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Comment Re:interesting question (Score 1) 168

There probably were a lot more of these travellers than we know of... anyone who didn't keep a journal, or show up in someone else's preserved writings, is lost to history.

I'm sure that these were often lost in the destruction of Baghdad, and other catastrophes to the world's written record. Also, the labouring seamen - who were mostly unlettered. But of accounts, there are still many such, from the Muslim world, between the rise of the Ummayids, and the destruction of that world by the Mongols and the plague.

There was a very high level of literacy in Islam, which had leveled most aristocratic social structures and replaced those with scholastic meritocracy - in general, if not universally. The tales of pilgrimages - especially by Sufi travelers to memorials of saints, etc. - are numerous, and show a diversity that spans individuals from Morocco or Spain, to those in India and areas that are now former Soviet republics, or Western states in today's China. These travelogues are often interspersed with spiritual discourse, lectures on etiquette and chivalry, or histories of Saints.

'Ibn Batutta is still a real prodigy in this company. His travels are unrivaled by those of B'ahauddin Nakhshband or Shah Nimatullah Vali, mostly a centruy later, or of 'Ibn 'Arabi, a century before. He also is one who produces a monograph focused on the travel as central to a history and documentary - instead of a peripheral circumstance, in a treatise on other topics.

Comment Re:whatcouldpossiblygowrong? (Score 1) 141

Because they re-purposed what is normally a stop codon, a wild bacterium would chop up any protein coded with it.

Yes; however, think of a sequence from wild bacteria becoming embeded in the genetic sequence of the synthetic bacteria.

The gene could be completely dormant embedded in the synthetic bacteria; but when acquired by another wild bacteria, part of the sequence containing what the acquiring bacterium will interpret as a stop codon, results in it being chopped up, and the trojan-horse gene becoming activated.

Think of this in terms of viruses... and viral infection vectors.

A different type of organism treating the stop codon differently, might create the required conditions for a biological "Code Injection" style attack; eg SQL Injection.

Comment Re:I don't get it (Score 1) 214

The only way to control for this is to conduct weapons testing (a geopolitical non-starter) or to continue to produce new fissile materials with known quantities.

How about underground testing on the moon? (A place outside geopolitical boundaries, free from environmental concerns, and not governed by any nation on earth)

Comment Re:interesting question (Score 4, Informative) 168

Have you got any good readings you can recommend on the subject =)?

Registration and Purchase required? PDFs from the New Cambridge History of Islam. There's an amazing maritime section here:
http://universitypublishingonline.org/cambridge/histories/ebook.jsf?bid=CBO9781139056137

Blow your mind, with the journal of the travels of 14th Century adventurer, Ibn Batutta. He makes Marco Polo look like a homebody.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibn_Battuta

1929 abridged translation of Ibn Batutta's journals:
http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=zKqn_CWTxYEC

More books? Warwick Ball is an accessible archaeologist and historian, who effectively destroys the case for "Clash of Civilizations", and the entire dubious taxonomy of "east and west".
http://www.amazon.com/Rome-East-Transformation-Warwick-Ball/dp/0415243572/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1382201303&sr=1-1
http://www.amazon.com/Out-Arabia-Phoenicians-Discovery-Europe/dp/1566568013/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1382201303&sr=1-5
http://www.amazon.com/Towards-One-World-Ancient-Persia/dp/1566568226/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1382201303&sr=1-3

Nice, "pro-Nabatean" writeup on the late-antique origin of Arab maritime trade, after the breakup of Alexandrian east. You will have to go farther back, to the Phoenicians of Tyre and Carthage, 'tho! This author begins with Nabatean emergence. There are many links on this site... Quite fascinating.
http://nabataea.net/who1.html

Oman and maritime history. Nice to overlay this with the Nabateans. These things met and mingled - especially out in the Indian ocean, away from home:
http://www.maritime.om/Oman-Maritime-History

The sections on Ancient Indian and Chinese maritime development is slim, but worthwhile:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_maritime_history#Indian_subcontinent

An Indo-centric, but factual and entertaining page:
http://www.aseanindia.com/navy/maritime-history

Summary of "silk-routes":
http://www.silkroutes.net/SilkSpiceIncenseRoutes.htm

Genoa in the Crimea:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genoese_colonies

Technology of early Islamic ship-building - mostly focused on Mediterranean, not Indo-Persian
http://www.academia.edu/1596791/Early_Islamic_Maritime_Technology

Comment Re: Of course... (Score 2) 419

I think that diversity, with different choices and competing projects and ideas are healthy and desirable for users and the market. Choice is never bad. Monocultures are.

There is nothing to stop Shuttleworth and Canonical doing what they want to do and nothing to stop them from disagreeing with the opinions and actions of others.

Likewise, other people are free to their opinions and their choices.

As long as there is a Free Linux kernel and a healthy free market of competing distributions, all with their unique ideas and strengths, the world will be good.

You will prise Slackware from my cold, dead, fingers though :-)

As long as there is Xlib (or XCB), X protocol to go with the Free Linux kernel, we'll be just fine. I couldn't care less what Ubuntu/Canonical/Shuttleworth gets up to. That's their business. I have a choice. So does everyone else.

Comment Re:It's a weird experience (Score 3, Insightful) 242

Do you crinkle in fear each time a car comes at you from the opposite direction? Every time you get on a plane?

Lots of potentially dangerous actions in your life, many other people can terminate it accidentally or on purpose.

At least if a car going the opposite direction crashes into you, or the airplane pilot crashes the plane their life and property is in serious jeapordy as well.

Comment Re:Here'e the problem (Score 1) 168

The true definition of species is a group that can and do inter-breed to make offspring. So, the line actually *IS* very clear cut... as soon as a mutation occurs that branches one set so they can no longer reproduce with the other, it is a new species.

That's one form of speciation. Another form, is some of the species settle in a different region --- with a very larger distance between two groups of the same species, they will become a different species, because they don't interbreed: even if they are still physically able to breed --- they won't.

They'll meet the can requirement, but because they are separated by distance they won't; failing the can and do requirement.

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