Tag: theories

Out of America (modern man)

Amerindians Are Even More Genetically Diverse and Older Than You Thought

Science DOI: 10.1126/science.aab3884

Genomic evidence for the Pleistocene and recent population history of Native Americans

Raghavan, Maanasa, Matthias Steinrücken, Kelley Harris, Stephan Schiffels, Simon Rasmussen, Michael DeGiorgio, Anders Albrechtsen, …Eske Willerslev.

How and when the Americas were populated remains contentious. Using ancient and modern genome-wide data, we find that the ancestors of all present-day Native Americans, including Athabascans and Amerindians, entered the Americas as a single migration wave from Siberia no earlier than 23 thousand years ago (KYA), and after no more than 8,000-year isolation period in Beringia. Following their arrival to the Americas, ancestral Native Americans diversified into two basal genetic branches around 13 KYA, one that is now dispersed across North and South America and the other is restricted to North America. Subsequent gene flow resulted in some Native Americans sharing ancestry with present-day East Asians (including Siberians) and, more distantly, Australo-Melanesians. Putative ‘Paleoamerican’ relict populations, including the historical Mexican Pericúes and South American Fuego-Patagonians, are not directly related to modern Australo-Melanesians as suggested by the Paleoamerican Model.


Nature (2015) doi:10.1038/nature14895

Genetic evidence for two founding populations of the Americas

Skoglund, Pontus, Swapan Mallick, Maria C. Bortolini, Niru Channagiri, Tabita Hunemeier, Maria L. Petzl-Erler, Francisco M. Salzano, Nick Patterson, and David Reich.

Genetic studies have consistently indicated a single common origin of Native American groups from Central and South America. However, some morphological studies have suggested a more complex picture, whereby the northeast Asian affinities of present-day Native Americans contrast with a distinctive morphology seen in some of the earliest American skeletons, which share traits with present-day Australasians (indigenous groups in Australia, Melanesia, and island Southeast Asia). Here we analyse genome-wide data to show that some Amazonian Native Americans descend partly from a Native American founding population that carried ancestry more closely related to indigenous Australians, New Guineans and Andaman Islanders than to any present-day Eurasians or Native Americans. This signature is not present to the same extent, or at all, in present-day Northern and Central Americans or in a ~12,600-year-old Clovis-associated genome, suggesting a more diverse set of founding populations of the Americas than previously accepted.


Whole-genome and ancient DNA studies continue to topple conventional paradigms, befuddle academic researchers and fulfill out-of-America predictions. The two brand new studies by teams from the Reich lab at Harvard and the Willerslev lab at the University of Copenhagen postulate no fewer than three ancestry components in Amerindians related to three major population clusters in the Old World. Just 10 years ago the opinion was split between those scholars who imagined genetic and cultural continuity between Amerindians and East Asians and the peopling of the Americas at 15,000 years ago and those who postulated discontinuity from the ancestors of modern East Asians and the isolation of proto-Amerindians for some 15,000 years in Beringia. The latter model known as the “Beringian Standstill Hypothesis” (Tamm et al. 2007) sought to explain the presence of unique genetic signatures in modern Amerindians which required time and geographic isolation from the ancestral East Asian pool to accrue and stabilize. The Yana Rhinoceros Horn site located in close proximity to the East Siberian Sea shore and dated at 30,000 YBP provided the material evidence and the lowest chronological horizon for a proto-Amerindian source population presumably locked in a northern refugium during the LGM times and waiting for the ice shield to melt before spreading into the New World. While the two mental models differed in the extent to which they allowed for discontinuity between East Asians and Amerindians, they both imagined a homogeneous East Asian gene pool yielding an even more homogeneous Amerindian population.

With the sequencing of the DNA from the Mal’ta boy located in South Siberia and dated at 24,000 YBP, this thinking proved to be false. The Mal’ta site itself was located thousands of miles south of the mouth of the Yana River. More importantly, its DNA showed affinity to modern Amerindians and West Eurasians to the exclusion of modern East Asians (Raghavan et al. 2014). So, during the LGM times distinct Amerindian ancestry was already detectable in a geographically northeast Asian sample, while East Asian ancestry was not. Contrary to the prediction of both the East Asian Continuity and the Beringian Standstill models, a distinctive Amerindian genetic signature predated a distinctive East Asian genetic signature in the heart of Siberia and its closest affinities were with modern Europeans and not East Asians. Amerindians turned out to be older, more heterogeneous and less East Asian than everybody thought. The academic community responded to this puzzling finding by postulating an extinct “Ancient Northern European” (ANE) population that admixed with an East Asian population to generate ancestors of modern Amerindians. The ANE signature was later also found west of the Urals in ancient Kostenki DNA at 36,000 YBP (Seguin-Orlando et al. 2014; also covered here) as well as across a wide range of modern European, Middle Eastern and Caucasus populations including the putative Yamnaya ancestors of Indo-European speakers (Haak et al. 2015). But the best living example of that ancient Eurasian population continue to be Amerindians. The genetic impact of ANE on West Eurasians is so significant that all of the ancient samples discovered in Europe, from La Brana foragers to Stuttgart farmers, as well as all of the modern European populations score closer to modern Amerindians than to modern East Asians or Australo-Melanesians.

Up until now, Australo-Melanesians have never been a factor in the population genetic theories of the peopling of the Americas. Whether imagined as the earliest and sovereign wave of modern humans emanating from Africa along a “southern” migratory route or an early offshoot of an East Asian population, Australo-Melanesians have always been considered too old in terms of their divergence time and too southern in their geographic distribution to play a role in the peopling of the Americas via the Bering Strait bridge. Linguists, ethnologists, folklorists and ethnomusicologists, on the other hand, have long pointed out suggestive parallels between grammatical traits, mythological motifs, rituals and musical styles and instruments between some New World regions (especially, Amazonia but also North America) and the Sahul (see more here).

Physical anthropologists, too, advanced an argument that the earliest craniological material from the Americas is closer to Australo-Melanesians than to modern Amerindians or East Asians. This observation was so consistent across their Paleoindian sample that it warranted a formalization into a theory of two large-scale migrations to the Americas: the first one followed a coastal route and brought populations related to Australo-Melanesians from the deep south of the Circumpacific region, while the second one was derived from an inland source in northeast Asia (Neves & Hubbe 2005). Historic Fuegians and Pericues from Baha California were presented as the only surviving examples of the ancient Australo-Melanesian craniological pattern in the Americas (Gonzalez-Jose et al. 2003). However, ancient mtDNA extracted from Paleoindian skulls has invariably showed close affinities to all of modern Amerindians, thus undermining claims for a two-migration scenario (see, e.g., Chatters et al. 2014). Raghavan et al. (2015) re-examined the Paleoindian, Fuegian and Pericue craniological dataset and rejected the original conclusion:

“The results of analyses based on craniometric data are, thus, highly sensitive to sample structure and the statistical approach and data filtering used. Our morphometric analyses suggest that these ancient samples are not true relicts of a distinct migration, as claimed, and hence do not support the Paleoamerican model.”

But while the Australo-Melanesian hypothesis cannot be defended using craniological material, Skoglund et al. (2015) and Raghavan et al. (2015) have now furnished whole-genome evidence for a distinct Australo-Melanesian, or Oceanic ancestry in modern Amerindians. (Note that, ironically, the craniologists failed to see the Australo-Melanesian signature in modern Amerindian skulls.) Raghavan et al. (2015) report results from their in-depth D statistic analysis of shared drift between various populations:

“We found that some American populations, including the Aleutian Islanders, Surui, and Athabascans are closer to Australo-Melanesians compared to other Native Americans, such as North American Ojibwa, Cree and Algonquin, and the South American Purepecha, Arhuaco and Wayuu (fig. S10). The Surui are, in fact, one of closest Native American populations to East Asians and Australo-Melanesians, the latter including Papuans, non-Papuan Melanesians, Solomon Islanders, and South East Asian hunter-gatherers such as Aeta.”

Two examples from their Fig. S10 can be seen below.

Anthropogenesis-AustraloMelanesianAdmixture-2 copy

Anthropogenesis-AustraloMelanesianAdmxiture-1 copy








What it shows is that some Amerindian populations markedly shift in the direction of Papuans or Aeta compared to the majority of Amerindians. Importantly, this shift affects some of the same populations (e.g., Aleutians and Saqqaq) that also shift toward Han and Koryaks but, remarkably, the Australo-Melanesian pull is stronger than the East Asian pull! (see below from Fig. S10 in Raghavan et al. 2015, where negative D values are lower when Han and Koryaks are compared to Amerindians than when Papuans and Aeta are compared to them).

Anthropogenesis-AustraloMelanesianAdmixture-4 copy

Anthropogenesis-AustraloMelanesianAdmixture-3 copy








Importantly, the Australo-Melanesian shift is displayed by populations from both South America and North America, so it’s a low-frequency but pan-American phenomenon. Raghavan et al. (2013) showed that some North American populations are more East Asian shifted and less ANE-shifted than Central and South American populations. Now, they present evidence that those populations are more Australo-Melanesian-shifted than East Asian-shifted.

Working with a different sample, Skoglund et al. (2015) echo Raghavan et al. (2015) findings. They write:

“Andamanese Onge, Papuans, New Guineans, indigenous Australians and Mamanwa Negritos from the Philippines all share significantly more derived alleles with the Amazonians (4.6 . Z . 3.0 standard errors (s.e.) from zero). No population shares significantly more derived alleles with the Mesoamericans than with the Amazonians.”

Extended Data Table 2 in Skoglund et al. (2015) (see below) shows this excess of Australo-Melanesian alleles (Z values positive) in Amazonians (Surui, Karitiana and Xavante) compared to Central American Indians (as proxies for other Amerindians including the 12,000-year-old Anzick sample from Montana).

Anthropogenesis-AustraloMelanesianAdmixture-5 copy

Interestingly, the “Australo-Melanesian” footprint in the Old World is geographically broad spanning South Asia, Southeast Asia as well as the Sahul. It’s clearly the pre-Mongoloid and pre-Austronesian “substrate” in the eastern provinces of the Old World.

Predictably, Skoglund et al. (2015) and Raghavan et al. (2015) struggled to interpret these results. Raghavan et al. (2015) concluded:

“The data presented here are consistent with a single initial migration of all Native Americans and with later gene flow from sources related to East Asians and, more distantly [this statement is contradicted by their own data, as I showed above. – G.D.], Australo-Melanesians.”

But the conclusion from Skoglund et al (2015) is radically different:

“[O]ur results suggest that the genetic ancestry of Native Americans from Central and South America cannot be due to a single pulse of migration south of the Late Pleistocene ice sheets from a homogenous source population, and instead must reflect at least two streams of migration or alternatively a long drawn out period of gene flow from a structured Beringian or Northeast Asian source. The arrival of Population Y ancestry in the Americas must in any scenario have been ancient: while Population Y shows a distant genetic affinity to Andamanese, Australian and New Guinean populations, it is not particularly closely related to any of them, suggesting that the source of population Y in Eurasia no longer exists…”

Skoglund et al. (2015) seem to be more reasonable in their judgment. Their phylogenetic tree with admixture arrows (see on the left) captures well the ever-more-complex prehistory of the New World.

Anthropogenesis-AustraloMelanesianAdmixture-6 copy

Anthropogenesis-OldPhylogeny copy



It used to be that Amerindians were depicted as a simple offshoot of a Han-like population (see the tree on the right, from McEvoy et al. 2010, Fig. 1). The branch connecting them to East Asians has always been long but it was interpreted as the effect of a bottleneck induced by the Beringian Standstill and subsequent further isolation in a newly-colonized continent. Now, Amerindian ancestry, whether northern or southern, spans the whole gamut of extra-African genetic diversity. In addition, the Australo-Melanesian link in the New World is clearly connected to the discovery of a stronger Denisovan signal in Amerindians vs. East Asians (Qin & Stoneking 2015), which suggests that Amerindians must be older than the LGM time frame entertained by Raghavan et al. (2015).

While Raghavan et al. (2015) dismiss the Australo-Melanesian hypothesis advanced by craniologists, Skoglund et al. hope that direct DNA analysis of the Paleoindian material from Amazonia will yield support to their finding. Importantly, just like the mythical “Ancient Northern Eurasian” (ANE) population to which the Mal’ta boy belonged is claimed to no longer exist in the Old World, the ancient Population Y ceased to exist, too. But apparently their descendants are well and alive in the New World.

Out-of-America can end the torturous guesswork that the population genetic community is engaged in trying to explain the high allelic diversity and the diverse set of continental connections to the Old World exhibited by Amerindian genomes. Phenomenal linguistic and cultural diversity in the Americas (with its well-documented connections to West Eurasia, East Asia and the Sahul) now receives full corroboration from population genetics. One pulse from a single, structured ancient Amerindian population followed by long-range migrations to the Sahul, Middle East/Caucasus, Europe and East Asia around 60-40,000 YBP provides an elegant explanation to the observed cross-disciplinary pattern.

50,000 years ago people went to sea

In a stunning discovery, a team of archaeologists in Australia has found extensive remains of a sophisticated human community living 50,000 years ago. The remains were found in a rock shelter in the continent’s arid southern interior. Packed with a range of tools, decorative pigments, and animal bones, the shelter is a wide, roomy space located in the Flinders Ranges, which are the ancestral lands of the Adnyamathanha. The find overturns previous hypotheses of how humans colonized Australia, and it also proves that they interacted with now-extinct megafauna that ranged across the continent.

Dubbed the Warratyi site, the rock shelter sits above a landscape criss-crossed with deep gorges that would have flowed with water when Paleolithic humans lived here. From extensive excavations conducted last year, the archaeologists estimate that people occupied Warratyi on and off for 40,000 years, finally abandoning the site just 10,000 years ago.

By analyzing layers of earth in the shelter, the scientists were able to construct a timeline of settlement in the space. They used carbon dating on nuggets of hearth charcoal and eggshells to discover that the shelter was first occupied about 50,000 years ago. They also used a dating technique called optically simulated luminescence (OSL) on buried grains of quartz. This technique determines when those quartz grains last saw sunlight and heat. Both techniques returned similar dates, adding to the researchers’ confidence in their findings.

This makes Warratyi the oldest evidence of human occupation in the arid Australian interior, long believed too hostile for ancient people who had few tools. But these findings make it clear that the ancestors of Australia’s indigenous people were, in fact, seasoned explorers who could survive in difficult conditions.

Genomic evidence for the Pleistocene and recent population history of Native Americans

Science DOI: 10.1126/science.aab3884

Maanasa Raghavan1,*, Matthias Steinrücken2,3,4,*, Kelley Harris5,*, Stephan Schiffels6,*, Simon Rasmussen7,*, Michael DeGiorgio8,*, Anders Albrechtsen9,*, Cristina Valdiosera1,10,*, María C. Ávila-Arcos1,11,*, Anna-Sapfo Malaspinas1* et al.

How and when the Americas were populated remains contentious. Using ancient and modern genome-wide data, we find that the ancestors of all present-day Native Americans, including Athabascans and Amerindians, entered the Americas as a single migration wave from Siberia no earlier than 23 thousand years ago (KYA), and after no more than 8,000-year isolation period in Beringia. Following their arrival to the Americas, ancestral Native Americans diversified into two basal genetic branches around 13 KYA, one that is now dispersed across North and South America and the other is restricted to North America. Subsequent gene flow resulted in some Native Americans sharing ancestry with present-day East Asians (including Siberians) and, more distantly, Australo-Melanesians. Putative ‘Paleoamerican’ relict populations, including the historical Mexican Pericúes and South American Fuego-Patagonians, are not directly related to modern Australo-Melanesians as suggested by the Paleoamerican Model

Are We Alone?

About the Author: Caleb Scharf is the director of Columbia University’s multidisciplinary Astrobiology Center. He has worked in the fields of observational cosmology, X-ray astronomy, and more recently exoplanetary science. His latest book is ‘Gravity’s Engines: How Bubble-Blowing Black Holes Rule Galaxies, Stars, and Life in the Cosmos’, and he is working on ‘The Copernicus Complex’ (both from Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux.) 

“Close Encounters of the Third Kind”

This article was originally published by Scientific American.

This post is one in a series covering, and expanding on, topics in the book “The Copernicus Complex“ (Scientific American/FSG).

The conversation usually goes like this:

Do you think we’re alone in the universe?

Answer A) :

No, absolutely not. It’s a huge universe, we’re not at the center or central in any way and it would be the height of vanity to think humans or Earth are in any way special or significant.

Answer B):

We might be. There’s never been any firm evidence of extraterrestrial life, and our galaxy is old enough that intelligent civilizations should have spread everywhere by now.

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve had this exchange, with scientists, with family, with random people at pubs and (once) on a heavily forested hillside in Norway with a pair of slightly suspicious looking hikers who had probably just hidden a body somewhere. But the fascinating thing is how we tend to fall into either camp A or camp B, and how strongly we feel about our answers.

There are some caveats. The ‘we’ in the original question is a loaded word. It can be taken to mean ‘technologically intelligent life’ (i.e. as modern humans like to think they are), or it can be taken to mean ‘slime’ – the single-celled microbial life that represents, and has always represented, the bulk of living matter on Earth. If the definition of ‘we’ gets refined using these categories the answers can change a bit. In fact both A and B responses tend to converge to a tepid middle-ground, along the lines of saying that there could be lots of microbial-type life in the cosmos, where it sits slime-like under a favorite rock rather than building pan-galactic empires, while more complex life is either very rare (as in the so-called Rare Earth hypothesis) or never makes it very far into interstellar space (part of an idea called the Great Filter)

This is an awfully unsatisfactory state of affairs, a set of answers that are enormously influenced by our interpretation of events here on Earth. The impasse would be broken if we could detect life with an independent origin elsewhere – either in the solar system or farther beyond – yet that’s a challenge that remains unmet.

It may not stay that way for much longer, between our exploration of Mars and our ambitions for exploring places like comets and icy moons, we really do seem to be getting closer to examining local possibilities for life. And with a stunning array of exoplanet detections, and near-term cataloging of all the best neighboring targets with upcoming missions like TESS, we should be able to apply the next generation of space and ground based ‘super observatories‘ to make crude measurements of the properties of a few potential Earth-analogs. But this is an optimistic overview. In all of these examples, the non-detection of life (whether as fossils or as chemical signatures) is unlikely to eliminate the possibility of life in these places – we simply won’t be able to be that thorough.

So, unfortunately, in ten years time we’re quite likely to still be having the A vs B conversation. On the face of it the compromise solution – that microbial-type life may be common, but life like us isn’t – seems like a decent answer. However, there’s a catch.

Most of this argument hinges on the idea that Earth’s complex-celled, multi-cellular life (everything from nematodes to sheep) only exists because of a sequence of very specific, but low probability, events – including the way and location in which the Earth formed (with water, with plate tectonics), to the presence of a large moon (keeping our spin axis from varying too much), to a chance merger of two equally simple, single-celled, organisms giving rise to complex, eukaryotic life 2 billion years ago. Thus the odds of a planet making creatures like us is vanishingly unlikely, and so this simply can’t have happened in many other places, even in a universe of hundreds of billions of galaxies and nearly 14 billion years old.

Except this is a very specific interpretation of the facts, after the events (a post-hoc analysis). To use an analogy, imagine that you’re woken up one morning by the telephone ringing. You answer and it’s a distant cousin just calling to let you know their new number. Later, as you walk to work, a bus honks at traffic and you glance up to see some of the digits of that phone number on its side. At lunchtime a torn piece of newspaper gets stuck on your foot, with the headline that the national lottery has a record prize draw. Back at work a colleague insists that you participate in a meeting where the word ‘prize’ gets used extensively. On your way home you stop at a newspaper stand and decide to buy a lottery ticket. The next morning you discover that you’ve won the huge jackpot!

What do you make of this? Your natural instinct is to look back at the events of the previous day, marveling at how, step-by-step, you were led to this point by a series of unlikely events. Taken altogether, you reason, this was incredibly improbable, it’s as if the cosmos has singled you out to win!

Yet this isn’t true at all. Someone, somewhere, was going to win the lottery draw. And whoever they were, in whatever circumstances, they would be having the same thoughts. The events of the previous day, week, or year would all take on new meaning in light of the outcome. There would be numbers that they’d seen, choices made, steps taken, random occurrences that appeared to lead up to this point.

Of course some of these events were necessary, but they would also be entirely different if another person had won. The point being that it would be hugely irrational to claim that the chain of events that led to you winning was the only way this could have happened.

All of which circles back to the idea of the ‘rarity’ of life’s trajectory here on Earth. The fact is that our perspective is not unlike the lottery winner’s. It’s easy to look back at 4 billion years of bio-geo-chemical evolution and say that organisms like us were a highly improbable outcome. But in truth we don’t know whether or not that’s actually true, and we can’t know because we have no information about how things have played out across billions of other worlds across the galaxy. In a sense, we have no idea how many other winning lottery tickets are out there in the cosmos, or how they were picked.

And that raises a new question (one that I will tackle in a later post, Part 2), aboutwhy we have no idea, and how complex, even technological, life elsewhere could have remained unseen to this point…


Astounding Find

This appeared in US News and Wold Report:

Scientists have discovered vast water reserves near Earth’s mantle, a finding that could reshape our understanding of where Earth’s water came from.

According to a new study by a group of U.S. geophysicists, a reservoir of water three times the volume of all of Earth’s oceans has been discovered inside a layer of blue rock 440 miles deep.

Geophysicist Steve Jacobsen of Northwestern University, who coauthored the study, says it’s evidence the planet’s water bubbled up from somewhere underground.

The water is thought to be trapped in a layer of ringwoodite, a rock with a crystalline structure that acts like a sponge, to attract and trap the hydrogen and oxygen atoms that comprise water.

While the presence of this layer of ringwoodite hasn’t be confirmed, there is mounting evidence that it exists. A chunk of diamond carried to Earth’s surface in a volcano earlier this year had a piece of ringwoodite inside.

Scientists used 2,000 seismometers to track the vibrations generated by earthquakes across the planet. The waves appeared to be propagating through saturated rock, rather than dry material, which gave scientists an idea of the size of the reservoir.

The scientists are trying to find out whether this reservoir layer extends around the whole planet. In the meantime, the results of the study thus far have been published in the journal Science.

I love this stuff.

Tuna Fishing – Another True Dowsing Story

Every fall the bluefin tuna run into Cape Cod Bay and people go out with their boats to harpoon them. The boats are anywhere from 30 to 50 feet long, there’s a stand on the bow you go out on to “stick” the fish, which can be seen on the surface sunning itself. These fish are BIG up to 1,000 pounds and worth big money. One fish can be worth $ 20,000 and is sold fresh in the Tokyo market after being flown there overnight. So this is a short but big money fishery. One year my first skipper Sten was out there trying to get tunafish, with one sternman, but he got nothing. Not a thing, and he was a good fisherman.  Meanwhile my friend Gerry, who like me was first taught by Sten, was with one Elmer Costa on his big black boat the Columbia, and Gerry and Elmer had two fish. Sten was dying of curiosity, what was Gerry and Elmer doing that Sten was not? It bothered Sten. A lot. Meanwhile the season went on and Elmer and Gerry got another fish, and by this time Sten was sort of following them around, hoping to see their trick. Their technique.

This was the same year I had shown Sten with a dowsing stick where his well was, and found his gold coin, and this also perplexed him greatly, but not as much as being outfished by someone he had trained. Gerry and I had a discussion one afternoon because we both wanted to further excite Sten, and then I called Sten and said to him, “Listen, Sten, if you want to see the trick Gerry’s using, you follow Elmer tomorrow, close, get up right by their stern and take a look.”

This Sten did, it being a foggy morning so he was able to nose in real close, and he came around the stern of the Columbia and peered through the mist and saw Gerry on the stern of the Columbia holding in his hands a dowsing stick, facing aft, the stick standing upright and held in his two hands. Sten peered closer and realized that on the end of the stick Gerry was holding was an empty Bumblebee tunafish can.

This incident gave us much amusement, but then a strange thing happened. Sten began to catch fish and Gerry and Elmer were skunked, as we used to say. Sten ended the season with one more fish than Gerry and Elmer. This confused Gerry, and me, too, and one day that winter in the coffee shop we saw Sten and asked him, what changed for him? Sten gave each of us a long heavy-lidded look and cracked a slow smile.

“You were using the wrong can,” he said. “I caught my fish not with Bumblebee but with Chicken of the Sea.”

Sten passed away in 1998, brain tumor, but until he was across the bar he always said, with a perfectly straight face, when we asked, “Of course it’s true.”



Real – Unreal ? Global Warming Comparison

I’m taking a huge risk, here, because this whole global warming, or, now, climate change issue has become such a loaded subject, prompting nearly religious fury and rage on both sides. In fact, it’s almost become THE SUBJECT ONE CANNOT MENTION in polite company, or impolite company. And now, after the 2016 election, it will only grow more contentious, as the so-called “deniers” have come to the fore….But it’s a real debate, and a huge reflection of values, with enormous consequences depending on what we do, or don’t do, in response to the proof, or lack thereof, of the situation. But because I have written this long story that is fundamentally about real climate change, and by that I mean, climate change we know took place in the past, I looked for some reasonably concise and level comparison of the two points of view. I’m not rabid about this subject, on either side, because it’s clear to me that we’ve evolved amidst huge climate changes, huge ones we have learned then forgotten, several times. Where I get a little uncomfortable, no, very uncomfortable, is when I smell the stench of zealotry, and in this area there’s plenty to go around on all sides. More than plenty.

This is from a website called Pro Con.org which says it wants to look at contentious issues from both sides. I don’t know if these guys are real, or straight up, or some kind of cloaked front for foaming radical social scientists trying to get everyone out of cities or for cigar smoking corporate fat cats living off pillaged land and natural resources. It seemed to me that the points made here pro and con were fairly reasonable. I am sure there are other, better lists. Point is, some can argue there’s no question at all we are cooking ourselves, while others argue as strongly that we’re headed into another ice age. What do you think?

Pro & Con Arguments: “Is Human Activity a Substantial Cause of Global Climate Change?”
PRO Human Causation
1. 75% of the 20th century increase in the atmospheric greenhouse gas CO2 is directly caused by human actions like burning fossil fuels. CO2 levels were 389ppm (parts per million) as of Apr. 2010 – the highest they have been in the past 650,000 years. [6] This increase in CO2 was a substantial contributor to the 1°F to 1.4°F warming over the 20th century. [1][43]
2. Human-produced CO2 is warming the earth, not natural CO2 released from the ocean and other “carbon sinks.” CO2 from fossil fuel combustion has a specific isotopic ratio [48] that is different from CO2 released by natural “carbon sinks.” 20th century measurements of CO2 isotope ratios in the atmosphere confirm that the rise results from human activities, not natural processes. [3]
3. Human produced greenhouse gases will continue to accumulate in the atmosphere causing climate change because the earth’s forests, oceans, and other “carbon sinks” cannot adequately absorb them all. As of 2009, these carbon sinks were only absorbing about 50% of human-produced CO2. The other 50% is accumulating in the atmosphere. [3]
4. Human greenhouse gas emissions, not changes in the sun’s radiation, are causing global climate change. Measurements in the upper atmosphere from 1979 – 2009, show the sun’s energy has gone up and down in cycles, with no net increase. While warming is occurring in the troposphere (lower atmosphere), the stratosphere (upper atmosphere) is cooling. If the sun was driving the temperature change there would be warming in the stratosphere also, not cooling. [7]
5. Computer models show that increased levels of human produced greenhouse gases will cause global warming and other climate changes. Although these climate models are uncertain [8] about how much future warming will occur and how it will affect the climate, they all agree that, to some degree, these changes will happen. The reality of climate change is not contradicted by this uncertainty.
6. Although the amount of human-produced greenhouse gases may seem small to some people, their warming potential is amplified by the water vapor positive feedback loop [49], allowing them to cause significant warming and climate change. As greenhouse gases heat the planet, increased humidity (water vapor in the atmosphere) results. Since water vapor is itself a greenhouse gas, it can double the warming effect of greenhouse gases such as CO2. [9]
7. Human greenhouse gas emissions are heating the planet, and climate models [50] consistently show that this warming causes an increase in the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones. [10] The fact that 1975-1989 had 171 category 4 and 5 hurricanes while 1990-2004 had 269 [51] of them (a 57% increase) validates these climate models and the reality of human-induced climate change.
8. Human-produced CO2 is changing the climate of the world’s oceans. As excess CO2 is absorbed, oceanic acidity levels increase. Oceans have absorbed 48% of the total CO2 [52] released by human activities and acidity levels are 25-30% higher [53] than prior to human fossil fuel use. [11]
9. An 8″ rise in the ocean level has occurred (1961-2003) due to human-induced global warming. Global sea levels rose an average of 1.8 mm (.07 in) per year between 1961 and 2003 and at an average rate of about 3.1 mm (.1 in) per year from 1993 to 2003. [3] This sea level rise is the result of warming waters and the melting of glaciers, ice caps, and polar ice sheets. From 1870-2004, a “significant acceleration” of sea-level rise occured, an important confirmation of climate change models. [12]
10. Warming caused by human-produced greenhouse gases is changing the earth’s hydrologic climate. Rainfall is increasing in many areas due to increased evaporation stemming from global warming. Higher temperatures are also causing some mountainous areas to receive rain rather than snow. According to researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, up to 60% of the changes in river flow, winter air temperature, and snow pack in the western US (1950-1999) were human-induced. [13]
11. Warming caused by human-produced greenhouse gases is changing the rate of glacial melt and altering the local climate of many regions. Since 1850, records show a “strong increase” in the rate of glacial retreat. [54] From 1961-2004 glaciers retreated about .5mm per year in sea level equivalent. [3] According to the World Glacier Monitoring Service, since 1980, glaciers worldwide have lost nearly 40 feet (12 meters) in average thickness (measured in average mass balance in water equivalent). [14]
12. Warming caused by human-produced greenhouse gases and soot (black carbon) produced from burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, [16] is reducing the size of the Arctic ice cap. A smaller ice cap reflects less of the sun’s energy away from the earth. This energy is absorbed instead, causing air and water temperatures to rise. From 1953–2006, Arctic sea ice declined 7.8% per decade. Between 1979 and 2006, the decline was 9.1% each decade. Climate models predict that Arctic sea ice will continue to retreat through the 21st century further disrupting the global climate. [15]
13. Many organizations believe that human activity is a substantial cause of global climate change. These groups include: the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the InterAcademy Council, the Network of African Science Academies, the European Science Foundation (ESF), the European Space Agency (ESA), the Royal Society (UK national academy of science), the US National Academies of Science, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
14. Nearly all climate change studies show humans as the main cause, and studies which contradict this claim are often funded by petroleum companies, making their conclusions suspect given the obvious conflict of interest. From 2004-2005, ExxonMobil gave $2.2 million [55] in grants for climate change research to organizations that deny human caused climate change. In 2006 US Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) chastised ExxonMobil [56] for providing more than $19 million in funding to over 29 “climate change denial front groups.”

CON Human Causation
1. The 20th century warming of 1-1.4°F is within the +/- 5°F range of the past 3,000 years. [19] A 2003 study by researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics [44] shows temperatures from 1000-1100 AD (before fossil fuel use) that are comparable to those from 1900-1990. [45]
2. Rising CO2 levels are a result of global warming, not a cause of it. As temperatures increase, CO2 is released from “carbon sinks” such as the oceans or the Arctic tundra. [20] Measurements of ice core samples show that over the last four climactic cycles (past 240,000 years) periods of global warming preceded global increases in CO2. [57]
3. Human releases of CO2 cannot cause climate change as any increases in CO2 are eventually balanced by nature. CO2 gets absorbed by oceans, forests, and other “carbon sinks” that increase their biological activity to absorb excess CO2 from the atmosphere. 50% of the CO2 released by the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities, has already been absorbed. [21]
4. Global warming and cooling are caused by fluctuations in the sun’s heat (solar forcing), not by the minor greenhouse effect of human-produced gases such as CO2 and methane (CH4). [17] Between 1900 and 2000 solar irradiance increased .19%. [19] This increase correlates with the rise in surface temperatures in the US.
5. Due to the inherent unpredictability of climate systems it is impossible to accurately use models to determine future weather. Climate models have been unable to simulate major known features of past climate [58] such as the ice ages or the very warm climates of the Miocene, Eocene, and Cretaceous periods. If models cannot replicate past climate changes they should not be trusted to predict future climate changes.
6. Rising temperatures are caused primarily by water vapor, the most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, not by CO2. Water vapor concentrations in the atmosphere are driven by natural storm systems and ocean currents. According to a Mar. 5, 2010 study by researchers at NOAA, water vapor in the stratosphere was responsible for increasing the rate of warming during the 1990s by 30%. [22] [23]
7. The increased hurricane activity over the past decade (1995-2005), including hurricane Katrina, is not the result of human-induced climate change; it is the result of cyclical tropical cyclone patterns, driven primarily by natural ocean currents, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) testimony in the US Senate on Sep. 20, 2005. [59]
8. Deep ocean currents cause climate warming and cooling in long term cycles. The minor greenhouse effect of human produced CO2 pales in comparison. [18] Global cooling from 1940 to the 1970s, and warming from the 1970s to 2008, coincided with fluctuations in ocean currents and cloud cover driven by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) – a naturally occurring rearrangement in atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns. [39]
9. Ocean acidity levels have risen over the 20th century, but they are not out of the ordinary considering the fluctuations of the past 7,000 years. [24] Average ocean surface water pH is 8.1 and has only decreased 0.1 [60] since the beginning of the industrial revolution (neutral is pH 7, acid is below pH7).
10. Changes in ocean currents are primarily responsible for the melting Greenland ice sheet, Arctic sea ice, and Arctic permafrost. Over the 20th century there have been two Arctic warming periods with a cooling period (1940-1970) in between. According to a peer-reviewed Apr. 19, 2009 study [61] in Geophysical Research Letters, natural shifts in the ocean currents are the major cause of these climate changes, not human generated greenhouse gases.
11. The general consensus that the earth has warmed during the 20th century is based upon flawed temperature measurements. These measurements, taken from surface monitoring stations set up by the National Weather Service (NWS), are often contaminated by the “heat island effect.” According to a Mar. 2009 study published by the Heartland Institute, 89% of NWS monitoring stations are too close to artificial heat sources [62] such as large asphalt parking lots, air conditioners, heaters and other sources of artificial heat.
12. Many organizations believe that nature, not human activity, is primarily responsible for climate change. These groups include: the Heartland Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the George C. Marshall Institute, the CATO Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, the Institute for Energy Research, the National Center for Policy Analysis, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, and the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine.
13. Theories of naturally caused climate change are often ignored by “mainstream” scientists and organizations because many research scientists are more interested in maintainining the flow of federal grant money for climate change research than in questioning the basic theory of human causation. From 1998-2009, nearly $25 billion [46] in federal funds was allocated for climate science research. Researchers who question human-induced climate change often do not receive grant money for research projects. [41]
Background: “Is Human Activity a Substantial Cause of Global Climate Change?”

The US National Academies of Science, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and many others, say that greenhouse gas levels are rising due to human activities such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation which are causing significant climate changes including global warming, loss of sea ice, glacier retreat, more intense heat waves, stronger hurricanes, and more droughts. They contend that climate change requires immediate international action to prevent dire consequences.
The Heartland Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, and many others, argue that human-generated greenhouse gas emissions are too small to substantially change the earth’s climate. They contend that our forests and oceans are capable of absorbing these small increases, and that 20th century warming has resulted from natural processes including fluctuations in the sun’s heat and ocean currents. They say that global climate change is based on bunk science and scare tactics.
Human activities release greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (NO2), into the atmosphere. As of Apr. 2010, CO2 levels were 389 parts per million (ppm) – reportedly higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years when levels fluctuated between 180 and 300 ppm. [3] This rise took place alongside a 20th century global temperature increase of between 1°F and 1.4°F.[1][43]

Although there was a period of cooling from 1940 to 1970 [2], and uncertainty exists in computer climate models, [8] many researchers think the earth will continue to warm by 3-10°F [1] over the 21st century.

Predictions about how climate changes will affect civilization range from an Oct. 2003 Department of Defense report [63] detailing catastrophic weather events and a “significant drop in the human carrying capacity of the Earth’s environment,” to a Fall 2007 Oregon Institute of Science and Health report [19] detailing “an increasingly lush environment of plants and animals.”

Scientists have know of the heating potential (greenhouse effect) of gases such as CO2 since at least Jan. of 1859, when British physicist John Tyndall first began experiments leading to the discovery that CO2 in the atmosphere absorbs the suns heat. [26]
On Feb. 16, 1938, engineer Guy S. Callender published an influential study [64] suggesting increased atmospheric CO2 from fossil fuel combustion was causing global warming. Many scientists criticized the study arguing that CO2 had a negligible effect on temperature compared to water vapor and atmospheric circulation changes.

In March 1958, US climate scientist Charles Keeling began measuring atmospheric CO2 at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii for use in climate modeling. [27] Using these measurements, Keeling became the first scientist to confirm that atmospheric CO2 levels were rising rather than being fully absorbed by forests and oceans (carbon sinks). [28]
In 1977, the US National Academy of Sciences issued the report “Energy and Climate” [65] concluding that the burning of fossil fuels was increasing atmospheric CO2, and that increased CO2 was associated with a rise in global temperatures.

On June 23, 1988, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientist James Hansen presented testimony [66] to the US Senate stating directly that increases in CO2 were warming the planet and “changing our climate.” The testimony was based on Hansen and colleagues’ Aug. 1988 peer-reviewed study on Global Climate Change. [67] Many scientists, including MIT Meteorologist Richard Lindzen, [42] criticized Hansen’s findings arguing that his climate models were unreliable, and that negative feedback loops [68] would balance out any warming caused by increased CO2.

Also in 1988, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was created by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to review research on global climate change (as of June 2010, there were 184 IPCC member countries). The IPCC issued its first assessment report [69] in 1990 stating that “emissions resulting from human activities are substantially increasing the atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gases,” resulting in “an additional warming of the Earth’s surface.” [30]

On Oct. 13, 1992, US President George Bush signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). [70] The goal of the convention was the “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” [31]
In Dec. 1997, over 161 nations met in Kyoto, Japan, to negotiate a treaty to limit greenhouse gas emissions and work toward the objectives of the UNFCCC. The resulting Kyoto Protocol [71] set binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European Union to reduce greenhouse gas emissions roughly 5% below 1990 levels by 2012. [32]
In Mar. 2001, President George W. Bush withdrew the US from the Kyoto Protocol due to Senate opposition and concerns that limiting greenhouse gas emisions would harm the US economy. From July 16-27, 2001 the COP 6 conference (conference of signatory parties to the UNFCCC) took place in Bonn, Germany, and the final amendments to the Kyoto Protocol were made. 179 countries reached a binding agreement without the participation of the US. [33]

In 2006, Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth premiered and was seen by over 5 million worldwide. The film argued that human caused climate change was real, and that without immediate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, catastrophic climate changes would severely disrupt human societies, leading to a possible collapse of industrial civilization. [34]

In 2007, the IPCC released its fourth assessment report stating that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal” and that “most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely [90% confidence] due to the observed increase in anthropogenic [man-made] greenhouse gas concentrations.” The IPCC and Al Gore received a Noble Peace Prize for their climate science work in Oct. 2007. [35]

In response to the IPCC findings, a group of scientists formed the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) to compile a report challenging the science behind man-made climate change. The Mar. 2, 2008 report, “Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate” [72] was published by the Heartland Institute. On Mar. 2-4, 2008, Heartland held its first international conference attended by over 400 scientists, economists, and other experts questioning human-caused global warming. At the conference, 98 speakers [73] including PhD climate scientists from major universities, argued that global warming was most likely a natural event.

On Dec. 7, 2009, the US EPA announced their findings on greenhouse gases determining that they “threaten public health” and are “the primary driver of climate change.” This statement was in response to the US Supreme Court ruling (5-4) in Massachusetts v. EPA [47] that greenhouse gases met the criteria to be considered pollutants under the Clean Air Act. [25]

In Dec. 2009 the COP 15 conference took place in Copenhagen, Denmark. The Copenhagen Accord [74] created by the US, China, India, Brazil, and South Africa, called for a rise of no more than 2°C, to be achieved by “deep cuts in global emissions” of greenhouse gases.

From 1998-2009, the US government appropriated $99 billion [46] for work related to climate change. $35.7 billion (36%) of that total came in 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

In Apr. 2010, Bolivia hosted an alternative to the UN COP conferences. The World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth was attended by representatives from nearly 130 countries. [36] The People’s Agreement [75] reached at the conference demanded that developed countries lower CO2 levels back to 300 ppm (from 389ppm), and rejected the Copenhagen Accord for its “insufficient reductions in greenhouse gases.” It stated that “[c]limate change is now producing profound impacts on agriculture and the ways of life of indigenous peoples and farmers throughout the world.”
As of 2010, the US had 4.5% of the world’s population but was responsible for about 28% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. [7]

On Sep. 27, 2013, the IPCC released a summary of its “Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis” report, stating that the evidence for human caused climate change has grown since the release of the fourth assessment report in 2007, and it is now “extremely likely [95% confidence] that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.” [76]




A great article by John Hawkes – johnhawkes.net

 Launching genetic diversity to the stars

Popular Mechanics asks, “How Many People Does It Take to Colonize Another Star System?”. The basic problem is that a multigenerational star voyage requires the trekkers to mate and reproduce many times while maintaining a limited population size. Too few people, and the colonists will rapidly lose genetic diversity by genetic drift.

The article starts by noting the work of anthropologist John Moore on the question. Moore concluded that the social structure necessary to prevent inbreeding was essentially that of clans or extended tribes of hunter-gatherers — strong kin avoidance rules to prevent inbreeding and a population size of 150-300 people.

A new paper by Cameron Smith focuses instead on the worst case scenarios, concluding that the “safe” population size would be much higher:

Entire generations of people would be born, live, and die before the ship reached its destination. This brings up the question of how many people you need to send on a hypothetical interstellar mission to sustain sufficient genetic diversity. And a new study sets the bar much higher than Moore’s 150 people.

According to Portland State University anthropologist Cameron Smith, any such starship would have to carry a minimum of 10,000 people to secure the success of the endeavor. And a starting population of 40,000 would be even better, in case a large percentage of the population died during during the journey.

A number as large as 40,000 people would enable the mission to approximate the effective population size of the entire human population of earth before 100,000 years ago or so. For reasons I’ve discussed many times (for example, “Cultural impedance, demographic growth, effective population size”), the effective population size of humans does not mean that the actual number of people in the ancestral human population was very small. With Pleistocene people, there were many processes that reduced the genetic diversity (and hence our estimates of effective population size) within a population of a relatively large actual population size — on the order of a few hundred thousands of people.

Forty thousand is pretty small, but on a random-mating voyage of a hundred generations should basically approximate the Wright-Fisher population model. Smith further examines scenarios in which “catastrophic” events may affect the mission, greatly reducing genetic variation (or eliminating it). In these scenarios, a population dispersed across multiple “ships” would create a buffer, but each of those units has its own small population size issues, arguing for a bigger mission.

I’ll take a deeper look at Smith’s upcoming paper after the AAPA meetings. These future scenarios really help us think about the limits that existed in past human populations, which were less constrained in some ways but more so in others. Moore’s approximations for a future “generation ship” mission incorporated social dynamics in ways that have clear parallels in the past (his ethnographic work focused on small village societies of Southeast U.S. native peoples). Smith’s simulations refer to a larger-scale aspect of genetic drift.

The interaction of these two factors does not easily reduce to equations, but creates the most interesting anthropological questions. How much social control is necessary to maintain the viability of a colonizing population, not only genetic viability but also cultural viability? What is the balance between shared goals and practical needs?

I question the general assumption that such a mission would “need” to maximize the genetic diversity of the colonists. In fact, many potential groups of interstellar colonists might prefer to reduce their genetic diversity.

Imagine a small group of people with the sufficient motivation to divorce themselves from humans on Earth, launch across interstellar space for thousands of years, forcing their descendants to live within a tiny habitat, with the expectation that their common offspring will colonize a new planet a hundred generations hence. The kind of internal discipline necessary to motivate such a scheme is more like a cult than an open society.

Cults enforce cooperation by means of social isolation,

By increasing the relatedness of the population, they could enhance the incentives for cooperative behavior. In effect, people boarding the voyage on Earth would be assured that their descendants would not merely be notional descendants but in fact strongly genetically similar to them. Such groups don’t want to board this ship with a random selection of humanity; they want to board with their cousins. That reduced level of genetic variation would generate a larger genetic payoff for each individual launching from Earth.

They are not going to create a microcosm of Earth’s genetic variation. They’re going to create a colony of clones.

UPDATE (2014-04-05): A number of Twitter commentators have suggested that you don’t need to have so many people if you have a store of frozen sperm and egg cells. In essence, you could create a human version of the Long Term Evolution Experiment run by Richard Lenski. By unfreezing the eggs and sperm of previous inhabitants — or unrelated eggs and sperm brought from Earth — the colonists could add whatever genetic variation is required, or “rewind” the colony to a previous gene pool.

That can be done with today’s technology. We may question whether freezing is really a viable strategy across 1000 years. As yet we only know that freezing works over 20 years or so, and we don’t have good statistics yet about whether germ cells or embryos frozen over longer time periods have any increased chance of mutations or other long-term effects. Still, the level of risk already faced by interstellar voyagers is likely much larger than a slight increase in risk from long-term freezing of germline tissue.

It would make perfect sense to have a large store of adaptive variants available to deal with whatever challenges the colonists face on their new world. Imagine that they settle a world with only two-thirds of Earth’s sea-level atmospheric pressure. An influx of frozen Tibetan sperm would bring in genes to adapt the colonists to their hypoxic world.

Of course, we may also consider that a starship 50 or 100 years from now will be leaving an Earth with vastly greater genetic engineering potential than we currently possess. Colonists after the ninety-eighth generation might vastly prefer a bit of genetic tinkering to their own gene pool, instead of unfreezing vastly different DNA from an Earthling stranger. In that sense, the colonists will not need either a large population or a giant frozen sperm vat. They can build as they go.

This brings us back to social dynamics. The colonists must maintain their motivation and ability to put the colonization plan into motion as they arrive at their destination. Death of the colony is not the only risk; their culture may slowly devolve until they are nothing but interstellar lotus-eaters. We don’t know how large a cultural group is necessary to maintain the necessary traditions over a thousand-year voyage.

That seems like an interesting problem.

I think Mr. Hawkes is onto something. I think the biggest problem here is cultural, the danger that memory will be lost and myths and legends arise that lead people to forget where they are going or why. Heck, none of us has a clue what our great grandparents were like or what they did. That’s three generations back. Imagine 100 of them. That’s 2,000 years. I can see a bunch of properly selected and evaluated stable colonists sent off and three hundred years later the ship filled with some kind of magic and myth entirely unrelated to what the purpose originally was. 

More Dowsing

Once in the seventies I showed this friend of mine how to dowse. He had a piece of land on the inner Cape up in the woods where he was planning to build a geodesic dome. The land was high, and on each side down a long slope were small ponds maybe sixty feet below. I went out there with him and when he told me he was going to dig a well I cut a stick and wandered the land. The stick pulled down so I said, “Here. Dig here.” He tried it. The stick did not pull down. I then walked backwards ahead of him, holding the ends of the stick where they stuck out from his hands with my fingertips, for contact. Because I had contact this time the stick pulled down. This totally freaked Peter out. It would have freaked him out even if we hadn’t inhaled.

So I went back fishing and Peter began to dig his well. The way he did this, was, he rigged up a big tripod over his site, which was about where my stick pulled down, and then using a pulley and rope he raised and dropped a big weight onto a section of two inch pipe. He would raise and drop that weight for hours, driving the pipe into the earth. Then he’d drop another section of pipe into the first, they were fitted so one slid inside the other two inches, and he’d pound again. Peter never spoke with me about our experience and I knew it troubled him greatly. Much much later he told me the rest of the story, and I swear by the Olympic Mountains this is true. I swear it.

It was summer. It was hot. I was fishing, trip after trip. Peter kept pounding. He drove those sections down thirty feet, fifty feet, eighty feet, a hundred twenty feet. By now he was sixty feet below the ponds down the hill. No water. Not a drop. The summer was passing. One morning, getting coffee, he overheard an old timer talking about dowsing and, remembering the baffling and confusing incident with me, and more than desperate, he mentioned he could use some help. This old dowser went home, grabbed his stick – he was one of those who used the same stick instead of cutting new green sticks like I do – and went with Peter to the site, the tripod, the weight, the pipe. The dowser pulled out his stick and said, “Now, I talk to my stick.” Peter said nothing. “Is there water here?” The stick went down. “Now we will see how deep it is. Is there water at one hundred thirty feet?” The stick did not move. “One hundred fifty feet?” The stick went down. “One hundred forty  five feet?” The stick went down. “One hundred forty six feet?” The stick went down. “One hundred forty seven feet?” The stick did not go down. “You’ll find water after one hundred forty six feet,” the dowser said.

Peter kept pounding that pipe the rest of the summer, driving four inches a day. He found water at one hundred forty six feet eight inches. He never did build his dome, but he drilled a well, and he found water.