Alun Salt boosted

When I think about climate change, I think about the Great Stink.

By 1830, London was the largest, richest city in the world. But the city's waste management systems had not changed appreciably since medieval times. Most human waste was handled quite simply: it was just dumped into the River Thames.

The result was a slow-growing crisis that lasted three decades. Cholera outbreaks (from drinking tainted water, though nobody understood that then) periodically wracked the city, killing tens of thousands. The stench from the river gradually grew worse and worse, making life in riverside districts increasingly intolerable. The government was too hesitant to take dramatic action, though; it tried instead to mitigate the problem, by pouring lime into the river to cut the stench.

It all came to a head in the summer of 1858. A dry spell caused the level of the river to drop, leaving the banks coated with mounds of what the newspapers delicately called "impure matter." The stench was so bad that it became known as "the Great Stink." Parliament, whose halls were right on the river, could not conduct business. The smell in the chambers was so strong that all the curtains were soaked in chloride of lime to try and block it. (It didn't work.)

Parliament was now faced with a simple, stark choice: do something to clean up the river, or move itself out of London altogether. Members seriously discussed relocating to Oxford and St. Albans, but in the end, they decided to act. Municipal engineer Joseph Bazalgette was authorized to build a network of new sewers, at the then-staggering cost of £3 million, to be paid for by taxing every London household three pennies for the next 40 years.

Bazalgette's sewers solved the problem. They solved it so well they're still in use today. But democratic government had to be dragged kicking and screaming into making them happen. Only when the problem made their own lives intolerable did they finally act.

How all this relates to climate change, I shall leave as an exercise for the reader.

@davidoclubb my guess is it's a compilation of landscape, a bridge, poor weather, and some sort of stage for performance in Welsh colours. But that's my interpretation. I can't peek into the algorithm to see what it was thinking.

Dw i'n dysgu Sbaeneg ond dw i'n cael fy ysbrydoliaeth o'r dysgwyr Cymraeg ar Duolingo.

Gofynnias i Dall-e mini i greu "y peth mwyaf Cymreig"

Alun Salt boosted

Scientists show that at least 44 percent of Earth's land requires #conservation to safeguard biodiversity and ecosystem services #ScienceDaily

Add in that Amazonia is a vast area and largely unsurveyed, archaeologically speaking, and you potentially have an unknown civilisation that would be like finding the Khmer (Angkor Wat etc.) or Shona (Great Zimbabwe) for the first time.

It's an interesting article in itself that you can read at (Open Access), but it also is exciting for pointing how much is unknown that remains to be discovered.

- If people can get to the sites, before they're flattened by development.

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All this earth needs shifting, and that takes a lot of people

In their article the authors write: "The scale, monumentality, labour involved in the construction of the civic-ceremonial architecture and water-management infrastructure, and the spatial extent of settlement dispersal compare favourably to Andean cultures and are of a scale far beyond the sophisticated, interconnected settlements of southern Amazonia, which lack monumental civic-ceremonial architecture."

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The area they've looked at are the Amazon lowlands of Bolivia. It's easy to forget that Bolivia has lowlands as a lot of the tourism (and archaelogy) has concentrated on the highlands.

When Prümers & colleagues looked at the data they found two large and complex sites. The architecture is a lot of earthwork. But earthwork doesn't often form neat terraces, complete with a sophisticated system of canals and reservoirs. If you're a fan of pyramids with your ancient civilisations, it has those too.

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When you start looking at the Amazon for low-density settlements then things become a lot more puzzling. But the Amazon has been difficult to survey. There are still a lot of trees there. The cleared patches can have damage that makes fragile archaeological clues unreadable.

Heiko Prümers and colleagues have been getting round this with lidar, the laser equivalent of radar, and have been able to use this to survey large areas that wouldn't be possible on foot. And they've found plenty.

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A problem was that the Amazon rainforest was thought of as pristine and untouched. Any people you found living there were, in the big scheme of things, an anomaly - which made logging their homes a lot easier.

But surveys found that there were areas where plant diversity was unexpectedly high, and the soil unexpectedly fertile. There was also another problem that you certainly found complex civilisations in tropics elsewhere, but the urban density was a lot lower compared to Europe.

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This is an interesting story: ‘Mind blowing’ settlements uncovered in the Amazon

When I was sitting in on of classes for my MPhil it was slightly odd. South America, from an archaeological point of view was the Andes from the Chavin culture 1st mil BCE to the Inca that ended in 1533. All the space to the east wasn't covered, as though nothing of interest was happening.

But some people had been taking a closer look.

Alun Salt boosted

I'd forgotten how much some mathematicians dislike seeing Noether called a physicist. A thread on how I think mathematicians and physicists see the world in different ways 0/14

Just used the 'delete & re-draft' function for the first time. That's saved a little stress.

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Golwg have a new website out Lingo360

It's a companion website for their Lingo Newydd magazine for learners. Definitely worth taking a look at.

I don't normally post work on my personal account, but this one is weird.

Sundews are carnivorous plants. They eat insects, including caterpillars and other larvae that wander across them. But a fly, Toxomerus basalis, lays its eggs on a sundew. When the larvae hatch, they live their lives on the plant wandering around looking for food.

It's like leaving your kids with a serial killer for a babysitter.

Ar ôl dwy neu dair wythnos, dw i'n gallu dweud bo fi'n hoffi ar y Mac. Mae'n cyflym iawn yn ogystal â preifat.

@JamesGleick It'll be a nuisance when you have to tip it upside down to charge it.

I'll be listening to the soundtrack today. Like the film, it's a mix of organic and synthetic sounds.
My only complaint is 'Blush Response' should be longer.

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