An iridescent feathered dinosaur

Hot in science news today is a recently published paper from Nature about a newly discovered plumed dinosaur with iridescent feathers. In the past few years, we’ve had to rethink our conception of dinosaurs as giant lumbering lizards to nimble, gregarious, and feathered proto-birds.
What’s particularly exciting about this dinosaur, named Caihong (meaning ‘rainbow’), is the range of techniques brought to bear to reconstruct the colors it may have had. The scientists based these on electron microscope readings of imprints on rocks, comparing them with modern extant samples to determine their light absorbing properties.

The rich get richer, the poor get poorer

The Rate of Return on Everything, 1870-2015 asks (and answers):

What is the aggregate real rate of return in the economy? Is it higher than the growth rate of the economy and, if so, by how much? Is there a tendency for returns to fall in the long-run? Which particular assets have the highest long-run returns?

And what’s key here is that if the rate of return is greater than the growth of the economy, inequality is exacerbated. Findings: over the past 150 years, the rate of return has been double the economic growth.

Collective narcissism

Today I learned a new concept that, on examination, I think I should have known long ago: collective narcissism. This captures the essence of a common contemporary phenomenon.

As opposed to individuals with narcissistic personality, who maintain inflated views of themselves, collective narcissists exaggerate offences to their group’s image, and respond to them aggressively. Collective narcissists believe that their group’s importance and worth are not sufficiently recognised by others. They feel that their group merits special treatment, and insist that it gets the recognition and respect it deserves. In other words, collective narcissism amounts to a belief in the exaggerated greatness of one’s group, and demands external validation.

Sounds familiar?

Witch hunts as political tools

Between 1560 and 1630, the Great Witch Hunt raged in Europe, which resulted in 80,000 accusations and 40,000 deaths? Why did this phenomenon grip the continent? Two economists argue that the underlying reason was to gain more followers. This took place against the backdrop of the Protestant Reformation.

To bolster their point, the authors point out that from about 900 to 1400, the church didn’t want to acknowledge the existence of witches; and consequently, it didn’t try people for witchcraft. In 1258, Pope Alexander IV even prohibited the prosecution of witchcraft. Yet a few centuries later, the church reversed its decision. According to the economists, it was because of the Protestant Reformation.

Sounds suspiciously familiar to our own modern phenomenon of the “Drug War.”