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Articles to 2015-03-20

First the link to this week’s complete list as HTML and as PDF.

It is tempting to dismiss Smith et al. out of hand. Their method is questionable or at least not widely accepted, but it seems they have been very thorough and have eliminated most sources of error. So what can it mean? Seeing that until the Highy Middle Ages the transport of staple food was marginally feasible only in famines with unsustainably high prices (F.-W. Henning 1994) and that there was no substantial shipping before the Bronze Age, it’s ridiculous to posit it for the Mesolithic. Almost certainly that single core has to be a fluke striking a very exceptional place. Even so, what can be the event behind it? It won’t be bread or gruel but beer might be a distinct possibility. That would also explain the good preservation of DNA in contradiction to cooking or baking.

The human menopause and the hypothesized grandmother effect are a hotly debated topic in anthropology. So it’s not without interest to have Brent et al. take a closer look at one of the only two other species also known to have a menopause.

Du Toit et al. offer yet another confirmation for the recent unprecedented epidemic of allergies being a result of too much cleanliness and too little stimulation.

Damisch et al. is of course related to placebos in medicine, but also the basics of religion. If one accepts, that at the bottom of religious ideas there is an over-sensitive pattern recognition running amok and attributing trees and rocks with feelings, purpose, and intention, it still leaves the question how rituals, prayers, and supplications can persist and thrive. Here is at least part of the answer.

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