Lens-Artists Challenge # 149: Cool Colors (Blue and Green)

The host of this challenge is Tina, of Travels and Trifles. Here is how she introduces the challenge:

  • This week we are returning to the color wheel and its cooler members, which include blue (primary) green (secondary) and blue-green or blue-violet aka purple (tertiary). A visit to the web on the subject will take you deep into the emotions said to result from exposure to these and other colors. For this week’s purposes, let’s simply explore the many ways the cooler colors appear in our world.`

Here is a copy of Thomas Farber’s latest book. Dive in, people. It is just so beguiling. It is Farber’s 28th. He teaches creative writing at UC Berkeley:

The next two pictures are from her recent visit to the California Academy of Sciences. She got there the minute it opened, at 9:30, and stayed till about 3. She took the pictures below in the Aquarium, on the lower level:

Hope it’s nice weather where you are. It’s awfully hot over here, in northern California.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Chapter 8, ASHOH

Chapter 8 is the mother lode. Self started reading it, she thinks, two days ago.

On p. 183 the authors tell us that all those millions of deaths in Europe — for example, half the population of London was wiped out — were caused not by various strains of the plague, but “by identical versions of a single bacterium.” In other words, a clone.

This “tells us that the plague bacterium only came to Europe once. Previously it was thought that the Black Death might have been brought to the continent repeatedly on ships through trade. But if this were the case, we would have found various different strains dating from this period and not an identical bacterial clone that caused millions to die.”

What was that one instance that proved fatal to millions? Which ship, which trader, which entry port? The authors don’t say.

The Black Death “was the origin of all later European strains, slowly collecting mutations before it disappeared from Europe in the eighteenth century for good.”


  • According to today’s more modest calculations, a third of Europe’s population died during the Black Death, 27 million people out of a population of approximately 80 million. — p. 180

Quaranta, Italian for Quarantine

The word quaranta came out of Venice during the period of the Black Death: self learns new things every day!

Over the following centuries, the plague struck certain cities with particular frequency, including Venice, where traders from across the world did business. Shortly after an outbreak, Venice would ban foreigners from the city; captains who disobeyed were fined and threatened with ship-burning. Closing the port was the authorities’ preferred way for preventing the spread of disease.

Quarantine, which involved isolating newcomers for forty days (quaranta in Italian) was invented during this period.

— Chapter 8, A Short History of Humanity

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

“A Largely Depopulated Landscape”

Self just discovered that A Short History of Humanity is a translation from the German. The translator is Caroline Waight. Self realized that whenever she reads a novel by a German writer, she automatically assumes it’s a translation, but this is the first scientific work she’s read by a German writer, and the fact that it’s a translation is frankly mind-blowing.

Still on Chapter 5! It’s her favorite chapter, so far.

As migrants from “the Eastern steppe” arrived in Central Europe, one can chart their progress from east to west by the presence of “immense barrows . . . constructed everywhere on the steppe.” These were burial mounds, ranging from two to twenty meters in height, filled with human remains and sometimes “generous grave goods.”

In contrast, in Central Europe itself, “between 5,500 and 5,000 years ago,” the period during which the newcomers are said to have arrived in Central Europe, there are “almost no skeletons and hardly any usable DNA.” What are the reasons for this largely “depopulated landscape”?

People were not fleeing from the new arrivals. Nor have any “mass graves” or battlefields been discovered. On p. 105, Krause makes the dry observation that “the oldest decoded plague genome dates from this period.”

PLAGUE??? Scientists have decoded a plague genome? And it went that far back?

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Quote of the Day: A Short History of Humanity

In Chapter 5, Johannes Krause turns his attention from Europe to North America. Faster than you can say, Six Degrees of Separation:

  • . . . both Europeans and indigenous Americans seem to have drawn a lot of their DNA from genetic material from Eastern Europe and Siberia . . . Five hundred years ago, then, when Europeans “discovered” the Americas, they had in fact come full circle: from a genetic perspective, the settlers were reunited with very, very old relatives.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

The Ice Age!

Self is on Chapter 3 of A Short History of Humanity: A New History of Old Europe. Fascinating stuff!

Shortly after our human ancestors arrived in Central Europe (“Shortly” meaning: hundreds of thousands of years), the last Ice Age — what Krause calls the “Glacial Maximum” — “extinguished all life in Central Europe. For 6,000 years . . . ”

(Excuse self while she picks her jaw up from the floor)

Some people fled to the Iberian Peninsula, and Krause says those people survived. The “glaciated” Pyrenees cut off this group from the rest of Europe.

“They could see across the Strait of Gibraltar to Africa, but they couldn’t reach the far shore, possessing neither the technological know-how nor the physical capability to traverse the fourteen-kilometer distance . . . “

As for the people left behind in Central Europe, “it’s safe to assume that the freezing temperatures in Central Europe killed the majority of the region’s inhabitants.”

Another group, living in the Balkans, survived. These people were “technologically highly developed hunter-gatherers with blue eyes and dark skin.”

How can one not be fascinated?

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Around 1.9 Million Years Ago

The ancestor of all modern humans came from Africa. You’ll have to read the book to follow the painstaking scientific method of deduction that Krause utilizes. But know this: human forebears moved from Africa to Central Europe just before the start of the great Ice Age. So their timing was not great. Nevertheless, here we are!

If we think of evolution as having a conscious purpose — which it does not — then this was a bold experiment. Fundamentally, walking on two legs requires more energy than walking on all fours like an ape. Running, however, does not: humans expend roughly the same energy running over the same distance as walking. Around 1.9 million years ago, taking this evolutionary step toward efficient running made a lot of sense. The African landscape changed dramatically. Areas of trees became savannahs, predominantly grassland. There were fewer trees to climb and therefore more reasons for humans to keep their heads above the grass — to spot predators coming, for example. Unlike other types of human that did not walk upright to the same extent (and later died out), Homo erectus was able to hold its own on the savannah.

A Short History of Humanity: A New History of Old Europe, by Johannes Krause and Thomas Trappe, Chapter 3 (“Immigrants are the Future”)

A Short History of Humanity, A New History of Old Europe: Introduction by Thomas Trappe

  • Two authors have contributed to this book. The first is Johannes Krause, who assumes the role of first-person narrator from the next chapter onward. He is one of the most established international experts in the field of archaeogenetics. (for reasons of modesty this passage was written by the second author) and is director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

How exciting: archaeogenetics was born with the discovery of a finger bone.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Coda: Safe Passage, The Next Great Migration

Sonia Shah’s policy recommendations are found at the end. She is very clear, which self appreciated. She offers concrete examples of what is being done, and what more needs to be done.

Instead of expanding the borders of isolated parks and reserves, new conservation efforts are seeking to stitch together private lands, ranches, farms, and parks into wide, long corridors across which animals can safely move. The Yellowstone to Yukon initiative, for example, has brought hundreds of conservation together to manage more than five-hundred thousand square miles stretching southward from northern Canada, to ease wildlife movement across the entire expanse. A similarly ambitious project aims to protect millions of square miles of jaguar habitat across fourteen countries from Mexico to Argentina. Conservationists have pinpointed at least twenty places around the world, including biodiverse but highly fragmented locales such as the Eastern Arc mountains of Tanzania and the Atlantic forest of Brazil, where similar wildlife corridors could connect isolated fragments of protected lands into more than half a million acres of continuous forest across which species could freely move.

The Next Great Migration, pp. 313 – 314

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