For I May Come To You With Empty Hands…

What will happen if you (democrat / socialist / Marxist is there any difference? / progressives) take away my 2nd Amendment right to KEEP and Bear arms. I.E. I can HAVE and CARRY AROUND armament of my choice. Not just guns, by the way, but knives, swords and so much more.

I have had 6 years of Kara-Te – the marital art of “Empty Hands”. It came about because the ruling class of Japan thought the Okinawan people unfit to have weapons… So they had a Weapons Ban.

The result was the Nuchucku that was the basic “rice flail” used to winnow rice, and the “side handle baton” that was the handle from the well, and the art of Kara TE! where the hand itself, though empty, was the weapon.

Nothing has changed from that day.

I still come to you with “Empty Hands” and I am still lethal…

I can make a bomb from horse piss and sugar (though a bit of cardboard and some insecticide help – charcoal and sulfur). I can also make an explosive from electricity and salt, or ammonia and iodine, or nail polish remover and hair bleaching agent. Or a dozen more you have no idea even exist.

A battle hammer more lethal than a sword is $9 and a trip to the hardware store away. And I can bring down a network in short order with hacker skilz you do not have a hope of understanding. All while you have no idea who I am or what I do.

The only reason you can sleep at night is because you have not (yet, by a small margin…) pissed me off enough. With power, and I’m talking real personal ability to do things, comes responsibility. That seems to be something you do not understand, but I do. You are only alive because I have discipline and I understand that power comes with responsibility to NOT use it wrongly. Do you know what “sugar of lead” is? Look it up. Then think about it every time you put sugar in your coffee with a dispenser filled by a minimum wage “Deplorable”… Your life depends on them being more moral than you have been.

You can not “disarm” me by banning any particular “ugly gun” you do not understand. The USSR was brought down by folks tossing logs (cut pieces of street trees in case you do not know how common they are…) into tank treads and then tossing “Molotov Cocktails” onto the tanks. Oh, BTW, in case you think banning gasoline will make that “not work”, there are dozens of equally effective liquids. Including some made from sugar, starch, grains, wheat, rice, whatever… Yes, I can take out a tank with not much more than a chunk of tree limb, a bottle of fermented food mixed with salad oil, and some ambition. I’d rather not, though.

So please, I beg of you (because I know how much you love the whole begging thing…) do not make me come to you “With empty hands”… You will not like the result.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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34 Responses to For I May Come To You With Empty Hands…

  1. View from the Solent says:

    “.. the marital art of “Empty Hands” ”
    Your enemies are still lurking.

  2. tom0mason says:

    We arrive in this world with empty hands but during our short time here we will acquire much. When it is our time to die, we leave everything, our hands again will be empty. Why then run so hard to gain your everything, when it shall be left behind for others to make good or squander?

  3. Pinroot says:

    @tom0mason – I’ve noticed that most people spend to first half of their lives trying to acquire things, then spend the second half trying to pare back to the essentials.

  4. E.M.Smith says:

    @Pinroot:

    In the first decades you need to establish the basis for maintaining and growing a family. Toward the later years, those things need to “move on” to others needing to maintain and grow families why you reduce to just what is needed to maintain yourself. Then, eventually, you do not even need that…

    @all:

    “Stuff” is for making it easier to live a comfortable and productive life, but technique lets you do ever more with ever less. The limit cases are particularly interesting.

    For combat skills, Karate is the limit case of no “stuff”, along with what Special Forces learns about improvised weapons and working to turn a village.

    For overthrowing a government in 5th generation warfare, it is all about information. Controlling and manipulating it (as we have just seen… though not as good as they wanted it was enough to be effective). Time for traditional Americans to get on board with that approach too…

    “Stuff” is useful, but not always necessary… Much of the “stuff” I need, I can easily make from what’s just laying around. Engineering is the art of making what you need from what you have… and there’s always something laying around. From rocks to weeds to “whatever”.

    One of the best books (in terms of impact) on survival was Larry Dean Olsen’s
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/177698.Outdoor_Survival_Skills

    Why? Because it taught an attitude. He taught a desert survival course in a college. The final exam was to be dropped barefoot in the desert some miles from the end point, and left to fend. (They did monitor, and had sensitivity to the environmental impact of actual survival efforts. So, for example, a Barrel Cactus may take many decades to grow, but be killed for water for a day… Soon classes would eliminate all of them. So instead once you found and identified one, the equivalent amount of water would be provided, saving the cactus for future actual needs.)

    What it taught me was that “Cave Men” were able to live as they used the “Tech” appropriate to their era. Every era of history as some technology level that was available to it. To live without electricity is easy, just drop back to 1800s level tech. So I have some candles, kerosene lamp, and wood fuel bar-b-que. To live with “nearly nothing”, just know how to weave sandals from leaves, make a rock hammer / axe, and learn what “weed” is actually food. His students came to the desert “with empty hands” but with full brains…

    I’ve regularly had times when I had to confront some problem or other without “the usual” material goods. Now it is a habit to just look around and think “What have I got and what can I do with it?” instead of despairing over some missing object.

    My favorite experience was in a Volkswagen Fastback (air cooled era). On a back road away from anything helpful, it bent a valve push rod. These are hollow aluminum tubes about 1/2 the thickness of a finger that open and close the valves. Engine was NOT happy and was making a bit of a racket. I was by the side of the road, the sun was going down in about an hour, and I had no “prep” with me and cell phones were a decade or three in the future. What to do?

    Well, I had “the usual” flat blade screwdriver, 10 mm and 13 mm wrenches, and not much else. Under the car, popped off the valve cover with the screwdriver (wire bale). Used the 13 mm wrench to remove the rocker arm. Pulled out the bent push rod. Then sat behind the car wondering “What have I got?”…

    This engine was a dual carburetor engine. One on each side. Opposed 4 with 2 cylinders on each side. I briefly thought of reassembling the rocker arm without the one cylinder push rods. Unbalanced engine. Vibration would be bad. Then realized that with TWO cylinders with closed valves, they would act as “air springs” and be balanced. So pulled all the push rods and put the valve cover back on.

    I probably didn’t need to do it, but just in case enough fuel air mix leaked past the intake valves, I didn’t want a risk of “bang” with no place to go… So I found a ‘right size’ screw holding on the rear hatch decorative panel, and used that to plug the end of the fuel line to the carburetor for that side. Now it had no fuel, no air, and no valves. Entirely passive “air spring” to the other half of the engine.

    Started it up, nice and smooth running.

    From “what I had” I made a half sized engine. About the same power as the first 36 hp VW Bug. Terribly slow to get to speed, and topped out about 55 to 60 MPH, but it got me home. In fact, it was 20 miles to the VW dealer to get parts, and that was a few days away from ‘doable’ for me and my schedule then. So I drove it as ‘half an engine’ for about a week before making the run for parts.

    What would I have done without the screwdriver and wrench? I’m not sure, since I didn’t need to go that far. But on another occasion in a 1963 Ford Fairlane, it had the radiator hose rip about a 3 inch hole in it. I used a bit of wire from a fence that was poorly assembled and had a length of excess hanging (fatigue broke it off) and my T-Shirt to put a “bandage” over the hole. Then working my way from puddle to ditch to faucet to home, using a trash bit of tin can to dip water also found by the road, I drove the car home. Slowly with the pressure cap off the radiator, so it didn’t pressurize. Trash can be your friend.

    It’s an attitude. Empty Hands can make what you need from what you have, as long as the brain is full. It doesn’t matter if what you need is a patch for a hose, a weapon, or an engine out of what you have left when half of it is out of commission.

    I love this old movie for exactly that POV:
    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059183/

    Flight of the Phoenix. Airplane crashed in the desert. No radio. No help. Everyone is going to die. So the guy who has engineering skill and attitude designs a new aeroplane out of the bits that are sill working…

    Empty hands, attitude, and a full brain beat empty headed numpties with bad ideas and banning every time.

  5. Before Richard Nixon tried to nullify 2A to please the Soviets, there were no communist gun grabbers I can recall. The Second Amendment keeps our militia armed with fusion weapons the way George Washington intended. These picayune kristallnacht laws the looters want seem more like a dress rehearsal for another Freeze and Surrender movement.

  6. E.M.Smith says:

    Heard on Sebastian Gorka’s radio show that Wikipedia had deleted their Cultural Marxism page. Went to check on that, and found that it now redirects you to a “Cultural Marxism Conspiracy Theory” page:

    Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    (Redirected from Cultural marxism)

    Gee… so something that is a stated GOAL of Marxism, that they openly state as a method they use, is now a “conspiracy theory”… Uh Huh…

    Wiki is definitely going deeper into the sewer…

  7. philjourdan says:

    Have you wondered why the left is so in love with Muslims who are the most barbaric in their treatment of prisoners and women?

    NO hands beats empty hands.

  8. philjourdan says:

    Trust Wiki to be as fake as fake news. Doing so makes their actions all the more clear.

  9. beththeserf says:

    Yes, ingenuity is the mother of invention and also, stuff matters. Where would homo erectus have been in a world of critters armed with sharp teeth and claws without Promethius gift of fire and man made too;s?… And gotta’stay that way now some among us seek to disarm us.

  10. The True Nolan says:

    @E.M. Flight of the Phoenix? Good movie! I seem to remember that the actual pilot (real life, not in the movie) died while the flight was being filmed.

    @philjourdan “Islam is right about women!”
    https://www.spiked-online.com/2019/09/26/the-genius-of-the-islam-is-right-about-women-stunt/
    Yes, the leftist support for Islam is confusing and irrational — but leftism long ago ceased to be rational. My only guess is that because it destabilizes Western values they reflexively support it. That lack of reason gives leftism the primitive power of the mob (something not to be laughed at!) but it denies them the power of individuals with purpose and standards.

  11. John Robertson says:

    I like your slant .
    Rant?
    Feeling very much the same way.
    The Parasitic Overload have lost their way.
    Decades of stealing has left them convinced they are untouchable.
    All these years of our forbearance has convinced them, that we need them.
    They mistake tolerance for agreement or fear.
    For these are fools and bandits.
    Parasites intent on killing their host.

    Now they use the Dread Covid to stomp every civil right we thought we knew..
    Clueless Useless and very dangerous.
    They have served us notice,they will not leave us alone,under any circumstance.
    No place is safe from their help.

    That prison your government has built around the Capitol Buildings is quite something,they certainly fear something.
    And their idiocy is beginning to hurt my head,they fear,but they have no idea.
    As a skilled Tradesman,I have always mocked the “Terrorists ” that these clowns have been trying to use to frighten us with,for they are pathetic.
    Perhaps you need to build things before you can be competent to destroy?

    The Burn Loot Murder orchestration by these fools is reason enough.
    But they seem oblivious to the weakness of their position.
    Almost as if,because they cannot comprehend where their behaviour is leading,no one else can..

    Cities are extremely vulnerable when society collapses,yet the power base of these power hungry twits is entirely cities.
    One of the very few observations father shared with us from his war time experience was the way farmers,loggers and construction stiffs could turn almost any tool,toy or gadget into a weapon,often more effective weapons than the Army had issued them.

    And these greedy stupid scum who are currently pretending they have the right to rule,seem to lack the most basic knowledge of human nature..
    Maybe they truly are possessed,for no sane human would set out to destroy the foundations of civilization and brag about it.
    And only a suicidal moron would set about convincing angry citizens that they have no legal avenues of redress and perhaps nothing left to lose.

    I am left with the feeling,that some of these people who “Fortified” the election have war gamed,via computer model of course,a fake uprising that allows them to impose martial law.
    Probably used the Global Warming programmers.
    With the very same disconnect from reality.

    I keep forgetting that stupidity is infinite and there is no lower threshold for our progressive comrades,as in how low can they go?

    But the amazing conceit of these people is ..indescribable.
    The parasites are proudly stating that they are taking command of their host.
    Which quickly helps the host identify them and realize they must go.

    Delusions of adequacy?
    Or total madness?

  12. Compu Gator says:

    Ah!  But would our Vice-Usurper ☭-La, who is presumably much less moral than the stereotypical “Deplorable”, dare try to use it on the Usurper-in-Chief, to accelerate her widely expected accession to the Oval Office?

    <voice class=elderly-woman-from-Philly-&-Delaware>
    “Joe!  Look what Kamala got for us:
    The label says ‘Saturni Brand’
    Saccharin de plumbo:
    An artificial sweetener made in the New World according to Old Roman traditions’.
    So she remembered that you’re a ‘Roman Catholic’!
    How nice!  It must be made from plums!
    </voice>

    Democrats seem opposed to teaching history, which might reveal that succession via poisoning also was an Old Roman tradition.

  13. H.R. says:

    @Compu Gator who wrote the – “Saccharin de plumbo” from the ‘President in Waiting’ – scenario

    That right there was funny, I don’t care who you are.
    👍🤣🤣

  14. H.R. says:

    Hmmmm… does anyone know if Harris’ letterhead is printed as Office of The President In Waiting?

    Gropin’ Joe has vanishingly small odds of making it through 4 years, unless they do a Lenin’s Tomb sort of thing; stuff him and mount him, and pose him in the Oval Office.

    Or maybe they’ll just go with the Weekend at Bernie’s approach.

    Wait… how do we know they haven’t already gone that route?
    😜

  15. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, it was traditional to make a sweet sauce in led pans…
    https://www.warhistoryonline.com/ancient-history/the-reasons-why-rome-fell-lead-poisoning-is-often-dismissed-as-a-major-cause-for-the-decline-of-rome-but-the-theory-does-have-some-merit.html

    1. Lead Poisoning
    Let’s get this one out of the way first. Lead poisoning is often dismissed as a major cause for the decline of Rome, but the theory does have some merit. The Romans used lead in a variety of ways, many involving food and water.

    A particular sweetener and preservative, Defrutum, was boiled down in specific lead pots, where extended cooking times aided in the lead contamination. This mixture was added to many wines and to extend the life of soldier’s rations. It was also mixed with a fish sauce whose popularity roughly equates to that of modern ketchup.
    It was also used in animal feed, where the lead could easily contaminate the meat and be absorbed by humans.

    Garum was that fish sauce…

    Lead poisoning would have caused infertility, a loss of memory and reduced cognitive ability, among many other symptoms, largely among the nobility. It is easy to see that if the population wasn’t sustained and the ruling classes were becoming steadily less intelligent, that could very well cause a breakdown leading to a much easier barbarian conquest.

    Maybe she’s already been at it ;-)

    It does look a bit like we’re setting up for a repeat of history…

    Lastly, the economic decline of Rome is another important aspect. Rome’s economy had depended on plunder and slavery for centuries, so when conquests stopped, so did the economy. Influxes of gold and slaves could no longer stimulate an economy that had masses of poor crowding the cities and living on government rations.

    The wealthiest elite was often exempt from the taxes which fell on middle-class farmers, forcing them to sell their property to be incorporated into the massive holdings of the rich. The out-of-business farmers moved to the city and contributed to the state problem of feeding the masses.

    Emperors often had to put a ridiculous amount of money into the army, particularly the Praetorian Guard, just to ensure that they would not be assassinated, though many still were. Rampant spending led to the debasement of the currency, which in turn led to escalating inflation. In addition, corruption was endemic, especially in the west, making reforms to taxation even more difficult as administrators would still seek their illegal cut.

    2000 years and nothing changes…

  16. philjourdan says:

    @HR – YOu mean pretender in waiting. She is as illegitimate as the doddering old fool.

  17. E.M.Smith says:

    @H.R.:

    The modern method is just to Green Screen him… Put someone in a suit like they used to film Avatar and just electronically paint a Joe Face for the TV…

    https://screenrant.com/crazy-3d-technology-james-cameron-avatar/

    THE PERCENTAGES
    Avatar will reportedly be 60% CGI imagery, with a majority of the CG character animation filmed with revolutionary new motion-capture techniques using live actors. The other 40% of film will be live-action imagery, relying on more traditional (but no less spectacular) Cameron-brand visual F/X. The live action sequences were shot on location in New Zealand last Fall/Winter, using the same Fusion 3-D camera system that Cameron helped pioneer for his IMAX feature Ghost of the Abyss in 2003, and which has gone on to make live-action digital 3D fare like Journey to the Center of the Earth possible (much to our shared regret).

    FWIW, there have been a few dead actors electronically resurrected for films… this is established technique…

    https://screenrant.com/dead-celebrities-actors-cgi-resurrected-movies-tv/

    In some cases, the uncanny resemblances between the actors and their CGIed counterparts is nearly indistinguishable, but at other times, the poorly constructed visage is merely a distraction that should have been avoided. In order to provide proper context to the question of when it’s appropriate to use an actor’s likeness for entertainment, we’re recapping some of the most eerie instances when the dead were brought back to life for the big screen. So in memory of those who passed away, these are the 15 Celebrities Who Were Resurrected With CGI.
    [,,,]
    Appearing on the big screen two decades after his death, prolific British actor Peter Cushing’s likeness was used to recreate the role of Grand Moff Tarkin, the ruthless Imperial officer put in charge of overseeing the construction of the Death Star in the Star Wars saga.
    In order to resurrect the nefarious villain, the VFX crew on the set of Rogue One used actor Guy Henry (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), who walked and talked like the late performer. Strapped with motion-capture technology, Cushing’s face replaced Henry’s in the editing room.

    Although Cushing’s return to the franchise sparked an industry-wide debate about the morality of bringing the deceased back to life, the film crew paid respects to his role. Despite not having any footage of the actor from the waist down, the film managed to create an eerily realistic portrayal of the character and push the boundaries of computer-generated imagery a step further than many viewers cared to to admit.
    […]

    After a string of successful turns playing villains on screen, Oliver Reed became a recognizable Britflick icon, appearing in films such as Oliver! and The Devils. At the height of his career, the hard-nosed thespian became famous for his hell-raising persona, struggling with alcoholism and constantly getting into fights off screen. During his final days, while taking a break from filming Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, Reed visited an Irish bar, where he died of a heart attack just moments after taking his last drink.

    Nominated for a BAFTA for his performance in the film, Reed’s role in Gladiator had to be finished using a digitally constructed face which was mapped onto a body double during editing. In the end, the script had to be rewritten to give Reed’s character a plausible resolution. Only two minutes of film would be completed using the special effects, but the final results were convincing enough to go unnoticed by many viewers.

    I’m sure glad he didn’t die just BEFORE taking his last drink !

    But as you can see, no need for ‘ol Joe to stay alive to still be President-ino… Just have him only show up on TV and have any “live” events be in front of the insiders who already know…

  18. philjourdan says:

    Re: Green screen dead actors.

    And that is why I am so glad I am not a professional liar.

  19. H.R. says:

    @philjourdan – Oh, I agree. But I was asking what she had on her letterhead.

    My second guess of what’s on her letterhead is
    Office of Shiva The Destroyer
    😜

  20. E.M.Smith says:

    What? Not President of Vice?

    ;-)

    Personally I like “Pretender In Waiting”… but could see “Usurper In Training” too ;-)

    Were I Joe, I’d be asking how patient she was… and getting my own coffee…

  21. H.R. says:

    @E.M. re the Romans and lead poisoning.

    I heard of that many years ago, perhaps in H.S. Anyhow, I just did a search to see if anyone has sampled the bones or teeth of Roman nobility for lead levels and I didn’t come up with anything.

    I found lots of informal and scholarly discussion on the levels of lead intake of Roman nobility (35 to 250 mg per day… wait mcg? Dang! I closed the tab). It’s sort of accepted orthodoxy that lead poisoning contributing to the fall of Rome.

    I just haven’t run across any paper on actual measurements of lead levels in bones.

    Oh, and I also tried to see if anyone had sampled the bones of Pompeii victims of Vesuvius. No luck there. The only thing to come out of that search was that of approximately 2,000 skeletons, not a one of them had cavities in their teeth. This was attributed to an almost zero sugar diet and that it seems their water supply was naturally fluoridated.

  22. Compu Gator says:

    Actual chemical analysis of lead in ancient Roman settlement (with references):
    Philip Ball (in or after 2019): “Londinium Romans’ blood lead levels so high they may have lowered birth rates”.  Chemistry World. Royal Society of Chemistry:  https://www.chemistryworld.com/news/londinium-romans-blood-lead-levels-so-high-they-may-have-lowered-birth-rates/4010808.article.

  23. H.R. says:

    Ha! You found one, Compu Gator. Thanks!

    I searched on lead in bones, not blood, seeing as how there aren’t that many Roman nobles around to draw blood from.
    .
    [read article]
    .
    Ok. Yup. they got it from bones, but searching on lead and bones and Romans didn’t turn that one up for me. Or maybe I did get it, but it was several pages back in the results. I dunno.

    And there are further references to other measures in other people’s work, but I’ll have to look at them another time.

    I’m not seeing a smoking gun supporting the orthodox view that lead contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire. One would have to show that bad decisions were made because of the lead and that the right decisions would have been made if there hadn’t been high levels of lead in their (Roman nobles) systems.

    I’ll not accept lead poisoning as a significant – or minor – contributing cause of the fall without stronger evidence, but I can see why it’s in the academic discussion mix.

    “There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.”.

    ~ Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi.

  24. E.M.Smith says:

    Um, weren’t a few Roman Emperors a bit far around the bend? Nero and his fiddle, Caligula and blood lust, etc.

    As the leaders got more lead since they got more Special Sauce, it would make sense that the Dear Leader would be most nuts …

  25. E.M.Smith says:

    Not bones but…
    https://www.discovermagazine.com/health/lead-in-ancient-romes-water-was-100-times-natural-levels

    Since these folks have a 3 Article counter or some such, I’ll quote more heavily than usual so folks don’t get burned on click through counts:

    Lead in Ancient Rome’s Water Was 100 Times Natural Levels
    D-briefBy Gemma Tarlach April 21, 2014 11:02 PM
    […]
    Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct in France. Image by Leonid Andronov / Shutterstock. Everything from northern barbarians to the spread of Christianity has been blamed for the collapse of ancient Rome. But researchers have new evidence for another contributor: There was something in the water. A study has found that “tap” water in ancient Rome — supplied to the city via lead pipes called fistulae — contained 100 times more lead than water drawn directly from local springs. That amount of lead in the water may have been a “major public health issue,” according to the new study.

    Sampling Soil
    Researchers began by taking sediment samples from areas in and around the Tiber River, which has had an important role in Rome’s history — the city was founded on its banks more than 2,700 years ag0. Sediment was also sampled from adjacent canals and the man-made Trajanic Harbor, part of Rome’s largest seaport and located near the Tiber’s mouth. The team chose the locations because the sediment chronology there could be measured through geochemical analysis and compared against historical references to human activity in those exact areas. This allowed the researchers to date the sediment deposited during several key periods, including preharbor (“unpolluted” water), Early and Late Roman empire (water that would have been outflow from Rome’s extensive fistulae network) and Early, High and Late Middle Ages (water that would have gradually reverted to preharbor conditions as Rome’s population and infrastructure declined).

    Lead Contamination
    The researchers found that water in the city during the height of the Roman Empire was dramatically elevated in lead levels. By analyzing the specific composition of the lead isotopes present, researchers were able to determine that the lead came from mines outside Italy — specifically from areas in southwestern Spain, France, England and Germany, where mines that supplied the raw materials for Rome’s fistulae were known to have existed. The analysis supports the idea that the lead found in the water came from the supply pipes, rather than another source of contamination.
    The study was published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. While the research is new, the theory that lead poisoning was a factor in Rome’s decline is not. Researchers first proposed the idea decades ago, which sparked a contentious debate. Geochemist Clair Patterson, profiled Sunday on the latest episode of Cosmos, was among the researchers who argued that environmental exposure to lead in ancient Rome and other early civilizations played a role in their downfalls. The theory contributed to a successful campaign to have lead removed from gasoline in the U.S. Despite the significantly elevated levels of lead in Rome’s waters during the empire’s height, researchers noted that their work does not examine what, if any, health problems were caused.

    I’d also note that this points at the pipes, but ignores the cooking pots used to make Secret Sauce… which would have the same lead signatures. Then washing dishes would send that into the deposits as well…

    And it got into the ice:

    https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/05/rise-and-fall-roman-empire-exposed-greenland-ice-samples

    Lead pollution from the Roman Empire fell on Greenland—where it was preserved in layers of ice.
    Rise and fall of Roman Empire exposed in Greenland ice samples
    By Katie Langin May. 14, 2018 , 3:00 PM

    Modern people aren’t the only ones who’ve polluted the atmosphere. Two thousand years ago, the Romans smelted precious ores in clay furnaces, extracting silver and belching lead into the sky. Some of that lead settled on Greenland’s ice cap and mixed in with ever-accumulating layers of ice. Now, scientists studying annual deposits of those ice layers have found that spikes and dips in lead pollution during the Roman era mirror the timing of many historical events, including wars fought by Julius Caesar.

    The level of detail is “astounding,” says Dennis Kehoe, a scholar of Roman economic history
    and law at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, who wasn’t involved in the work. What really impressed him was how closely the lead pollution numbers tracked what ancient historians know about the expansion and collapse of the Roman economy—a system built on silver coinage known as denarius. “It’s really the rise and fall of a monetary system based on silver,” he says. “Prices were reckoned in silver, so they had to have silver.”

    Scientists have known about the Roman-era spike in lead pollution since the 1990s. Back then, researchers measured lead levels at a few places along the length of cores extracted from Greenland’s ice cap—with each measurement representing a 2-year period. Later studies confirmed the same pattern in soil samples from peat bogs in Spain, Scotland, and the Faroe Islands. But those studies couldn’t show how lead pollution changed year by year.

    So Andrew Wilson, an archaeologist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom and an expert on the Roman era, teamed up with ice core experts to get a more complete picture. The team measured lead levels along a roughly 400-meter cross-section of Greenland ice, representing layers that froze between 1100 B.C.E. and 800 C.E. They melted the ice bit by bit, from one end to the other, and siphoned off the ice melt for analysis—obtaining around 12 measurements per year during the Roman era. Not all the lead came from pollution related to ore smelting; some came from naturally occurring dust and volcanic emissions, which researchers estimated and subtracted from the total lead count.

    The result: an incredibly detailed 1900-year timeline of Roman lead pollution, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Lead pollution was greatest at the height of the Roman Empire—during the first century C.E.—at levels roughly six times higher than during the 11th century B.C.E. But after the Antonine Plague hit in 165 C.E., likely killing millions, lead pollution suddenly dropped back down to pre-Roman levels and remained that way for 500 years. Dips in lead pollution also occurred in the middle of the Roman era, particularly when wars erupted in Spain—a hot spot for lead-silver smelting—during the last few centuries B.C.E.

    Based on air circulation patterns, the team thinks that the Roman-era pollution, which peaked annually at just under a millionth of a gram of lead deposited per square meter, came mostly from the western half of the Roman empire, in western and northern Europe. By comparison, the amount of lead that fell on Greenland is roughly 50 times lower than levels in the 1900s, says Joe McConnell, an environmental scientist at the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada, and lead author on the study.

    The work “raises all kinds of interesting questions,” says Kevin Butcher, an ancient historian at The University of Warwick in Coventry, U.K. He says there are a few puzzling points where there is a mismatch between peaks in lead pollution and silver coin production, making him wonder whether the Romans were smelting and stockpiling silver—but not turning it into coins right away. The data, he says, are “food for thought.”

    So looks like we had it 50 times worse from Leaded Gasoline … Oh Joy…

    But at least we were not using it as white face powder or making Sweet Secret Sauce out of it…

  26. H.R. says:

    @E.M. re nuckin’ futz Roman Emperors:

    The article that I found on the analyses of Pompeii bones also mentioned that syphilis was rampant during Roman times. It seems they had *ahem* other interests besides chariot races (Roman NASCAR 😜).

    The article mentioned that they found ~10-year old twin boys with syphilis and not just in the adults. To me, syphilis seems a more likely explanation for crazy Emperors than does lead. Of course, adding the two together – syphilis and lead – pretty much guarantees some amount of crazy.

    Now I’m wishing I’d bookmarked that article.
    .
    .
    .
    I’ve just been questioning the orthodoxy that lead poisoning played some role in the fall of the Roman Empire. There have been enough scholars who specialized in Roman Emperors – heck! some PhDs probably specialize in a single Emperor – and maybe found evidence for what put the Crazy in their Crazy Emperor.

    It just seems to me that lead poisoning and the fall of the Roman Empire is one of those “well, everybody knows” sort of things. I don’t disagree that it may have had a role in the fall. I just think it’s a ‘CO2 is a greenhouse gas’ sort of thing where the effect is acknowledged by most everyone, but the importance of the effect hasn’t really been nailed down.

    In the case of CO2, we know how that argument is going. Lead poisoning and the fall of the Roman Empire? Not so much.

  27. Simon Derricutt says:

    H.R. – for me the Lead-poisoning idea seems reasonable, since when I was young there was a town fairly near called Deanshanger. (from Wiki, Deanshanger is a village and civil parish in South Northamptonshire, west-northwest of Milton Keynes.) There was a factory there producing various types of Lead products, mainly for paint. It was a dusty town, and I suppose if you were mad enough to lick the houses you’d have got a good dose of Lead Oxide, and you’d have been breathing the dust anyway. It was also known as a belligerent town, and not a good place to go in the evening unless you wanted a fight, and where the people were also a bit thick.

    I suppose things have been cleaned a bit since. I think the last time I visited was half a century ago. Still, I can see how having a population more inclined to fight amongst themselves than to make things, and generally less intelligent, could lead to problems in a civilisation.

    Could be a problem in Paris in future around the Notre Dame area, given that the Lead roof burnt and covered quite a large area in Lead oxides.

    In the house I grew up in, some of the water pipes were still Lead (luckily only to the water-cistern in the toilet), there were some Lead gas-pipes, and even a few bits of Lead-covered electrical cabling. That house was built in 1899. Tetra-ethyl Lead (for addition to petrol to raise the Octane rating) was manufactured in Bletchley (of Bletchley Park fame) about 10 miles away. Lead-based paints were widely used because they did a good job, and the health problems hadn’t really been exposed by then. Good that we actually found out and did something about it, though I suppose it’s still useful to research the history of a place before you move there. Lead hangs around a long time.

  28. rhoda klapp says:

    Glasgow’s tough reputation is sometimes attributed to lead water pipes. Likewise, Devon and Cornwall, the West Country, had a reputation for simple-mindedness. They drink (hard) cider there, and the apple presses had a bed of lead sheet to catch all the juice, which of course was acidic enough to pick up extra lead and give the cider a wonderful sweet flavour..

  29. The True Nolan says:

    Civilization collapse due to multiple genetic error accumulation?

  30. E.M.Smith says:

    I think it is worth mentioning that lead was in wide use even into the 1980s:
    https://www.wordnik.com/words/painter's%20colic

    Definitions
    […]
    noun Chronic intestinal pains and constipation caused by lead poisoning.
    […]
    noun symptom of chronic lead poisoning and associated with obstinate constipation

    I painted our house (when I was about 10…) with Lead Based Paint. It was VERY heavy per gallon, I commented on that, my Dad informed me. Made sure I used a respirator despite it being August and VERY hot…

    I learned the term Painters Colic from my Dad as he explained why I had to wear the respirator and why I didn’t want to be a professional house painter…

    My present home, last painted about 35 years ago, had a dark green trim at that time. I replaced one bit, but the board removed was in a pile for a while. Before burning it I decided to do a lead test. Yup. Plenty of lead. So I’m never going to sand the trim boards of this house, nor even cut them without dust protection. That board is still in the garage overhead space somewhere. Not sure how to get rid of it…

    Nice thing was that the interior didn’t have any positive for lead, nor was the bulk of the stucco field paint. Just one special set of exterior boards got the “good” paint…

    @TTN:

    It isn’t genetic. Rates are increasing way too rapidly for it to be genetic. Basically the increases have happened before a generation could turn over and have any genetic drift reach reproductive age.

    Also most infant mortality had nothing to do with mutations. He’s started off with a false premise.

    It is far far more likely that it’s cultural and environmental changes.

    Then there’s a simple counter proof. We ought to be seeing all sorts of random mutations showing up. People with very odd shapes, sizes, parts, colors. We’re not seeing that. Normal physical structure and normal chemical structure persist.

    Has an interesting thesis about the nature of Schizophrenia and Autism. Not sure I agree with it either. Autism is much more than a ‘more male brain’…

  31. cdquarles says:

    Understand that ergotism, and maybe to a lesser extent amphetamines (both are found extensively in nature in addition to our semi-synthetic methods) can result in schizophrenia (the syndrome). Hormone secreting tumors have shown this effect already, whether epinephrine or norepinephrine or serotonin is the chemical involved.

  32. E.M.Smith says:

    @TTN:

    Reached the end of his video. Quite excitable fellow. There’s a lot of interesting threads in it, some perhaps worth pulling. But he’s fixated on a very slow process with very strong corrective mechanisms to explain a very fast change that flips and flops.

    Essentially fixated on the slowly aging hardware when the daily software updates are being ignored and the increasing fluctuations in the wall power supply are dismissed.

    It is highly unlikely that it’s genetic drift causing changes in a decade or even 2. It is much more likely to be the complete change in fats we eat, thousands of entirely novel chemicals we now stew in, and an externally driven overthrow of our culture and norms happening in fractional decades.

    For his thesis to be true, we’d expect Trans Folks in pure numbers to be reaching parity with others. They aren’t. What we are seeing is massive cultural indoctrination. (As just one example based on his assertions about ‘male brain’ and ‘female brain’)

    But there’s a lot of other stuff in the video that’s interesting.

  33. E.M.Smith says:

    @C.D.Quarles:

    That’s likely why I’m resisting his hypothesis… Early on did a Dive into Abnormal Psychology (Sister’s text books from college…) and saw the many ways psychosis can happen. Drugs, foods, physical injury, chemical injury, nutritional deficit, etc. etc. and the very tiny end of “genetic predisposition”…

    I’ve also known a few too many folks who fried their brains on drugs to not rank that ahead of genetic drift…

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