper it points out that talks about the belief that upper body strength is the or one of the most important factors for human fighting prowess. Here’s the relevant except….

Anatomical evidence supports the view that, for ancestral humans, the single most important factor driving the differential ability to inflict costs was upper-body strength. In humans, the view that upper-body strength is more relevant for fighting than lower-body strength is empirically supported by the considerable sexual dimorphism in human upper-body size and strength (for review see Lassek & Gaulin in preparation). Men, for example, have approximately 75 per cent more muscle mass than women in the arms, but only 50 per cent more muscle mass in legs. Although ancestral humans were zoologically unusual in their use of tools in some types of aggression, the force driving the weapon remains largely a function of upper-body strength (Brues 1959).

Given that upper body strength seems to be greatest with Mesomorphs, and that Somatotypes have a heredity component, it would seem that thus upper body strength will have a heredity component.

Something not surprising to me, since I’ve observed (in my personal experience) that fighters tend to run in the family.


28
Jan 10

Face Of A Fighter

One of the topics that interests me is the science around fighting and fighting prowess. This study is thus of interest. It presents evidence that people can, in a nut shell, tell if someone is “tough” just based on looking at their faces.

These findings will not be surprising to fighters, I suspect. Who (based on my personal experience) can usually tell who else is a fighter.

(It’s an open access paper, so everyone can read it.)

"Human adaptations for the visual assessment of strength and fighting ability from the body and face"…

Abstract

Selection in species with aggressive social interactions favours the evolution of cognitive mechanisms for assessing physical formidability (fighting ability or resource-holding potential). The ability to accurately assess formidability in conspecifics has been documented in a number of non-human species, but has not been demonstrated in humans. Here, we report tests supporting the hypothesis that the human cognitive architecture includes mechanisms that assess fighting ability—mechanisms that focus on correlates of upper-body strength. Across diverse samples of targets that included US college students, Bolivian horticulturalists and Andean pastoralists, subjects in the US were able to accurately estimate the physical strength of male targets from photos of their bodies and faces. Hierarchical linear modelling shows that subjects were extracting cues of strength that were largely independent of height, weight and age, and that corresponded most strongly to objective measures of upper-body strength—even when the face was all that was available for inspection. Estimates of women’s strength were less accurate, but still significant. These studies are the first empirical demonstration that, for humans, judgements of strength and judgements of fighting ability not only track each other, but accurately track actual upper-body strength.

(Emphasis mine.)

UPDATE: I have two followups to this after I read the paper more thoroughly….


28
Jan 10

Man Brutally Beaten By Vancouver Police

With the 2010 Olympics set to take places soon, the world’s eyes’ are on Vancouver city, on the west coast of Canada. A report in the National Post tells a horrific story of a brutal beating of a Vancouver man — Yao Wei — by plainclothes Vancouver police who showed up at his front door. The worst of it is that Yao Wei wasn’t even the person they were looking for. (They were knocking on the wrong door!) Yao Wei did not resist arrest, but was still brutally beat by Vancouver police.

A 44-year-old man whose face was left swollen and battered after he was arrested in a case of mistaken identity did not resist arrest, Vancouver police said yesterday — contradicting an earlier version of events offered by police.
[...]
The officers apparently didn’t realize there were two suites in the home and the complainant was actually Mr. Wu’s tenant, who lives in a ground-floor suite.
[...]
“The cops didn’t ask clearly — not even ID me or anything — before they started beating me,” Mr. Wu said through a translator to the Ming Pao newspaper.
[...]
Mr. Wu said that before he could ask who the officers at his door were, he was dragged outside and beaten.

“My T-shirt was torn,” Mr. Wu said. “I was beaten for quite a while before I was handcuffed. [I] felt pain to my head and body. When I touched my head and face with my hands … I felt my hands were all wet … they were full of blood.”
[...]
Yesterday at a news conference, police said in a statement that Mr. Wu did not resist the officers.


27
Jan 10

Photon Travelling At Faster-Than-Light Speeds?

Researchers at the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI), a collaboration of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the University of Maryland at College Park, can speed up photons (particles of light) to seemingly faster-than-light speeds through a stack of materials by adding a single, strategically placed layer.

This experimental demonstration confirms intriguing quantum-physics predictions that light’s transit time through complex multilayered materials need not depend on thickness, as it does for simple materials such as glass, but rather on the order in which the layers are stacked. This is the first published study of this dependence with single photons.

Strictly speaking, light always achieves its maximum speed in a vacuum, or empty space, and slows down appreciably when it travels through a material substance, such as glass or water. The same is true for light traveling through a stack of dielectric materials, which are electrically insulating and can be used to create highly reflective structures that are often used as optical coatings on mirrors or fiber optics.
[...]
What the JQI researchers are seeing can be explained by the wave properties of light. In this experiment, the light begins and ends its existence acting as a particle — a photon. But when one of these photons hits a boundary between the layers of material, it creates waves at each surface, and the traveling light waves interfere with each other just as opposing ocean waves cause a riptide at the beach. With the H and L layers arranged just right, the interfering light waves combine to give rise to transmitted photons that emerge early. No faster than light speed information transfer occurs because, in actuality, it is something of an illusion: only a small proportion of photons make it through the stack, and if all the initial photons were detected, the detectors would record photons over a normal distribution of times.

(Link)


27
Jan 10

Dinosaur Feather Colors

Seems there is evidence to suggest that at the very least some dinosaurs had feather colors that were orange, black and white in banded and other patterns.

Dinosaur books have become more colourful affairs of late, with the dull greens, browns and greys of yesteryear replaced by vivid hues, stripes and patterns. This has largely been a question of artistic licence. While fossils may constrain an artist’s hand in terms of size and shape, they haven’t provided any information about colour. But that is starting to change.

The fossils of some small meat-eating dinosaurs were covered in filaments that are widely thought to be the precursors of feathers. And among these filaments, a team of Chinese and British scientists have found the distinctive signs of melanosomes, small structures that are partly responsible for the colours of modern bird feathers.

Melanosomes are packed with melanins, pigments that range from drab blacks and greys to reddish-brown and yellow hues. Their presence in dinosaur filaments has allowed Fucheng Zhang to start piecing together the colours of these animals, millions of years after their extinction. For example, Zhang thinks that the small predator Sinosauropteryx had “chestnut to reddish-brown” stripes running down its tail and probably a similarly coloured crest down its back. Meanwhile, the early bird Confuciusornis had a variety of black, grey, red and brown hues, even within a single feather.

(Link)


27
Jan 10

On Visualization

A nice little presentation about visualization from Matthias Shapiro.

(Link)

(H/T Political Math)


27
Jan 10

Bill Gates is an Aspie?

I’ve seen and heard it claimed that Bill Gates is an Aspie. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of Bill taking the AQ test or Aspie quiz, let alone posting his results from said tests. So it seems to me that it’s just speculative thus far.

However, there is evidence that is consistent with Bill Gates being an Aspie. Take a look at the following video of Bill rocking back and forth in a business meeting. This is a stereotypical stimming behavior for Aspies.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qNVe024RvI

(Link)

(H/T Autism Behavior Management)


27
Jan 10

Differentiating Ancient DNA from modern DNA contamination

[N]ew techniques were used in sequencing the genome of a young adult male known as the Markina Gora skeleton [...]
[...]
When compared with modern DNA, ancient DNA tends to show mutations at the end of molecules, the molecules break at different points in the DNA strand, and fragments of ancient DNA often are shorter than modern DNA fragments, Paabo and his Russian associates wrote in a recent issue of Current Biology.

(Link)


26
Jan 10

One Third Of Women In U.S. Military Get Raped

According to the NPR

In 2003, a survey of female veterans found that 30 percent said they were raped in the military. A 2004 study of veterans who were seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder found that 71 percent of the women said they were sexually assaulted or raped while serving. And a 1995 study of female veterans of the Gulf and earlier wars, found that 90 percent had been sexually harassed.

This really isn’t surprising. (And note that I don’t say that as a justification for rape. Rape is immoral. It is just as I said, it isn’t surprising.) For one, this is one of the classic reasons why people have traditionally argued against women being in the military: that women shouldn’t be in the military because they will get raped.

A little speculation though… I think the type of cognition that one develops that allows them to kill and murder, and worse (as one would need to wage war) also will tend to allow them to rape. That you cannot have the former without the later.