Have we seen the face of Rama?

One of the problems with looking up pictures of the Kalash people of Pakistan is that photographers have a bias toward highlighting the most European-looking villagers. Let’s call this “Rudyard Kipling Lost White Races” syndrome. Therefore for your edification, I post the YouTube above which is probably more representative of what the Kalash look like.

The reason I post a link to what the Kalash look like is that it is germane to the answer to the question: what did the Indo-Aryans look like? The past tense is key since “Indo-Aryans” today means a lot of people in South Asia, in a literal sense.

In the post below Zach L. made a passing comment:

(1.) The AASI’s, which are sort of co-equivalent to the Negritos and Anadamese Islanders (one of the first coastal waves out of Africa that somehow also ended up in the Amazon). It’s interesting that they are substrate to every South Asian population (I think there are trace amounts in Central Asia, Afghanistan and even Iran).

(2.) the “Dravidian” farmers out of Iran. They are probably related to the J1/J2 types and might be an olive skinned population. Prominent in Sindh and Southern Pakistan through to South India (high % in Gujarat – must have been a locus of some sort).

(3.) our beloved Aryans who are especially prevalent among Brahmins, the Punjab and Haryana (though arguably the Haryanvis and East Punjab descend from Scythians to some extent). These look “European” but it’s a very different look to #2.

The Aryans are conventional European (light eyes, light hair, white skin) the ancient Dravidians would have (probably) looked like Middle Easterners (olive skin, dark hair dark eyes) and the AASI, ” looks like Papua New Guineans.

I can’t see any disagreement with point number two.

As for the AASI (“Ancient Ancestral South Indians”), we need to be careful here. They diverged from the ancestors of the people of Papua New Guinea ~40-50 thousand years ago. The divergence from the Andamanese, who probably migrated from mainland Southeast Asia, was not too much later. Aside from being very dark-skinned, the various extant “Australasian” people can be quite distinctive in appearance. The people of Papua, and native Australians, are quite robust. A substantial minority have blonde hair color due to a mutation common among Oceanians. The “Negrito” people of Southeast Asia and India all seem to be have adapted to a narrow relic niche, and may not be representative of their ancestors.

That being said, there is a particular non-West Eurasian look that many South Asians have which we can presume is the heritage of the AASI.

The comment about Aryans looking like Europeans raised my eyebrows a bit. This is a touchy subject, and to be honest my initial reaction was to be skeptical. But the more I read the primary literature to check up on Zach, the more reasonable this seemed to be. The dominant steppe signal into South Asia does resemble the people who were pushing into Central and Western Europe 1,000 years earlier than the Indo-Aryans, who were moving southward probably ~3,500 years ago. This is clear in rather simple statistical genetic analyses-populations such as the Kalash and Pathans for example show strong evidence of “European-like” gene flow.

Current work out of David Reich’s lab suggests that the Kalash are the best modern proxies we have for the “Ancestral North Indians,” the ANI. This population is modeled as:

– ~30% “steppe”, which is very similar to the ancestry which expaned westward into Europe between 3000 and 2500 BCE
– ~70% “Indus Periphery”, which seems the likely ancestral contribution of the people of the IVC, and is a heterogenous mix of Iranian-farmer and AASI

The mid-range estimate for the emergence of the Kalash mix is ~2,500 years before the present, but these usually have some downward bias, so it is reasonable that it would be greater than ~3,000 years. The samples from the Swat Valley dating to this period show gradual increase of “steppe” ancestry over time.

So one reason to be skeptical that the Indo-Aryans were “European-like” in appearance is that by the time they were flourishing in the lands previous inhabited by the IVC they may already have been more than 50% genetically like the people of the IVC. In which case, a minority would be very European-looking, but most would look vaguely West Asia, with some looking more stereotypically South Asian. If you look at the video above I think you do see the Kalash look this way.

One reason I’ve always been skeptical of the idea that the Indo-Aryans looked European, or, that their demographic impact was large, is that it seemed unlike both could be true. The expression of blue eyes among Indians was too low of a percentage.

Here is the frequency at a major SNP which predicts a lot of the blue vs. brown eye color.

Continue reading “Have we seen the face of Rama?”


Hinduttva (a)

This is a follow up to:

Kushal Mehra is one of Hinduism’s and atheism’s greatest thought leaders and scholars. Kushal does not identify as Hinduttva and describes himself as non left. However he is deeply respected by Hinduttva people and knows many of her leaders. He is a Hindu Atheist. Of the 10 ancient Darshanas (or sights or views or philosophies) of Hinduism he follows Chaarvaaka. [Other philosophies include Buddhism, Jainism, Samkhya/Yoga, Purva Mimaamsaa/Uttara Mimaamsaa, Nyaaya/Vaisheshika, Ajivika]

Ali and Armin are two heroes of the world’s 1.6 billion muslim heritage global community. I am only 4 minutes into the above video but intend to watch and comment on it.


Adding Saurav’s comment from another thread:

This is to address some of the comments here about hinduism/vedanta/enlightenment etc made here, twiter and the other article about Hindutava by Annan.

I am frequently surprised by how much difference there is in “web” hindutva/hinduism (including this blog) and on the ground Hinduism/Hindutva. Let us be very very clear the ethnicity and traditions from which on the ground hindutva is driven. It isnt driven by high level intellectualism which has been professed here/ twitter etc. Its driven on the ground by Hindu conformists/ conservatives of North Indian stock. There is nothing problematic about it. But let us be at least honest about it. In India because every “hindu” community is so large that they feel what they profess is real “Hinduism”. I have met Bengali “hindu” and Tam Brahm who possess no electoral power back in their own state go on and on teaching others about Hindutva/Hinduism. The hindutva world does not run for better or for worse on Tukaram/ Adi Shankracharya/ Vivekanda/Charvaka. Had it been then Arya Samaj would have been bigger than RSS. It runs on Ram /Hanuman and for females(Durga). It projects masculinity(again not a value judgement) and not on “enlightenment” values/intellectualism. Its not run by hindu “free thinkers” like the ones we find over the internet. The web space is not projecting the real face (positive or negative) of the movement on how its conducted on the ground. Please lets separate what we want and our own projection over the movement and our analysis on what the movement really is. The day some other “Hindu” movement (led by Slapstick Teasari and Annan) becomes bigger than the current one i will happily accept that.

What are everyone’s thoughts?


Global alliances and wheels within wheels


Quantum Mechanics Simplified

The idea of writing this post arose during a brief exchange with Llewelyn Morgan – an Oxford classicist whom I follow on Twitter. Llewelyn was responding to an interesting piece in Quanta mag on a classical fluid physics experimental analogy of the famous De Broglie-Bohm interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, and remarked that he found the topic abstruse. I think it is a fair comment, but attributable more to a lack of clarity around the general field of quantum mechanics (in part a reflection of the confusion within the community of physicists themselves) than to some innate difficulty in understanding the basic details of QM itself. So my post is an attempt to explain QM to the lay reader.

Note that this post has literally nothing to do with anything remotely brown or even brownish. So people who read this blog for cultural commentary or South Asian history etc may stop right here.

Also a general note to physicists reading this: in my description of the problem (specifically tangential references to mathematical details) I may introduce some simplification in language. Don’t get unnecessarily triggered by this for you are not the intended audience 🙂

Continue reading “Quantum Mechanics Simplified”


Why Climate Change is a cult-

I really enjoy the tweets from the Aerogram since they provide well-curated content. However this third-party article on Monsoon dispersion of pollution is simply rife with generalities and polemicism, high by even BP’s well-worn standards.

The article starts off on a fascinating note:

As South Asia burns fossil fuels, researchers from Germany say the clockwise-spinning storm pulls the emissions high into the troposphere. There, lightning-fueled chemical reactions transform the pollutants into more stable forms, which fall to earth as harmless rain.

A paen to Mother India cleaning up after her messy spawn. However before we could take any consolation in the good news:

By combining these measurements with computer models of air circulation, the researchers tracked the path of the contaminants and how they changed as they reached higher altitudes.

As expected, at lower altitudes, the South Asian monsoon did disperse pollutants over a wide region, including distant areas like Tibet. However, the scientists also found that the monsoon pulled the polluted air from the atmosphere into the much higher troposphere, where with the assistance of the storm’s lightning, it reacted with other gases, and could be washed out by the rain.

Note they use simulated models to track the pollutants so in a way this isn’t verified or empirical based science. It would have been good to actually validate pollution levels in places like Tibet etc. And then for the final piece de resistance:

Unfortunately, Lelieveld told VOA, “the monsoon is weakening, which can reduce the cleaning mechanism. We also believe that the air pollution contributes to a weakening of the monsoon.” He added, “Intuitively, if the monsoon weakens, the pollution will stay more near the ground rather than being transported upward.”

This is a comment that wouldn’t have even passed muster in our own threads. How do we know the Monsoon is weakening and how do know that air pollution is weakening the Monsoon.

I do think it’s fairly straightforward and uncontroversial to state that we should pollute less but it’s increasingly evident that anthropogenic pollution isn’t as clear-cut a topic as we think it is. The Earth does seem to have some feedback mechanisms and it’s also worth reflect if the human scale of pollution can match natural events (like a volcano eruption etc).

We live in a liberal-defined shibboleth and these new orthodoxies are sometimes even more pernicious than the ones of yore since these are draped in the values and ideals of the enlightenment. Please note I’m not necessarily espousing one view over the other but we as learnt in BP; argument from authority (experts) is a logical fallacy and the article above reeks of it.


India Still Rising

The Honorable former U.S. ambassador to India David C. Mulford’s summary of why India is rapidly becoming a great global superpower and why PM Modi might become the best PM in Indian history. My estimate is that India will have more billionaires than America in less than a generation. When this happens what is to stop post modernists from decrying “Asian supremacy”, Asian hegemony, Asian exploitation, Asian empire, Asian imperialism, Asian oppression, Asian racism/bigotry/ sectariansim? How to reduce jealousy of Asia? Or is this dark future inevitable?


Intellectual Dark Web

I would define the “intellectual dark web” as the confluence and convergence of leaders from classical European enlightenment, hard sciences, technology (including neuroscience, bio-engineering, genetics, artificial intelligence), and east philosophy streams. Among the intellectual dark web’s many members are Dr. Richard Haier, Jordan Peterson, Jonathan Haidt, Ben Shapiro, Weinstein brothers, Sam Harris, Glenn Loury, John McWhorter, Yuval Noah Harari, Thomas Friedman, Maajid Nawaz, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michio Kaku , Dr. VS Ramachandran, Steven Pinker, Armin Navabi, Ali Rizvi, Farhan Qureshi, Peter Beinart, Gad Saad, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Dave Rubin, Joe Rogan, Russell Brand.  If Steve Jobs were still alive, I would include him among them. They defy easy labels and are high on openness. I hesitate to label others without their permission, but our very own Razib Khan strikes me as a potential leader of the “intellectual dark web”; although I will withdraw this nomination if he wishes. 😉

Some see the intellectual dark web as the primary global resistance to post modernism. I don’t agree. Rather I see them as ideation and intuition leaders thinking different:

Continue reading “Intellectual Dark Web”


Welcome back Mahathir Mohamad, Hero of Asia!

Welcome back Mahathir Mohamad, our favorite 92 year old PM of Malaysia! Malaysia was one of the centers of the great Arya civilization for thousands of years; now enriched by Confucianism, Taoism, Chinese Buddhism, Islam, and expats the world over. One of the most diverse and immigration friendly countries in the world. One of the most pro business, pro capitalist, pro globalization, pro neo-liberal, pro enlightenment values, and pro moderate Islam countries in the world. A country that fought against the full might of the Soviet Union, China and the global communist block and won. A shining city on a hill. A self assured, self confident Asian Tiger without inferiority complex. One of last great bastions resisting the global post modernist wave.

Continue reading “Welcome back Mahathir Mohamad, Hero of Asia!”


Carbon Steel and Zinc in India

Inspired by a comment by bharata bharatavanshi.

The production of zinc by conventional smelting methods presents considerable difficulties; instead of a liquid metal forming at the base of the furnace, zinc forms a highly reactive vapour (with a boiling point of 913°C) which exits the top of the furnace and promptly re-oxidises. Clearly, some method of containing and condensing the vapour out of contact with the air was needed
1217CW - Science in India - Plate 6.12
By the early second millennium AD, these descriptions had become more detailed. The retort was to be shaped like a brinjal, or aubergine, the condenser shaped like a datura, or thorn apple flower, and the zinc ore was shaped into small balls, still using the exotic organic ingredients.

Carbon Steel (Wootz)

The Carbon steel from India and Sri lanka are thought to be source for the famed Damascus Steel Swords, used by Saladin to defeat the Crusaders.

It is the pioneering steel alloy matrix developed in Southern India in the 6th century BC and exported globally. It was also known in the ancient world by many different names including Wootz, Ukku, Hindvi Steel, Hinduwani Steel, Teling Steel and Seric Iron.

Wootz steel originated in India. There are several ancient Tamil, Telugu, Greek, Chinese and Roman literary references to high carbon Indian steel since the time of Alexander’s India campaign. The crucible steel production process started in the 6th century BC,[citation needed] at production sites of Kodumanal in Tamil Nadu, Golconda in Telangana, Karnataka and Sri Lanka and exported globally; the Tamils of the Chera Dynasty (Kerala) producing what was termed the finest steel in the world, i.e. Seric Iron to the Romans, Egyptians, Chinese and Arabs by 500 BC. The steel was exported as cakes of steely iron that came to be known as “Wootz”. Wootz steel in India had high amount of carbon in it.

The Chinese and locals in Sri Lanka adopted the production methods of creating wootz steel from the Chera Tamils by the 5th century BC. In Sri Lanka, this early steel-making method employed a unique wind furnace, driven by the monsoon winds. Production sites from antiquity have emerged, in places such as Anuradhapura, Tissamaharama and Samanalawewa,




Brown fat, the bad kind

Unless you have been hiding under a rock you know that people of South Asian are at more risk for metabolic disease than is the norm. More concretely we tend toward “skinny fat.”

My current BMI 24. By normal calculators I’m normal weight (barely), because the cut-off is 25. But for South Asian we should be worried if we’re above 23.

There is the caveat that muscle is heavier, so one shouldn’t take BMI literally, as opposed to seriously. You know if you have too much visceral fat, you don’t need to weight yourself. The phenomenon of brown guys with big bellies due to years of self-indulgence is a thing. And excess weight among South Asians who reach a certain affluence level seems a thing the world over.

So here’s a question: for those of you who have managed to keep the weight off and stay trim, how do you do it? Exercise? Diet? Both?