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Neanderthals were not stupid

Neanderthals probably weren't stupid

Neanderthals probably weren't stupid

It has long been thought that one of the reason Homo sapiens eventually dominated the hominid line, colonizing Africa and Europe beginning at around 40,000 years ago and eradicating or out-competing the Neanderthals, was that they were technologically advantaged. The idea was that because H. sapiens had better stone tool technologies, they had the edge, so to speak, on their Neanderthal cousins who already occupied the lands H. sapiens were migrating into.
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John Cleese – The Scientist

Pseudoscience and the Serpent Mound

I recently blogged about the Serpent Mound after a visit to the Ohio archaeological site, sharing a few of the photos I took while there. Today, I get a comment that explores the “alternative” explanations for the mound (as well as other ancient sites). My first instinct was to simply delete the rather lengthy comment that started off in the first sentence talking about “energy,” but I realized that this sort of nonsense needs rebuttal -there are too many impressionable kids and less-informed but curious fans of archaeology out there that will ultimately stumble on to my misinformed guest’s website. So better to tackle it head-on.

The Serpent Mound in Ohio

I also invite any other readers of this blog or the Skeptic’s Circle to comment in response. But without further ado, let me introduce Miroslav Provod:

Serpent mound is a clay mound that is shaped in meandering curves, which form more energy in their inner bents due to the increased density of zones. The condition for it’s functioning is the same as with other megalithic structures – it must be placed into a location with enough cosmic energy (details can be found at There were many serpent mounds built, but a mound that looks like a snake that is trying to swallow an egg seems to be the most perfect one. It is a mound with four different energetic degrees:
– six locations of a meandering shape of the same energetic value (half of a winding)
– one location of greater energy in the shape of an egg (one whole winding)
– one location of even greater energy in a triangular winding
– and one last location of a different degree of energy in the tail part, which is formed by the combination of the meander with the spiral

There is just so much wrong with this.

The only energies in the mound that can be empirically shown to exist are infrared energy, absorbed from the sun, and the energies involved in chemical and molecular bonding. Each of these energies are well-understood and present in all rocks and earth. There isn’t any special energy, as yet undefined, that has been shown to exist in mounds. In this paragraph, Provod here several pseudoscientific and nonsense terms and phrases. For instance, what does “energetic degree” mean? Energy is something that can be empirically measured and simply refers to the ability to do work. There isn’t anything mystical about that. Provod implies that the shape of the mound affects the mound’s energy, but this simply isn’t the case. The only useful energy in the Serpent mound (or any other mound or megalithic structure) is infrared, which is absorbed during the day and emanated during the night.

For all its useful purpose, the energy given off by the serpent mound is no different than the energy given off by any other hill, rock or field in the area. To state differently is to make baseless, wild, and pseudoscientific claims that cannot be empirically supported.

The energetic function of the mounds could be proved by an easy experiment, during which the energy would be measured by a method, which is described in detail in my article “Dowsing versus aura”. To perform this experiment, we need about 10 metres long hose with water flowing in it and any rock of about 60Kg mass.

There’s no need or reason to “prove” the “energetic function of the mounds.” This is something that is well-understood in geology, physics, and meteorology. The sun’s radiation is absorbed during the day and emanated at night. The effect can be responsible for various weather related phenomena such as fog, dew, or even wind. There’s no mystery. It has little or nothing to do with the shape or size of the mound, though hills in general can act to funnel air currents. The Serpent Mound (along with most man-made mounds) is far too small to have any noticeable effect on air currents beyond the immediate vicinity of the mound itself.

It could be concluded from these experiments that the clay mounds of a serpent shape gave people an energetic place to increase their energy in the same way as menhirs, dolmens and other prehistoric structures.

This is a completely nonsensical, non-scientific, and uneducated statement. There is no scientific basis to make such claims. Indeed, “an energetic place to increase their energy” means nothing to someone that isn’t plugging in an iPod to a USB port. The Hopewell, Adena and other early inhabitants may have held lines of thinking that support these “energy” claims, but these were based on superstition and myth, not empirical knowledge.

IT’S NECESSARY to remind – and I emphasize this – that at the times of constructions of the megalithic structures, the grid of energetic parts wasn’t affected by the civilization sources.

Again, this is a statement that makes no logical or rational sense. “[T]he grid of energetic parts wasn’t affected by civilization sources” means nothing. It is a phrase that holds no value, particularly with regard to first century or earlier civilizations. It certainly hasn’t enough value to be emphatically reminded since this implies that the notion had value to begin with. You may need to restate this in some way that elucidates your thoughts more clearly.

The burial-ground of the rulers of Egypt “The kings’ valley” is situated in a meander of river Nile. There are hundreds of thousands of megalithic structures in the world that are built in the inner bends of water streams, meanders and confluence of rivers.

To demonstrate the pseudoscientific thinking involved with making statements like this, I feel it’s necessary -and I emphasize this- to point out two things: 1) the meandering nature of rivers and streams changes, often within single generations. So sites that are presently situated at the bend in a river may not have been 4,000 years ago. Or they may have been 4,000 years ago but not presently; 3) monumental architecture is most evident in agricultural societies (they had the social/political/economic capitals to build). Such societies nearly always built near rivers and streams because, guess what? They lived there.

There are also a great number of megalithic and religious structures built above the underground springs.

See my paragraph above.

The curvature of any matter works in the same way as a curve of a water flow, but only given that the matter has enough energy.

Again, this is a nonsensical statement. The type of “energy” isn’t defined. Is is molecular? Chemical? Infrared? Moreover, water *is* matter, so therefore the first part of the sentence defeats itself. In addition, what does it mean to say “works the same?” The angle of the curve is the same. The laws of physics each obeys is the same. etc.

In Malta in the Mediterranean and in other places, there were ritual meeting places for people built in an ellipsoidal shape, partly submerged underground. Domes, vaults, apses, circular structures and other rounded structures have the same qualities that strengthen the energy. Some nations, for example the Celts, constructed clay mounds of squared or rectangular ground plan, where the zones were also dense, but in a different grid.

Again, this are nonsensical statements. “[S]trengthen the energy” doesn’t seem to make sense in the context it’s presented. One cannot “strengthen” energy except to add additional energy, i.e. increasing voltage, focusing the sun’s rays on with a mirror, reducing the amount of resistance on a variable resistor to turn the heat up on an oven, etc. The shapes of buildings can “strengthen energy” in this way by making infrared radiation emanated from the ground or a hearth more efficiently used. But I suspect this isn’t the context you had in mind.

People used to supply their body energy by the use of all kinds of megalithic structures.

This is true in the hearth context I mentioned, but nonsense in the context you’re implying. One can benefit from infrared energy by sleeping over the buried coals or near the heated rocks of a hearth. That’s about it, bub.

However, this is just a first finding, which could be compared to a snowball, which eventually grows into an avalanche.

Doubtful. Sorry, but your premises about the nature of “energy” and megaliths are neither sound nor cogent.

It is described in technical literature, how some rocks of various chemical compositions were exactingly transported (pyramids, Stonehenge, Machu Picu and others) in order to achieve proper combinations.

Again, this statement makes no sense. What “technical literature” do you refer to. I suppose it’s true that the sarsens and lintels of Stonehenge were of “various chemical compositions” like diorite, rhyolite, tuff, etc. It’s also true that they were “exactingly transported. But the statement breaks down when you add, “in order to acheive proper combinations.” There is nothing mystical about the combination of the rocks used in the sites you mention. Each of the quarries are known (though there is some very minor disagreement about the origin of Stonehenge’s bluestones) and there exist very plausible and sensible hypotheses as to the functions of each of these sites that are independent of the non-existent “energies” you allude to.

It’s necessary to clarify their interactions and explain the chemical processes of the rocks, which affected the energy.

This is completely pseudoscientific. Inclusion of words like “chemical,” “process,” “interaction,” and “energy” doesn’t automatically imply that you have a good grasp of physics or science in general. You must first use these words in contexts that make sense. Stating that there are “chemical processes” that must be “explained” to understand how builders of monumental architecture achieved the “combinations” that they did is truly not necessary. There is no correlation that has been established to exist nor have the “chemical processes” themselves been defined. We certainly cannot effectively discuss how “energy” is “affected” since, once again, the “energy” also isn’t defined (infrared, molecular, etc.).

Therefore, it’s not only about supplying bodily energy but also about the quality of the energy and it’s transformation onto the cellular membranes in an optimal amount.

Please, feel free to define “bodily energy.” The closest analog in reality that I can come up with is infrared (a.k.a. heat). But how is the quality of heat important to monumental architecture like the Serpent Mound or Stonehenge? What “cellular membranes” is this heat being transferred to? One assumes humans, but depending upon the Serpent Mound or Stonehenge for warmth is inefficient to say the least. It would be a much better use of energy (a.k.a. work) to build a hearth and a subsequent fire.

If we want to continue in uncovering the secrets of ancient past, we must begin with the fact that we can’t bluff ourselves with explanations of the megalithic cultures, which are not logical.

What non-“logical” explanations are being presented other than your own. The explanations suggested for the Serpent Mound are not only plausible but, given the evidence, it is probable that one (or more) are accurate. The site was probably ritual and funerary in use. There’s no evidence that iPods were being charged. There’s even less evidence that humans were getting warmth (or any other energy) from it.

And we must also respect the fact that we have something to do with a civilisation whose technical maturity we don’t understand yet.

On the contrary, we have a very good understanding of the technical maturity of the Hopewell and Adena cultures. They achieved rudimentary ceramic skills. They built thatched homes. They had rudimentary agricultural skills. And so on. All of this survives very well in the archaeological record.

Also, I think it may be favourable to find out, why was this force of nature that goes through history in the religious structures until our age concealed and who wanted it to be concealed.

What do you mean concealed? The Serpent mound wasn’t concealed. Nor was Stonehenge, Nabta Playa, the Maya ruins, etc. Vegetation may have grown over some of them, but there was no intelligent agent at work with goal to “conceal” them.

One of the reasons I’m so sure that Provod simply copy/pasted the text of his “comment” is that he bothered to leave the comment at all, particularly with such a tone of confidence and assurance that his opinion is informed and rational. Mr. Provod, I’m sorry but, while your comments are welcome, this one was neither informed nor rational.

Lake Erie Fish Die-Off

Photo by Carl Feagans

Photo by Carl Feagans

Recently, I was in Ohio on vacation and I snapped this photo while on a ferry ride between South Bass Island and the mainland. Every few meters during the trip I noticed dead fish floating near the surface.

Seeing so many dead fish is disconcerting to say the least and asked one of the deckhands on the ferry but he didn’t seem to know what I was talking about. Is it possible that he never noticed all these fish floating on the surface? Because of the busy nature of being on vacation, I nearly forgot the matter until I was looking over some my photos today. The fish appear to me to be Freshwater Drum (though I could very well be wrong), so I googled “lake erie dead fish” and started following links to see if there was any news on the issue. Apparently there is.

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), there is a problem with not just fish but mudpuppies as well. I was in Ohio near South Bass Island, not the New York side of the lake, but it is all one big body of water. The article explains that fish die offs have a variety of causes, including temperature changes and diseases. One notable culprit, according to the article, is Type E botulism toxin, a poison produced by by Clostridium botulinum, which can be harmful to humans if infected fish are eaten. This bacterium has been problematic in the past in the Great Lakes, so it may be making a comeback.

It occurred to me also that there could be alien toxins or diseases being introduced from the bilges of ships that enter the Lake from outside via the canal systems that link Lake Erie to the Hudson River. It might also be that nitrogen from agricultural run-offs into the lake create algae blooms that, in turn, create anoxic zones in the lake where the fish simply choke to death then rise to the surface.

On a brighter note, but perhaps not for those who suffer from ophidiophobia, the Lake Erie Water Snake population seems to be increased enough that the snake may soon be removed from the endangered list. This nonvenomous snake was placed on the endangered list in 1991 after nearly being eradicated by people who mistook it for poisonous. Though it isn’t poisonous, they’re certainly willing to bite when handled and they have an anticoagulant that makes the tiny wound continue to bleed for a while, appearing as if you opened up an artery.

Photo by Carl Feagans

Photo by Carl Feagans

I shot this picture at the ferry dock when my daughter noticed it sunning on the rock. They’re most commonly seen in the spring and further investigation revealed several dozen more of his friends, also hanging out on the rocks. Most of them tangled in knots of six or seven.

If anyone has information regarding the dead fish in Lake Erie or links, please share. I’m definitely not an expert on the subject and only admit to having a few thoughts and questions on the subject, not answers.

Four Stone Hearth – past and future

Remote Central hosted the Four Stone Hearth on July 16th and I somehow completely over looked it. Tim always does a great job and if you haven’t read the posts at the blogs he linked to, now’s as good a time as any. Click here to read it.

The next installment of the Four Stone Hearth anthropology carnival will be hosted at Testimony of the Spade on July 30, 2008 -there’s plenty of time left to work up submissions and send them in (you can find Mangus’ email address at the end of his “About” page). If you’re interested in hosting the FSH, drop Martin Rundkvist a line.

Nitrogen Tire Scam part 3

Okay, I thought of adding this response as a comment, but since it ended up being so lengthy, I decided to make a separate post. The original comment is here and was caught by the Akismet as spam. I’ve since approved it to be visible.

A response to John Lucidi

First, I’d like to mention that your post was caught in my spam filter (Akismet) due to the number of links you included, so it wasn’t a matter of my not wanting your comment to appear. I just don’t look at posts caught by Akismet very often since it’s almost always pure, unadulterated spam. I have, I believe, read your comment posted on other sites, so one could make an argument that copy/paste behavior by someone who admits an interest in an industry’s success is actually spam. Indeed, I hold that it is.

Nevertheless, I’m willing to approve the comment if only to address the points you’ve made for public record.

The first thing I noticed in your comment was that the Bridgestone link [PDF] was actually to a marketing pamphlet hosted on your own site rather than an actual independent study or measurement as you claim. I contend that Bridgestone has a financial interest in the “nitrogen-filled tire” industry, and note that this pamphlet is not available on their domain. In fact, the only mention of nitrogen in tires I could locate was this quote:

Because race tires are subject to much higher operating temperatures, the air to inflate them is filtered to remove moisture. Moisture inside a race tire could become steam, creating potential problems. Most teams actually replace this filtered air with nitrogen.

My contention that Bridgestone has a financial interest is largely based on the web address included on the marketing pamphlet which is to and they doubtless have either an affiliation with or provide their own nitrogen filling service for over the road truckers. Big rig trucks have tires that include far more sidewall rubber surface and larger volumes of gas within, and the tires are subjected to wear and use that far exceeds that of the average commuter, so it may actually be that there have been studies done on OTR truck tires that reveal a benefit to having nitrogen-filled tires.

But this doesn’t relate or equate to any benefit to having nitrogen -filled tires on a passenger car. If we concede for a moment (and I’m not actually doing so without seeing an independent study that isn’t a marketing brochure for a company attempting to make a buck) that there is a benefit, which outweighs the exorbitant cost, for OTR truckers to have nitrogen-filled tires, it still must be considered that the tire of a truck has a far greater surface area of sidewall rubber and a larger volume of gas within which may actually create faster rates of diffusion for both gas molecules. There are more molecules and more available avenues of egress.

So, your “proof” isn’t actually proof of anything other than the fact that Bridgestone Firestone has an affiliation or at least some sort of interest in nitrogen-filled tires for OTR trucks. I saw no mention in this marketing pamphlet (your “proof”) that referenced an independent study.

There is, however, an independent study conducted by consumer reports that was conducted on passenger car tires. Their results showed that in one year nitrogen-filled tires lost 2.2 psi while tires filled with normal air mix lost 3.5 psi. This is a difference of 1.3 psi over a full year and certainly nothing close to 4 to 6 times “faster than nitrogen.” I also found it interesting that you’re quick to mention that rate as are many other advocates of this expensive and unnecessary method of filling tires, but never is the rate itself defined. What are the units measured over what period of time? Moreover, the Consumer Reports study also demonstrates that both molecules are diffused over time, with nitrogen diffusing at a slightly slower rate, which is something that I readily conceded to in my initial post.

With regard to tire wear from chemical aging, I’ve again conceded that pure, nitrogen would halt this. From the inside! Surely you realize that oxygen and moisture in the air outside the tire can and will permeate the side wall of a tire. Normal atmospheric pressure, after all, is still a pressure and the molecules of O2 and H2O are variable excited depending upon pressure and temperature and will collide with the same rubber sidewalls from the opposite side. Fortunately, this isn’t a concern since chemical wear, for the average commuter, occurs at a rate that is far slower than physical wear. I have yet to replace a set of tires due to chemical aging -inside or out. I realize I can’t speak for you, but I’m willing to bet $5.00 via Paypal that I can find an independent source that shows the most common reason for tire replacement is worn tread.

You say that “[i]t is a well proven fact within the tire industry that nitrogen inflated tires maintain their pressure better than air filled tires.” I don’t deny this. But there isn’t enough concern with tire pressure loss (both molecules will effuse) that I’m willing to pay for nitrogen. There’s no need for the average consumer to fill their tires with nitrogen since they need only check (or have checked) their tire pressure regularly. I don’t think I’ve ever had an oil change that didn’t include this as a matter of course and I regularly check my own.

There is, of course, the argument you’ve posited that the average consumer doesn’t check their tire pressure and that at least one tire is under-inflated, etc.

But this argument is utter bollocks when examined closely. The under-inflated tire is rarely due to diffusion of air molecules through the side-wall and is nearly always because of some other issue such as a puncture, fissure, poor seal, or faulty valve stem or valve. This is logically the case since if conditions are equal for each tire, an anomaly must have an alternative explanation other than diffusion or gas molecules permeating the sidewalls. This is an important point since each of these issues create points of egress that are large enough for both molecules. At this point, Graham’s Law takes over and the nitrogen will diffuse at a faster rate. This is not a matter of debate, it’s physics. QED.

Additionally, if we were to concede that pressure loss were problematic due to the owner not participating actively in preventive maintenance, then we also have to remember that nitrogen also diffuses and looses pressure. Therefore, what’s needed isn’t to charge $60.00 per tire to replace air with nitrogen but to educate the public on the importance of preventive maintenance checks and services. If the owner just gets their oil changed at a reputable service station, their tires will be checked and pressurized if necessary.

The “average consumer is ignorant” argument is like saying the average person doesn’t floss or brush twice daily so they should visit their dentist once a month for a professional cleaning.

Anyway, thanks for dropping by.