Measure, and Number, and Weight

Reference to the last part of Wisdom 11:20 or 11:21—different versions seem to divide the verse in different spots. It was a very popular verse in the Middle Ages (because there was a reason they invented science), and led to illustrations like this one, in the Toledo Bible.

Thoughts upon, well, measures, and numbers, and weight.
  • In light of those newer numbers for the Crusades, I've redone that comparison I did a while back, comparing the Crusades' death-toll to that of World War II. They still would've had to kill 8.25 million people to depopulate the world to the same extent; 2 million instead of 1.5 million brings them to 24% the global-depopulation rate of World War II, and 163 years instead of 300 means the Crusades took 27 times as long, not 50 times. That means our optimism, as people that fought World War II, is only 112.1 times as naïve as that of the medievals, as people who fought the Crusades, not 275 times.

    But again, human life is not subject to economic scarcity, since every person that dies is unique (i.e., scarcity is always total for every human being). If Alice lives in a city of 50,000 people, and Bob lives in a city of 6 million, it's not 120 times worse if Alice kills someone than if Bob does. The fact is that 35 times as many people were deliberately or negligently killed by World War II as were killed by the Crusades, and the Crusades were 163 years long, vs. six, so that "35 times as much slaughter" actually translates to "950 times (!!) the rate of killing".

    While I'm at it, 2 million dead in 163 years of Crusades plus 3.3 million dead in 116 years of Hundred Years (Rounded Down) War, comes to 5.3 million dead in 279 years. Meanwhile the Thirty Years (On the Dot) War killed about 7.25 million (taking the average of the estimates). I.e., the definitive "Enlightenment" conflict killed 37% more people, in 10.75% as long, i.e. at 12.7 times the rate, as the two biggest medieval wars, combined.
  • Speaking of death tolls, apparently the Mongol conquest estimates should be revised sharply downward, since a lot of the assumptions involve "reductions between Chinese censuses" and it's obviously difficult to take a census of territories you lost to the Horde. Apparently a more realistic number is 15 million between 1206 and 1368, which still comes to 7.5 times as much killing as the Crusades. It's 2.83 times as much killing as "the Crusades and Hundred Years War combined", in 58% as long, which comes to 4.87 times the kill rate.

    The Mongols were actually less killtacular than Hideyoshi's invasion of Joseon Korea—half as killtacular, in fact, they killed 13 and 7/11 times as many people in 27 times as long, which comes to 50/99 or just under 51% as much killing over time. Which means the old number is only 1/99, or just over 1%, higher than Hideyoshi's kill rate! (Well, half the dead in that war, c. 90% of them Koreans, were killed by the Chinese—who were Korea's ally at the time—but still, it shows that the Mongols weren't unusually kill-crazed for Asia. Hideyoshi's ambition was to march roughshod over China and put a Japanese dynasty in place, if it'd taken him 162 years he would've done it, except the Chinese and Yi Sunshin stopped him at Joseon.)

    Suddenly Hideyoshi's treatment in Sengoku Basara doesn't seem so over-the-top. "The world you would create has no room for anyone but soldiers."
  • Remember couple years ago, when I said the decimal equivalents of the sevenths-fractions don't matter to anyone but Bungee employees? It's true, but hang on a minute.

    I found out, the sevenths, as decimals, have a very weird property. Namely? They all have the same digits. Having a denominator that's a prime number that is not a factor of the numerical base (in base-fourteen they'd be expressed the same way the fifths are in decimal), their decimal expression is repeating. But they always repeat the same six digits, and five of them are "7", "14", and "28" (the last one is "5", for some reason, possibly having to do with the numerical base being 2×5).

    1/7 is (0.)"142857" repeating, 2/7 is (0.)"285714" repeating, 3/7 is (0.)"428571" repeating (every time after that, notice, the "4" is preceded by "1", i.e. "14"), 4/7 is (0.)"571428" repeating, 5/7 is (0.)"714285" repeating, and 6/7 is (0.)"857142" repeating (again, every time after the first the "8" is preceded by "2"). And like I said, in base-14 they'd be .2, .4, .6, .8, .A, and .C (or however you write "ten" and "twelve" when "10" and "12" represent fourteen and sixteen, respectively).
  • A search of the blog suggests I haven't mentioned it, but I changed the zled measurements to be based around 120, rather than 144, "long hundreds" instead of grosses. Because zledo have ten fingers and therefore will also like fives and tens, and 120 is divisible by almost every number 144 is (except 9 and 16, since it's not the square of the product of their roots), but 144 isn't divisible by 5 or 10.
  • One thing that always strikes me as odd is that often, the "older", more "primitive" ships in many SF settings are smaller. But, look at Project Daedalus or Longshot or the Frisbee antimatter-rocket—these things are huge! They have to carry everything along with them, they're civilization-defining works on par with the Great Wall of China or the entire US Interstate highway-system. As space-travel gets easier, especially if your setting includes FTL, ships won't have to carry as much, since they're no longer setting up in the Great Unknown with no help available for decades. The newer ships would probably, in general, be smaller.

    Size, of course, would ultimately be determined by function. Entry vehicles are space-planes, system-ships have to be able to hold the tankage for voyages of several AU (or rather, to accelerate to a speed where those voyages are relatively convenient). Starships' size will be determined by how you have interstellar travel work—in mine, for instance, there's FTL, but you have to get out to a given range from a star (roughly the semimajor axis of Pluto's orbit, for Sol) or your space-fold will cause topological defects. So the starships are huge, with massive tankage, so they can get out to a distance of dozens of AUs in a timely manner.
  • Remember a few posts back, when I said a zled the same size as a human would weigh 104 kilos, thanks to his extra muscle mass? Yeah, but, some of you probably thought (I would've), zledo aren't the same size as humans, they're bigger. So what're the real numbers?

    An average male zled stands 194 centimeters with his heels flat, and weighs 147 kilos. That is the average height and weight on the Dallas Cowboys offensive line. An average female zled stands 175 centimeters with her heels flat, and weighs 97 kilos, which is toward the smaller end of women's Olympic shot-putters, e.g. Elisângela Adriano.

    Of course, raw height-to-weight numbers don't tell the whole story; not even percent muscle-mass does that. A male puma, for example, is about the same size as an average female human, and about three-quarters more of its mass is made up of muscle (a bit over 60% compared to c. 36%—we'll say 63% vs 36% to make the ratio tidy). An average woman, however, not only cannot jump over a six-foot fence while carrying a golden retriever, as a puma can, she isn't anywhere near being able to, forget about being four-sevenths of the way there, which is the difference of their muscle-masses.
  • Apparently archaeologists actually find all the traces of "behavioral modernity" in Homo sapiens-associated sites at least as far back as the Middle Paleolithic. Details are here. However, the writer of that article seems to try to make the evidence say too much, claiming that the presence of these "modern" traits at older levels means there was no "behavioral modernity" revolution. But...notice how the "modernity" of those Middle Paleolithic (and maybe earlier) sites "appears at a few sites or for a few thousand years in one region or another, and then it vanishes"?

    But it doesn't vanish in the Upper Paleolithic. While there are always going to be survivals of older technology (the author of that paper teaches flintknapping), that doesn't affect the fact that "current" technology changes. While the "Upper Paleolithic Revolution" is not the sharp, sudden break it was once characterized as, and it certainly can't be attributed to a physiological change, the fact that what was once done only localized and temporarily was now done all over and on a sustained basis...is pretty much what we mean by "revolution", actually. People had had factories from Roman times, and medieval Europe had mechanical saws and cam-driven automated hammers . But it wasn't the basis of their whole system of manufacture, which is why we call the "Industrial Revolution" a revolution.

    One gets the definite impression that article is claiming more than the data actually support, possibly because "there was no Upper Paleolithic Revolution" sounds more like a breakthrough than "behavioral modernity is not an all-or-nothing proposition, but the gradual adoption, on a widespread, longterm basis, of practices that had previously been isolated and sporadic". Nuance is the bane of a press-release, although some claim to find a use for it in academic discourse. Which one is science-writing supposed to be, again?
  • The size-difference between the zled sexes, with females c. 66% the mass of males, is unheard of for mammals that mate for life, as zledo and their close relatives do (they're basically jackals, even though they look like cats). But zledo are not mammals—they're only even animals in the Aristotelian sense, since "animals" as modern biology defines the concept have DNA (there is, by the way, a taxonomic level higher than "kingdom"—"biosphere"). Anyway there are monogamous birds, the raptors, with that ratio of size-dimorphism—it's just the females that are bigger. Among the several theories as to why female raptors are bigger than males, the theory that seems most applicable to the opposite size-ratio is that smaller males are more agile, and thus more able to catch birds (bird-hunting raptors have the greatest size-dimorphism), which they bring to their brooding mates. Presumably, therefore, zled males being larger could evolve to let them take more of some type of prey ("which they bring to their brooding nursing mates"), which thus conferred an evolutionary advantage.

    Of course, you can explain anything as conferring an evolutionary advantage, even opposite traits; that facet of Darwinian analysis sometimes leaves a bad taste in my mouth. In one of the short stories on my DeviantArt account, over there on the right, that is explicitly identified as the analysis of the zled scientists, who happen also to be monks; I do not mention it but they do actually add the caveat that that would be a theory of how "males bigger than females" is selected for in a monogamous species, if it is. As Stephen Jay Gould was known to point out—the "cosmogonic 'just-so story' myth" form of Darwinian analysis famously irritated him—some traits that aren't actually selected for may "piggy-back" with traits that are. Gould even had a name for such traits, "spandrels", by analogy with an architectural feature, the triangular area at the margin of an arch. Spandrels are commonly decorated, but they do not exist as a decorative element—they exist because of the nature of arches and domes. (I don't know that any size-dimorphism, in any species no matter what its mating strategy, is or is not a spandrel—but it could be. Bonobos, for example, have an even greater size-dimorphism than chimps, but bonobo males do not fight off rivals, while chimp males do. "Big males fighting off rivals" is commonly offered as the theory for chimp size-dimorphism, but what about bonobo dimorphism?)

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