Quotulatiousness

January 17, 2014

Have you read these books or have you lied about having read them?

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:16

Ben Domenech discusses the books that “everyone must read”, but very few have actually done more than turn the pages a bit, or perhaps scanned the Wikipedia entry for:

The truth is, there are lots of books no one really expects you to read or finish. War and Peace? The Canterbury Tales? The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire? Announcing that you’ve finished those books might surprise a lot of people and make them think you’re abnormal or anti-social, unless you’re an English or History major who took their reading very, very seriously. Perhaps the shift to ebook format will diminish this reading by osmosis – and book sales, too – since people can afford to be honest about their preference for 50 Shades over The Red and the Black since their booklists are hidden in their Kindles and iPads.

So here’s my attempt to drill this down to a more realistic list: books that are culturally ubiquitous, reading deemed essential, writing everyone has heard of… that you’d be mildly embarrassed to admit you’ve never read.

10. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand: The libertarian moment has prompted a slew of people to lie about reading Ayn Rand, or to deploy the term “Randian” as a synonym for, say, competitive bidding in Medicare reform without even bothering to understand how nonsensical that is.

9. On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin: Many pro-evolutionists online display no understanding that the pro-evolution scientific community rejects the bulk of Darwin’s initial findings about evolution.

8. Les Miserables, Victor Hugo and A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens: Virtually every bit of literature about the French Revolution could be tied here, though ignorance of it might inspire fun future headlines, such as “De Blasio Brandishes Knitting Needles, Calls For ‘The People’s Guillotine’ To Be Erected In Times Square.”

7. 1984, George Orwell: A great example of a book people think they have read because they have seen a television ad. On Youtube.

6. Democracy in America, Alexis De Tocqueville: Politicians are the worst about this, quoting and misquoting the writings of the Tocqueville without ever bothering to actually read this essential work. But politicians do this a lot – with The Federalist Papers and The Constitution, too.

5. The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith: Smith’s invisible hand is all that many people seem to know about his work, but his contributions were more sophisticated than that, rejecting a simplistic view of self-interest and greed as the motivating factors in a healthy economy.

4. Moby Dick, Herman Melville: If you haven’t managed this one yet, consider that William F. Buckley, Jr. did not actually read this until he was 50, remarking then to friends: “To think I might have died without having read it.”

3. The Art of War, Sun Tzu: Misunderstood and misapplied by people who’ve never bothered to read it, Sun Tzu’s advice is as much a guide to war as it is to avoiding combat via deception and guile, and to only fight battles one is certain of winning.

2. The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli: Viewed by people who don’t understand the context as a guide to mendacious political gamesmanship and the use of hypocrisy and cruelty as political tools, Machiavelli’s work is likely a brilliant work of sarcastic trolling which contradicts everything else he wrote in life – which is one reason it was dedicated, sarcastically, to the Medicis who exiled and tortured him.

1. Ulysses, James Joyce: I own this book but have never read it.

Yeah, there are a few books I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never read or, in the wonderful phrase used on the Bujold mailing list, “bounced off”. I’ve read lots of Rand’s non-fiction, but have only ever finished We, the Living in her fiction works. I have read Nineteen Eighty-Four, and own copies of most of the others, but haven’t finished most of them (and haven’t even begun with the Darwin, Dickens, Hugo, or Melville titles).

January 7, 2014

Weinersmith’s Infantapulting Hypothesis

Filed under: Humour, Science — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:07

Published on 6 Jan 2014

Zach Weinersmith, cartoonist behind Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal and soon-to-be father, delivers his theory of adaptive infant aerodynamics.

BAHFest is the Festival of Bad Ad Hoc Hypotheses, a celebration of well-researched, logically explained, and clearly wrong evolutionary theory. The first event was held on October 6, 2013, and we plan to do more in 2014. Additional information is available at http://www.bahfest.com/

November 14, 2013

Scientific facts and theories

Filed under: Environment, Science, Space — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:32

Christopher Taylor wants to help you avoid mis-using the word “fact” when you’re talking about “theories”:

These days, criticizing or questioning statements on science can get you called an idiot or even a heretic; science has become a matter of religious faith for some. If a scientist said it, they believe it, and that’s that. Yet the very nature about science is not to be an authoritative voice, but a method of inquiry; science is about asking questions and wondering if something is valid and factual, not a system of producing absolute statements of unquestioned truth.

It is true that people need that source of truth and it is true that we’re all inescapably religious creatures, so that will find an outlet somewhere. Science just isn’t the proper outlet for it.

[...]

The problem is that there’s no way to test or confirm this theory [plate tectonics]. You can make a model and see it work, you can check out types of rock and examine fault lines, and you can make measurements, but that’s only going to tell you small portions of information in very limited time frames. Because the earth is so huge, and because there are so very many different pressures and influences on everything on a planet, you can’t be sure without observation over time.

And since the theory posits that it would take millions of years to really demonstrate this to be true, humanity cannot test it enough to be certain. So all we’re left with is a scientific theory: a functional method of interpreting data. In other words, it cannot be properly or accurately describe as fact.

This is true about other areas. The word “fact” is thrown around so casually with science and is defended angrily by people who really ought to know better. Cosmology does this a lot. Its a fact that the universe is expanding from an unknown central explosive point (although there is a fair amount of data that’s throwing this into question). We can’t know because we can’t have enough data and there hasn’t been long enough to really test this.

Michael Crichton’s criticism of global warming was along these lines. He didn’t deny anything, he just said its too big and complex a system that we understand far too little about to even attempt to make any absolute or authoritative statements about it. Science has gotten us far beyond our ability to properly measure or interpret the data at hand, but some still keep trying to make absolute statements anyway.

[...]

And that’s the heart of a scientific theory. It isn’t like a geometric theorem (a statement or formula that can be deduced from the axioms of a formal system by means of its rules of inference), or a theory that Sherlock Holmes might develop (a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural). A scientific theory is a system of interpreting data (a coherent group of general propositions used as principles of explanation for a class of phenomena). It’s a step beyond a hypothesis, which is simply speculation or a guess, but is not proven fact.

Confusing theory with fact is really not excusable for an educated person, but some theories are so wedded to worldviews and hopes that they become a matter of argument and even rage. Questioning that theory means you’re an idiot, uneducated, worthless. If you doubt this theory, you’re clearly someone who is wrong about everything and should be totally ignored in life, even showered with contempt.

For all its rich vocabulary, English fails to correctly differentiate among the various uses of the word “theory”, which allows propagandists and outright frauds to confuse the issues and obscure the difference between what science can say about an issue and what believers desperately want to be true.

October 29, 2013

Colby Cosh on IQ

Filed under: Japan, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

In his latest Maclean’s column, Colby Cosh talks about the odd evolutionary advantages that accrue as you get further from the equator:

A new study in the biometric journal Intelligence presents surprising data from Japan that reveal that IQ, imputed from standardized tests given to a large random sample of Japanese 14-year-olds, varies strongly and persistently with latitude. The Japanese are usually thought of — even by themselves — as being quite homogenous ethnically; the myth of the sturdy, super-cohesive “Yamato race” has not yet been entirely obtruded out of existence. But it turns out that the mean IQs of students in Japanese prefectures apparently vary from north to south by two-thirds of a standard deviation — a spread almost as large as the “race gaps” in cognitive performance which trouble education scholars in multicultural countries like ours. Sun-drenched Okinawans, as a group, do not test as well as the snowbound citizens of Akita.

It is an article of liberal faith that IQ is a bogus tool cooked up by white supremacists to justify imperialism and slavery. I am happy to nod along, but the monsters who developed IQ tests certainly never planned on creating strife between the two ends of Honshu Island. Kenya Kura’s study demonstrates the usual statistical connections between IQ and social outcomes, including physical height, income, and divorce and homicide rates. IQ may be a phony racist artifact, but if shoe size predicted life success as well as those stupid little logic puzzles do, every middle-class parent you know would have one of those Brannock foot-measuring thingies mounted proudly on the wall. That is why IQ persists in the top drawer of the psychometrics toolbox.

January 14, 2013

The Muslim worldview and the theory of evolution

Filed under: History, Religion, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:28

Ghaffar Hussain reminds us that historically Muslim societies were much more open to scientific thought than they are now:

So why didn’t these ideas take off and integrate into the fabric of mainstream Muslim thought and society? There are a number of reasons.

Firstly, Muslim empires in the past believed in centralising knowledge rather than disseminating it en masse. Centres of learning, such as Baghdad and Cordoba, had their houses of knowledge in which scientists would work, preserving and developing on, primarily, Hellenistic knowledge. There was no printing press, and even when it did arrive it was rejected, thus such knowledge was largely reserved for an elite audience. When centres of learning were conquered and destroyed, as Baghdad was in 1256 by the Mongols, most of the knowledge was lost too.

Secondly, the religious authorities of the time were largely opposed to ideas being put forward by scientists and other rationalist thinkers such as Ibn Rushd, and before him, Ibn Sina. They felt threatened by non-theological attempts to ascertain truths and Muslim leaders often sided with the religious authorities for political reasons.

Thirdly, literalist and dogmatic strands of Islamic theology have been aggressively promoted all around the Muslim world over the past few decades or ever since huge oil deposits were discovered in the Arabian Gulf. The Saudi state, in an attempt at cultural imperialism, has done its best to mainstream Wahabi thinking in Muslim communities everywhere. The result: a retardation and stagnation of thinking in parts of the world that were already very stagnant.

December 30, 2012

The patron saint of Anarchy

Filed under: History, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:33

Another article from earlier this year looks at the fascinating career of Prince Piotr Kropotkin (who I really only knew of as a fictionalized minor character in L. Neil Smith’s books):

Darwin’s publication of On the Origin of Species sparked major battles. The most famous may have been between science and religion, but there were disputes within science as well. One of the most heated was whether natural selection favored cooperative or competitive behaviors, a battle that still rages today. For almost 100 years, no single person did more to promote the study of the evolution of cooperation than Peter Kropotkin.

Kropotkin traveled the world talking about the evolution of cooperation, which he called “mutual aid,” in both animals and humans. Sometime the travel was voluntary, but often it wasn’t: He was jailed, banned, or expelled from many of the most respectable countries of his day. For he was not only the face of the science of cooperation, he was also the face of the anarchist movement. He came to believe that his politics and science were united by the law of mutual aid: that cooperation was the predominant evolutionary force driving all social life, from microbes to humans.

[. . .]

One of the perks of being the top student at the Corps was that when he completed his studies in 1862, he had first choice of any government appointment. To the utter amazement of his friends and the bewilderment of his father, he requested an appointment in the newly annexed Amur region of Siberia. The odd choice caught the attention of Czar Alexander II, who inquired, “So you go to Siberia? Are you not afraid to go so far?” “No,” Peter replied, “I want to work.” “Well, go,” the Czar told him. “One can be useful everywhere.” And so, on July 27, 1862, he went.

Kropotkin’s adventures during his five years in Siberia were the stuff of movies. He crisscrossed 50,000 miles of the region, often “lying full length in the sled … wrapped in fur blankets, fur inside and fur outside … when the temperature is 40 or 60 degrees below zero …” His job was to inspect the dreaded prisons of Siberia, full of not just criminals but political agitators. He did so dutifully, but with disgust. The border of Siberia, he wrote, should have a sign like that from Dante’s Inferno: “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here.” The rest of his time was devoted to learning more about anarchist philosophy (often from anarchist leaders who had been banished to Siberia) and, most importantly, studying the natural history of animals and humans there.

Kropotkin expected to see the brutal dog-eat-dog world of Darwinian competition. He searched high and low — but nothing. “I failed to find, although I was eagerly looking for it,” Kropotkin wrote, “that bitter struggle for the means of existence, among animals belonging to the same species, which was considered by most Darwinists (though not always by Darwin himself) as the dominant characteristic of the struggle for life, and the main factor of evolution.”

H/T to Derek Jones for the link.

October 28, 2012

Got Milk (mutation)?

Filed under: Environment, Health, History, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:33

Lactose intolerance is part of humankind’s genetic inheritance, which is why the mutation that allowed (some) adult humans to digest milk is of great interest to geneticists:

A genetic mutation appeared, somewhere near modern-day Turkey, that jammed the lactase-production gene permanently in the “on” position. The original mutant was probably a male who passed the gene on to his children. People carrying the mutation could drink milk their entire lives. Genomic analyses have shown that within a few thousand years, at a rate that evolutionary biologists had thought impossibly rapid, this mutation spread throughout Eurasia, to Great Britain, Scandinavia, the Mediterranean, India and all points in between, stopping only at the Himalayas. Independently, other mutations for lactose tolerance arose in Africa and the Middle East, though not in the Americas, Australia, or the Far East.

In an evolutionary eye-blink, 80 percent of Europeans became milk-drinkers; in some populations, the proportion is close to 100 percent. (Though globally, lactose intolerance is the norm; around two-thirds of humans cannot drink milk in adulthood.) The speed of this transformation is one of the weirder mysteries in the story of human evolution, more so because it’s not clear why anybody needed the mutation to begin with. Through their cleverness, our lactose-intolerant forebears had already found a way to consume dairy without getting sick, irrespective of genetics.

[. . .]

A “high selection differential” is something of a Darwinian euphemism. It means that those who couldn’t drink milk were apt to die before they could reproduce. At best they were having fewer, sicklier children. That kind of life-or-death selection differential seems necessary to explain the speed with which the mutation swept across Eurasia and spread even faster in Africa. The unfit must have been taking their lactose-intolerant genomes to the grave.

Milk, by itself, somehow saved lives. This is odd, because milk is just food, just one source of nutrients and calories among many others. It’s not medicine. But there was a time in human history when our diet and environment conspired to create conditions that mimicked those of a disease epidemic. Milk, in such circumstances, may well have performed the function of a life-saving drug.

H/T to Marginal Revolution for the link.

October 15, 2012

Jonathan Kay on bullying

Filed under: Health, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:38

In his National Post column, he responds to a fellow journalist’s column on the topic of bullying:

The appetite to bully cannot be treated as a social sickness, or the product of maladaptive psychological development — which is how it is universally depicted in the media, and in government-funded public-service announcements. Bullying is in our genes. And any effort to fight it must reflect that fact.

The reason that bullying has become part of human evolutionary psychology is that it works — for both males and females — as a strategy to increase one’s attractiveness to the opposite sex, one’s perceived social status, and the cohesiveness of one’s social alliances.

In movies, bullies are shown to be wounded individuals whose bullying is a perverse symptom of the pain that’s been inflicted on them by abusive parents inhabiting poor and broken homes, or by more dominant figures in their social pecking order. There is no evidentiary basis for this stereotype. In fact, research cited by Anthony Volk, Joseph Camilleri, Andrew Dane and Zopito Marini in a 2012 Aggressive Behavior journal article indicate that bullying-induced social dominance is correlated with reduced stress and improved physical health. Amazingly, “bullying is also positively linked with other positive mental traits such as … cognitive empathy, leadership, social competence, and self-efficacy.”

[. . .]

The strategy works: Studies show that boys who bully other boys, on average, gain status with girls, who perceive the boys as more dominant. And girls who bully, on average, receive more positive attention from boys.

As the aforementioned authors report, “Dominance has been found to be positively associated with both bullying and peer nominations of dating popularity among adolescents. Bullying is also positively correlated with peer nominations of power, social prominence, student and teacher ratings of perceived popularity and peer leadership” — all of which translate to social capital, which in turn means social or mating opportunities with the opposite sex.

An earlier post on this topic is here.

September 23, 2012

Are we really smarter than our great-grandparents?

Filed under: History, Science — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:48

An interesting article in the Wall Street Journal looks at the documented phenomenon of rapidly rising IQ in modern humans:

Advanced nations like the U.S. have experienced massive IQ gains over time (a phenomenon that I first noted in a 1984 study and is now known as the “Flynn Effect”). From the early 1900s to today, Americans have gained three IQ points per decade on both the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales and the Wechsler Intelligence Scales. These tests have been around since the early 20th century in some form, though they have been updated over time. Another test, Raven’s Progressive Matrices, was invented in 1938, but there are scores for people whose birth dates go back to 1872. It shows gains of five points per decade.

In 1910, scored against today’s norms, our ancestors would have had an average IQ of 70 (or 50 if we tested with Raven’s). By comparison, our mean IQ today is 130 to 150, depending on the test. Are we geniuses or were they just dense?

[. . .]

Modern people do so well on these tests because we are new and peculiar. We are the first of our species to live in a world dominated by categories, hypotheticals, nonverbal symbols and visual images that paint alternative realities. We have evolved to deal with a world that would have been alien to previous generations.

A century ago, people mostly used their minds to manipulate the concrete world for advantage. They wore what I call “utilitarian spectacles.” Our minds now tend toward logical analysis of abstract symbols — what I call “scientific spectacles.” Today we tend to classify things rather than to be obsessed with their differences. We take the hypothetical seriously and easily discern symbolic relationships.

January 3, 2012

Turkey’s problem with evolution

Filed under: Government, Liberty, Middle East, Religion, Science — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:10

It’s not just certain US states that have strong reservations about Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution:

Worrying news from Turkey, where a government body has moved to block sites that mention evolution or Charles Darwin.

The Council of Information Technology and Communications (BTK) released the “Secure Internet” filtering system on 22 November. Sites that includes the words “evolution” or “Darwin” are filtered if parents select the child-friendly settings on the filter, as though it’s porn. Among the sites banned, according to Reporters Without Borders, is Richard Dawkins’ website richarddawkins.net. The homepage of Adnan Oktar, an Islamic creationist, is still accessible. The system has already attracted controversy: apparently it bans terms linked with the Kurdish separatist movement, and Reporters Without Borders has accused the Turkish government of “backdoor censorship”.

As New Scientist reported in 2009, Turkey is something of a centre for Islamic creationism. The editor of a popular science magazine, Bilim ve Teknik, was sacked that year after trying to run a front-page article celebrating Darwin’s 200th birthday. The aforementioned Oktar, under his pen name of Harun Yahya, claims in large, lavishly illustrated books that evolution is a “disproved” theory (just for the record: it isn’t. It’s the absolute cornerstone of everything in biology, without which nothing makes sense) imposed by Western imperialists to keep Muslims in their place. A 2006 survey of 34 countries put Turkey 34th, just behind the US, in the rate of popular acceptance of evolution.

It’s not safe to go back in the water . . . because of Climate-Change-induced mutant SHARKS!

Filed under: Environment, Humour, Pacific — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:45

James Delingpole has all the scary details:

It had to happen. As if the plight of the polar bear wasn’t punishment enough for our evil, selfish, refusing-to-change-our-lifestyle-because-we’re-addicted-to-oil ways, it now seems that Mother Gaia may have a deadly new weapon up her sleeve: KILLER MUTANT SHARKS!!! (H/T Brown Bess)

So far, admittedly, Mother Gaia is in the very earliest stages of her experimentation:

    Scientists said on Tuesday that they had discovered the world’s first hybrid sharks in Australian waters, a potential sign the predators were adapting to cope with climate change.

    The mating of the local Australian black-tip shark with its global counterpart, the common black-tip, was an unprecedented discovery with implications for the entire shark world, said lead researcher Jess Morgan.

    “It’s very surprising because no one’s ever seen shark hybrids before, this is not a common occurrence by any stretch of the imagination,” Morgan, from the University of Queensland, told AFP.

    “This is evolution in action.”

But those of us who have seen Deep Blue Sea (not the feeble Terence Rattigan rip off, obviously; the proper version, about the mutant killer sharks bred in an undersea laboratory who escape and hunt down the scientists one by one) will know that this is just the beginning.

December 3, 2011

Steve Jones: The problem with belief

Filed under: Britain, Religion, Science — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:06

In the Telegraph, Steve Jones talks about the growing problem that many British students have when the science conflicts with their religious beliefs:

I have tried asking students at quite what point they find my lectures unacceptable: is it the laws of inheritance, mutation, the genes that protect against malaria or cancer, the global shifts in human skin colour, Neanderthal DNA, or the inherited differences between apes and men? Each point is, they say, very interesting — but when I point out that they have just accepted the whole truth of Darwin’s theory they deny that frightful thought. Some take instant umbrage, although a few, thank goodness, do leave the room with a pensive look.

The problem is not with any particular belief system but with belief itself. Sir Francis Bacon once said that: “If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.” In other words, if you are absolutely sure that you are right whatever the evidence, you will end up in trouble; but if you are always willing to change your mind when the facts change you will emerge with a robust view of how the world works.

I sometimes wonder how many of those who pour their inane opinions about creationism into their young pupils’ ears ever consider the damage they are doing; not to my science, but to their religion. Why, when a student begins to learn the simple and convincing facts, rather than the fantasies, about how life emerged, should he believe anything else that his pastor, his rabbi or his imam has told him? Why build a philosophy based on fixed untruths, when we have so many truths, and so many things still to find out?

It’s one thing to be unhappy when the facts change, and quite another to refuse the facts because they conflict with your beliefs.

February 25, 2011

Friday fun link: BoxCar2D

Filed under: Randomness, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:48

Watch the Darwinian struggle of car evolution: http://www.boxcar2d.com/.

The program learns to build a car using a genetic algorithm. It starts with a population of 20 randomly generated shapes with wheels and runs each one to see how far it goes. The cars that go the furthest reproduce to produce offspring for the next generation. The offspring combine the traits of the parents to hopefully produce better cars. Now with the button at the bottom left u can choose to input cars and different terrains. This lets people post their results and even design a car by hand.

It uses a physics library called box2D to simulate the effects of gravity, friction, collisions, motor torque, and spring tension for the car. This lets the car be a wide range of shapes and sizes, while still making the simulation realistic. This is based on the AS3 box2D flash port of the library. Watch the demo of some of its capabilities.

My inspiration for this project comes from qubit.devisland.net/ga. My implementation uses the physics library to make the car a real object instead of two point masses. There are also many extra variables because of the complicated car and axles and the color cleary illustrates the evolution.

H/T to DarkWaterMuse for the link.

February 14, 2011

Your Valentine’s Day date could be worse: you might be a male Anglerfish

Filed under: Randomness, Science — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:19

More bits of mating lore from the animal kingdom here.

December 23, 2010

“Henry . . . mated with an 80-year-old female named Mildred, and last year became a first-time father — at the age of 111″

Filed under: Science — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:30

Meet the Tuatara:

Tuataras are living fossils in more than one sense of the term. Through long-term capture, tag and recapture studies that were begun right after World War II, researchers have found that tuataras match and possibly exceed in attainable life span that other Methuselah of the animal kingdom, the giant tortoise. “Tuataras routinely live to 100, and I couldn’t tell you they don’t live to 150, 200 years or even more,” said Dr. Daugherty.

They live, and live it up. “We know there are females that are still reproducing in their 80s,” said Dr. Daugherty. At the Southland Museum and Art Gallery in Invercargill, New Zealand, a captive male tuatara named Henry, a local celebrity that had been nasty and unruly for decades until a malignancy was removed from his genitals, mated with an 80-year-old female named Mildred, and last year became a first-time father — at the age of 111.

In every way, tuataras are late bloomers and passionate procrastinators. They don’t reach sexual maturity until age 15 to 20. A female needs two or three years to grow a clutch of eggs internally, and takes another seven or eight months after mating before she finally lays those fertilized eggs. Then the eggs incubate in the ground for yet another year before a brood of finger-size baby tuataras will finally hatch. By comparison, the incubation time for the average North American lizard is only four to six weeks. “If these were plants, most lizards would be like weeds, and the tuatara like a sequoia,” said Dr. Daugherty. For all the nobility of the comparison, the tuatara’s stately pace is also its Achilles’ heel, he added. That’s why the reptile today is found only on diligently monitored islands away from the New Zealand mainland, protected from mammals like rats, pigs or stoats that within months could reduce every sequoia equivalent and its seedlings to so much sawdust.

H/T to DarkWaterMuse for the link.

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