History, Politics and my Miscellaneous thoughts

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What causes Homosexuality?

What causes homosexuality? We are all products of both nature and nuture. I don't think homosexuality is caused by nature. There cannot be a genetic disposition towards homosexuality because homosexuals are unlikely to pass on their genes.

Any gene that creates homosexuality will die out. So the reason must be purely nuture. My theory is that the main culprit is the Industrial Revolution.

In more primitive societies, people marry young - often soon after puberty. That is still the pattern in the more primitive parts of the world. Since they come into sexual contact with the opposite sex earlier, homosexuality is less likely to develop.

But with the Industrial Revolution, people need longer years of education to enable them to be fully functional in an society. So marriage is postponed and sexual activity is frowned upon because of religious and social reasons. Of course, pre-Industrial societies also had homosexuals like the ancient Greeks. But I believe that later marriages makes it more likely.

Segregation of the sexes is encouraged in order to reduce temptation. This is done to different degrees. Some societies, as in modern day, Saudi Arabia segregates the sexes completely. They have seperate beaches, supermarket lines etc for each sex.

In most societies, shower rooms, toilets and sometimes schools are segregated. Thus puberty and sexual maturity are reached in a segregated enviroment. This results in a higher chance that sexual interest develops in a deviant direction. After all, if a young boy often sees violence, he is likely to become violent. Similarly, if he grows up seeing naked boys in the shower room more often then naked girls, then he should be more likely to become gay.

If my theory is right, more segregated environments produce more homosexuality. Thus boys or girls schools should produce more homosexuals than mixed schools. Societies that marry later should have more homosexuals than those whose people marry earlier. Societies that practice strict seperation - as in the Muslim world - should, all else being equal, produce more homosexuality.

Thus studies can easily be made to see if my theory is true. If so, then the solution would be to get young children of opposite sex to bathe together in mixed showers. Then you will get another problem - more unwanted teenage pregnancies.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Longbow is over-rated

I read most of the book, “The Crooked Stock” by D H Soar. The book is about the history of the longbow. The English longbow which helped English armies win spectacular victories against more numerous French knights has a ardent following in the English speaking world and is viewed with pride by the English. The author obviously loves his subject and even devoted several paragraphs discussing whether it was the English or the Welsh who invented the longbow.

This struck me as a little silly because the longbow is just a bow that is extra long. The bow has been around since at least Paleolithic times and nobody knows who invented the bow. As the book said, the bow used by the Vikings had a draw weight of about 50 to 60 pounds. This was adequate for hunting and for war. At that time, the typical armor consisted of a helmet and shield.

But as armor improved, so must the power of the bow. Thus in an ancient arms race between armorers and bowyers, the bow grew more powerful and hence longer. By the time of the Hundred Years' War, the bow grew to a length of six feet and hence was called the longbow.

Personally, I think the longbow is over-rated. Firstly, it was really outdated technology even by the standards of the time. The Romans, Huns, Mongols and others used the Composite bow centuries earlier. The composite bow is a lamination of different materials to take advantage of the different tensile and compressive strength of each material. Inch for inch of bow height, the Composite bow was more powerful. This allowed the Composite bow to be used on horseback since it was shorter.

Though English archers rode to battle on horses, they had to dismount to shoot their arrows. The Mongol warrior had to shoot on a horse galloping at 40 miles per hour. This required greater skill than shooting with two feet planted on the ground. Though the draw-weights of both both bows were comparable, the Mongol bow could shoot much further. The range of the Mongol bow was about 300 to 350 yards while the English longbow was about 200 to 250 yards.

This is because the reflex/recurved design of the Mongol bow allows the bow to store more energy and is able to convert that potential energy more efficiently to kinetic energy in the arrow. Had the two armies met, I think the Mongol bow would have won the day. All they had to do would be to stay out of range of the English long bowmen and rained arrows on them.

While the longbow was rightfully credited for defeating larger French armies at Crecy (1346), Poitiers (1356) and Agincourt (1415), the long bowmen were defeated at Patay (1429), Formigny (1450) and Castilon (1453).

Thus the longbow dominated the battlefield for less than a hundred years. The French by the time that Patay was fought had learned to counter the English archers and ultimately won the Hundred Years' War.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Why do people lose money in the stock market?

The reason why people lose money in the stock market is that we are genetically programmed to survive in the real jungle. The instincts which preserves our lives in the real jungle are disastrous in the financial jungle.

For example, we instinctly find security in numbers. In primitive times we organised ourselves in small groups that work together for survival. But in the financial jungle this is disastrous. When everybody is buying stocks we should be selling. But that is very hard to do because it goes against our instincts. When everybody is selling, we should be buying. But that too is hard to do. We feel safety in a large group - precisely the same instinct when we were in the real jungle.

We also are programmed to avoid pain and seek pleasure. Pain and pleasure are things that we learn when we are very young. Thus we are quick to take profits and slow to cut losses. It is a great joy when we take profit and we feel pain when we take our losses. When we take profits, we think of the things that we can buy with the money - that car, expensive holidays or a g reat meal. When we cut our losses, we know we know that we have abandoned hope in using the money to buy those things that will bring us pleasure.

This is wrong from an investment point of view. The correct approach is to let our winners run and dispose of our mistakes before they do more damage.

Thus human nature makes us lose money in the stock market.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Queen Isabella and the Inquisition

After reading a fascinating book about Queen Isabella of Castille,
I decided to put my thoughts on paper. The Queen and her husband sent Christopher Columbus to discover America and reunited Spain by conquering Granada. The book, 'Isabella, the last Crusader,' gave a sympathetic look at the Queen.
It painted a picture of a queen as a decent person who forbade enslaving the Indians from the New World. But she also was responsible for the excesses of the Inquisition.
How do we explain the contrasting behavior? Firstly, let me sketch what life was like in 15th century Spain. During this period, Spain had three large communities - Christians, Jews and Muslims.
Many of the Jews had converted to Christianity and are known as Conversos. The Jews and the Conversos were generally prosperous which excited the jealousies of the Christians and Muslims. While some Conversos were sincere in their new Christian Faith, others converted out of expediency.
Conversions allowed access to more occupations, political power and greater wealth. Many Conversos were working for the monarchs and in the Church hierarchy. But suspicions lingered because many Conversos were seen to be attending Synagogues on Saturdays and Mass on Sundays. Some even openly mocked their new faith.
Also the loyalty of the Jews were in doubt in Christian Spain. They were blamed for helping the Moors to overthrow the Visigothic Kings in the 7th century. Later, the reverse happened and the Jews helped King Fernando III (aka Saint Fernando) to reconguer Andalusia. He rewarded them by converting many mosques into Synagogues.
During Isabella's time, Christian Spain still faced a threat from Muslim Granada and North Africa. So long as Granada remained in Muslim hands, the threat of a new invasion from North Africa remained. The Turks then was a superpower and they attacked Italy and sacked its cities.
Given Spain's front line position, fear was acute. Fear produces paranoia and paranoia produces extreme actions.
This explains the severity of the Inquisition in Spain. Inquisitions in other parts of Europe were mild. Very few people were burnt. Only in Spain did the numbers reach such a high figure. The target of this Inquisition were mostly Conversos whose faith was doubted.
Many of these fled to Rome and appealed to the Pope. The Pope censured the two monarchs - Ferdinand and Isabella twice. A modern example of the paranoia that gripped Spain can be found in the McCarthy era witch hunts in the 1950s.
People were suspected of being Communists and of being spies for the Soviet Union. Some were executed for being spies. Others were jailed and many lost their jobs.
The same thing happened in World War II when thousands of Japanese Americans were interned for the duration of the war because their loyalty was doubted.
Thus the 15th century equivalent of the Joseph McCarthy witch hunts was the Inquisition. Those suspected of being false Christians or heretics were seen as potential traitors who might sell out their country to the enemy, the Moors. Similarly, in the 1950s Communists were seen as potential traitors because of the Cold War against Communism.
This also accounts for the expulsion of the Jews and Moors later on. It is tempting for us to think that we moderns are more tolerant, more civilized than people 500 years ago. But I don't think human nature has changed or can change in the future. Given the same circumstances, we will still act the same way.
I have no doubt that if the war against radical Islam gets worse with more terrorist outrages, something like this will again happen.