Thursday, December 25, 2008

Evolution of the Mind: 4 Fallacies of Psychology: Scientific American

An interesting article by David Buller about the problems of Evolutionary Psychology - from Scientific American. As the title of the article indicates, Buller describes 4 major fallacies of Evolutionary Psychology of the Tooby and Cosmides variety. I basically agree with his points. Evolutionary psychology has always had the benefit of fitting under the evolutionary science umbrella (vs. other kinds of social science explanations) but really only produces popular stories that are somewhat plausible (though Buller points out why they are less than plausible when examined more closely). At any rate, I recommend the article.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Quantitative Archaeology Wiki [Quantitative Archaeology Wiki]

Quantitative Archaeology Wiki provides a nice summary of basic statistics done in using the free platform 'R'. If you don't know R, you should - while may be not a GUI pull-down menu kind of stats package, you can literally do anything with it and do it easily (and repeatedly). And its free!

The examples shown on the wiki come from Mike Fletcher and Gary Lock's book
Digging Numbers (ISBN 978-0947816698).

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


My experiments with Photosynths and extracting point clouds has been listed in the Photosynth blog: . This has resulted in some potentially useful contacts of others working on the same kinds of projects.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

London I

Arrived in London sometime mid-day yesterday (friday) after a reasonable 10 hour flight (if such a flight can ever be reasonable). Took the train and tube to the area around the British Museum and checked into my room. The place, "Royal National" is clearly a backpacker/traveler kind of place since they refused to check me in at 1:15 and when 2:00 rolled around 500 people surged to reception to check in. The place is caverneous but not in the way that might make it seem royal - cavernous in the sense of a maze of tiny halls with 1000s of doors leading into tiny little dorm rooms. There easily could be 20,000 people in this hotel. I'm only here until sunday when I move to the Travistock hotel - but that turns out to be a different side to the same building. Oh well - its clean and they have stewed tomatoes and beans for breakfast. Oh, and free wifi in the pub downstairs (where I am right now).

Im trying to make arrangements to see the original notes of Katherine Routledge that are held at the British Museum. My bloke Ethan was going to set this up but his 1.5 year old daughter keeps him pretty sleepless and busy these days. Ill forge it on my own. First step: barrage the place with emails (its Saturday so I doubt calling will be effective). Fortunately all the email address are on the BM website so I was able send off missives to the entire Oceania staff. Next step on monday will be to do some calling and then maybe some door knocking. For the latter, I am not sure where I would start -- the building is massive and fort like so I might have to wrestle some beefeater to the ground to gain access to the place. I better train.

I'm sitting in the pub right now planning my day. I actually have little to do other than finish the damn presentation for the workshop next week. I have the paper, mind you, but nothing to stand up in front to talk about. Im hoping my copious graphs and figures will serve as the base of that talk. So a little later Ill probably do something with that. Until then, I dunno - perhaps a bitter or a tall glass of some obscure cider. They seems to have all the best cider behind the bar in fridges - in bottles. I suppose this is how they are fermented - in the bottle. Well, maybe - anyways, got to get me some of that. Also a scone. With clotted cream (cream tea, Ethan tells me).

At the same time I need to ignore the raft of email that I got that describes the newest offense by the cultural anthropologists to archaeology - this time a vote to prohibit us from teaching graduate students. Bizarre. I guess we must be too good. or something. Also they continue to drag their feet on the BA - no vote, no discussion, no movement. I know they want me to go ahead and leave CSULB - Ive been told as much - but at some point, what is too much? Mmmm... that bitter looks good right about now -- its kind of 11AM...

London II

I'm in a pub. Above the bar are a set of tvs tuned to the same station. I think its about sports and 'football' - its hard to tell -- the picture is focused on a middle aged man who yells a lot and other than the changing volume of the announcers voice there isnt much going on. There are some statistics and tables but they mean nothing. I cannot understand a word they guy is saying. But it's loud. It's like the worst of radio and TV put together. Do they just not get the idea that with TV you can watch the game itself and not have to focus on the announcer? Seems odd. And loud. I can see my irish cider rattle.

I went to the British Museum today to visit the basalt moai that they stole from the island some years back. 200812061703.jpg I took a bunch of photos to generate a photosynth -- this is now processing while I quaff this rather tasty cider (Magners). While at the museum, I ran into Fraser Neiman who is in London to give a paper at the CECD at UCL.

Moai Photosynth:

I also took a bunch of photos of the crystal skull that is housed in the British Museum -- until recently it was reported to have been "Aztec" but recent analyses of the cut marks show the tell tale sign of mechanical saws. Crap like the recent Indiana Jones movie...


Thursday, December 4, 2008


Well, I am off to London this afternoon to participate in a workshop on "Cultural and linguistic diversity" at the AHRC Centre for the Evolution of Cultural Diversity.

My paper, coauthored with Mark Madsen is "Networks, frequency seriation and models of cultural transmission." I'll have an online draft of that paper up shortly if anyone is interested. The workshop is a small affair - held outside of London at the Missenden Abbey Conference Centre ( The place is sort of isolated in a manor type fair with only 16-17 or so participants. The "usual" crowd is there for these kinds of affairs O'Brien, Collard, Cochrane, Tehrani, Peter Jordan Mace - but also Rob Boyd, Russell Gray, Daniel Nettle (who will apparently be a disembodied head in a Skype link [could we all do that? a gathering of monitors?), John Nerbonne, Fiona Jordan, Charles Nunn and some others who I don't know as well.

200812041205.jpg Seems like a good place to hang out in... Ill be online (of course) for much of this trip - return on the 13th.

Workshop Programme – Cultural and linguistic diversity

Wednesday 10th Dec 2008

0845 – 0900 The Organizers Welcome and introduction to the workshop

0900 – 0955 Russell GRAY [Transmission coupling mechanisms: migration/demic expansion]

0955 – 1050 Rob BOYD Transmission coupling mechanisms: cultural group selection (co-authored with Peter Richerson)

1050 - 1115 TEA/COFFEE

1115 – 1210 Daniel NETTLE (by Skype link) Genetic and linguistic diversity: Global distribution and implications for prehistory

1210 – 1305 Paul HEGGARTY Splits or waves? Trees or webs? Network analysis of language change

1400 – 1455 Claire BOWERN Historical linguistics in Australia: (non-) tree-like evolution and its implications

1455 – 1550 John NERBONNE Measuring the diffusion of linguistic change

1620 – 1715 Carl LIPO Networks, frequency seriation and models of cultural transmission (co-authored with Mark Madsen)

1715 – 1810 James STEELE On demographic interpretations of linguistic and cultural phylogenies (co-authored with Anne Kandler and Aimee Plourde)

Thursday 11th Dec 2008

0900 – 0955 Michael O’BRIEN

Material culture and units of transmission (co-authored with R. Lee Lyman, Alex Mesoudi, and Todd L. Van Pool)

0955 – 1050 Mark COLLARD [Cladistic analysis of cultural traits]

1115 – 1210 Charles NUNN

Simulating trait evolution for cross-cultural comparison (co-authored with Christian Arnold, Luke Matthews, and Monique Borgerhoff Mulder)

1210 – 1305 Ruth MACE Is horizontal transmission really a problem for phylogenetic comparative methods? A simulation study using continuous cultural traits (coauthored with Tom Currie and Simon Greenhill)

1400 – 1455 Jamie TEHRANI Mapping traditions onto populations using trees and jungles: a cophylogenetic approach to cultural inheritance (co-authored with Mark Collard)

1455 – 1550 Ethan COCHRANE Phylogenetic and graph-based network methods in evolutionary anthropology (co-authored with Carl Lipo)

1620 – 1715 Laura FORTUNATO /Fiona JORDAN Your place or mine? A phylogenetic comparative analysis of postmarital residence in Indo-European and Austronesian societies

1715 – 1810 Sean O’NEILL    /Peter JORDAN Coupling and de-coupling inherited cultural traits: preliminary investigations of situated social learning

processes as an explanation for cultural diversification on the Northwest Pacific Coast

Online Textbook: Climate Dynamics and Climate Modelling