The subconscious mercenaries
In September I covered a paper that described the massive amount of bias created in the legal system in parts of the US where forensic laboratories are paid in return for coming to conclusions resulting in guilty verdicts. Another recent paper, published in Psychological Science has found that extraordinary levels of bias can occur even when money is not explicitly involved. The paper titled "Are Forensic Experts Biased by the Side That Retained Them?" deceived forensic psychologists and psychiatrists into believing they were consulting for either the defence or the prosecution in a real criminal case. In reality, the cases were real - but they were in fact historical court cases of past crimes. All 108 psychologists and psychiatrists in fact scored the same four case files on levels of psychopathy. The measures used were Hare's Psychopathy Checklist and the Static-99R, a test used to predict sexual recidivism in sex offenders. The researchers found that the psychologists and psychiatrists displayed allegiance effects, clearly differing in their conclusions based on whether they were working for the prosecution or the defence.
The result is particularly profound because the participants in the experiment spent only a quarter of an hour with the retaining attorney, while in real life the experts might expect to have ongoing contact with retaining attorneys as well as interactions with the offenders themselves, which might increase the allegiance effect.
The findings have implications far beyond forensic psychology and psychiatry, as the application of a wide range of forensic sciences have been found to be highly subjective when brought into the courtroom. A 2009 report by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) questioned the reliability of practices such as matching bite marks, hair fibres, tire treads, blood stain pattern analysis, ballistics, handwriting comparisons... the list goes on. When forensic science comes into the courtroom, bias could have a big impact.
A fascinating new ProPublica/PBS Frontline documentary (watch in full online) examines cases in which forensic evidence has been responsible for wrongful convictions. We hear how in such cases forensic examiners have routinely testified that fingerprints are "infallible" and can be matched with 100% certainty and that there is a "zero percent" chance that they could be wrong.
This can no longer be said to be the case after the landmark ruling in the Brandon Mayfield case that overturned fingerprint evidence that was thought to be infallible by experts at the top of their field. Fingerprint testing is regarded to be one of the most reliable of all the forensic sciences after DNA testing. Today that mantra has changed but there is still no bona fide scientific standard which must be passed for fingerprints to be considered a match. Unlike on CSI, machines do not make the final critical match, ultimately people do - and these people are vulnerable to bias just like anyone else.
In one study (Dror, 2006) two thirds of forensic examiners changed their mind when they were presented with confessions alongside fingerprints. Admittedly the study is small with only six participants but the evidence is compelling due to the nature of the the study design. Professional, competent, certified, full time fingerprint examiners were deceived into unwittingly making different judgments regarding the very same evidence from real criminal cases they had themselves judged in the past. Amazingly a couple of inconsistent decisions were even made in the control group where there were no confessions to sway their mind.
If you're anything like me, alarm bells will have rang at the words in the previous paragraph: "presented with confessions". The literature regarding false confessions is truly fascinating - 25% of false convictions recorded by the Innocence Project have been found to contain false confessions. To try to understand this phenomenon, we'll begin in the 1630 plague of Milan:
"One Mora, who appears to have been half a chemist and half a barber, was accused of being in league with the devil to poison Milan. His house was surrounded, and a number of chemical preperations were found. The poor man asserted, that they were intended as preservatives against infection; but some physicians, to whom they submitted, declared they were poison. Mora was put to the rack, where he for a long time asserted his innocence. He confessed at last, when his courage was worn down by torture, that he was in league with the devil and foreign powers to poison the whole city; that he had anointed the doors, and infected the fountains of water. He named several persons as his accomplices, who were aprehended and put to a similar torture. They were all found guilty, and executed. Mora's house was rased to the ground, and a column erected on the spot, with an inscription to commemorate his guilt."
What happened next in Milan in the 1660's gives us reason to doubt our assumption that only torture could lead someone to confess to something as utterly absurd as conspiring with the devil to poison their city:
"The number of persons who confessed that they were employed by the Devil to distribute posion is almost incredible. An epidemic frenzy was abroad, which seemed to be as contagious as the plague. Imagination was as disordered as the body and day after day persons came voluntarily forward to accuse themselves. They generally has the marks of disease upon them, and some died in the act of confession".
In a set of experiments conducted last year (Kassin, 2012) university students were wrongly accused of breaking the university honours code by ruining an experiment or cheating in an experiment. Even though they were innocent, 94% of participants wrote a hand written confession. The students were accused of ruining the experiment when they were told computer software would be able to discover if they had really ruined the experiment. Importantly, the experimenters did not state that they already knew the participants were guilty - just that they would be able to check (the implication being that the computer would exonerate them if they were innocent, in the same way that those accused in real life may believe forensic evidence will exonerate them). In the cheating experiment, half of the innocent students wrongly confessed when they were told they had been monitored by hidden CCTV cameras (none had confessed before this bluff). In interviews with the students after the experiment it became clear that most didn't really believe they were guilty but instead confessed to escape interrogation with the expectation that the software or CCTV footage would exonerate them.
These experiments may seem absurdly removed from reality but in the real world the accused are sometimes put under tremendous pressure to confess and given massive incentives to plead guilty, from reduced sentences to escaping the death penalty. In America at least, the police are allowed to bluff - claiming they have evidence of guilt that in reality is completely fictional. In 1989 seventeen year old Marty Tankleff wrongly confessed to the murder of his own parents following a five hour interrogation after the police allegedly lied claiming that his father had woken from consciousness and accused him. Today once again under debate is Amanda Knox's signed confession (transcribed by police) implicating herself for the murder of Meredith Kercher following hours of police interrogation.
Another study last year by the same author (Kassin and Wallace, 2011) found that out of 132 US judges, 69% stated they would find a defendant guilty as a result of a retracted confession extracted through a fifteen hour interrogation in which the interrogators coerced the defendant by "screaming, threatening the death penalty, and waving a gun, all while refusing to accept his claims of innocence". This despite the fact that the only other evidence in the hypothetical case was irrelevant or contradictory: a hair found on the victim's body which was thought to be the defendants but was found to be inconclusive and the victim's stolen items, which failed to be found by police on the defendant's property.
Eyewitness testimony has long been known to be extremely open to bias, in another recent psychology experiment over half of the participants who had witnessed a staged theft changed their selection to select the confessor from a lineup when they were informed of a confession (Hasel and Kassin, 2009). The point of all this is that forensic scientists aren't for some reason especially fallible, they are just as fallible and open to bias as eyewitnesses, judges, police and any other human being. They are not at fault themselves, the system they work within is at fault for allowing them to receive all sorts of biasing information which can cloud the subjective judgment that they are entrusted to make.
"Historically, forensic science has not been investigated in this way, until recently there wasn’t any research on the human element in forensic decision-making. When I started to look at this area ten years ago, the forensic community said 'What? The human element is not relevant. What are you talking about? We are objective!' This mindset was very interesting, because in forensic science the human is the instrument of analysis. In most forensic areas there are no objective criteria, it is based on human experts examining different visual patterns of blood splatter, fingerprints, shoe prints, handwriting, and so on, and making subjective judgments. Until recently the forensic community ignored all the human elements. Initially, there was a lot of denial, and even resistance, because I was the first to start asking questions about the role of the human examiner in perceiving and interpreting information that is used to make decisions...
...Ten years ago the forensic community were very naive about all of this, because the courts had accepted their testimony for over 100 years. For example, in fingerprint analysis (the most used forensic domain) examiners would say, “We are totally objective and infallible, we never make mistakes, we have a zero error rate” and the court accepted it, so they accepted it! When I started working in this area ten years ago it was initially very unpleasant, and there were some very angry people who did not like me saying that they were subjective and did not use objective criteria. Actually what I was saying is you are a human being, and human beings make mistakes! Now it has changed quite a lot. So after a decade of climbing up a mountain and swimming against the current, progress has been made. But initially there was a lot of resistance, which at times became quite personal, even from the leaders of the community. For example, when I published one of my papers, the chair of The Fingerprint Society in the UK, wrote a letter to the editor of the journal saying, and I quote “We are totally objective, fingerprint examiners are never affected by context. If the fingerprint examiners are affected by context, if they are subjective, they shouldn’t be fingerprint examiners, they should go and seek employment in Disneyland!”
Defendants can often not afford to hire forensic experts to defend themselves, if the results of the latest research are anything to go by, it seems the odds can be unfairly stacked against the defendant. Forensic science is often seen in both the courtroom and by the lay public as of higher value than other kinds of evidence and it is precisely this overwhelming faith in forensic science that can be dangerous.
The recent criticism of forensic evidence is not only in terms of bias and reliability but extends to the lack of standards for accreditation. The recent Propublica/PBS Frontline documentary slammed the ACFEI, the largest forensic science membership association in the US after their journalism student researching the documentary managed to obtain certification by taking only an online test despite having zero experience in the forensic sciences. The ACFEI refused to answer the question of what percentage of applicants pass their tests. John Bridges the former president of the organisation was prepared to speak however, estimating the failure rate at less than 1% and stating that he quit because he couldn't change the way the organisation does business. You'll have to watch the documentary or read the transcript to find out more, the association is currently engaged in five defamation suits, I don't want to become the sixth.
It seems blindingly obvious (excuse the pun) that forensic examinations should be blinded, this at least now seems to be the position of the American Bar Association. Unfortunately, apparently this is not yet the case across the board in practice (Dror, 2013). Progress has been slow, and in the UK, the situation may be yet more severe. Dr. Dror explains:
"In the UK, forensic examiners are part of, and work for the police. That already creates a certain context! So ideally forensic scientists would be separated from the police. If not, steps need to be taken to give them independence, such as ensuring that police detectives on the case do not have direct contact with the forensic examiners, so they cannot pressure and influence them, intentionally or not. They should not be considered part of the police, they are not there to help the police – they are scientists. Recently in the US, in Washington DC, all the forensic scientists have been taken out of the police force and into an independent body. In the UK, not only this is not happening but also independent forensic services have been closed down for economic reasons – it is going the opposite way."
Beyond blinding, Dror et al, suggest forensic evidence should be examined in the form of an "evidence lineup" to protect against the base-rate assumption that an individual who is accused is likely to be guilty. As long ago as 1987, this method was found to reduce the false positive rate in human hair identification from 30.8% to 3.8% (Miller, 1987).
In the courtroom, cases of false positives can translate into an innocent person behind bars, so it seems absurd that measures such as blinding and evidence line-ups haven't long been universal. The implications are particularly grave because of the phenomenon coined by Dr. Dror of the “bias snowball effect” (or “corroboration inflation”) in which witnesses have been found to change their stories based on the presence of other forms of evidence - such as forensic evidence. In a research settings it's long been expected for experiments to be blind or double blind. In the courtroom where so much is at stake, it is astounding that bias continues to be allowed into the building.
Dror, I. E., & Charlton, D. (2006). Why experts make errors. Journal of Forensic Identification, 56(4), 600.
Dror I.E. & Kukucka J. (2013). The forensic confirmation bias: Problems, perspectives, and proposed solutions, Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 2 (1) 42-52. DOI: 10.1016/j.jarmac.2013.01.001
Hasel, L. E., & Kassin, S. M. (2009). On the presumption of evidentiary independence: can confessions corrupt eyewitness identifications? Psychological science, 20(1), 122–126. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02262.x (PDF)
Kassin S.M., Miller, L. S. (1987). Procedural bias in forensic science examinations of human hair. Law and Human Behavior, 11, 157–163
Murrie D.C., Boccaccini M.T., Guarnera L.A. & Rufino K.A. (2013). Are Forensic Experts Biased by the Side That Retained Them?, Psychological Science, 24 (10) 1889-1897. DOI: 10.1177/0956797613481812
National Research Council. (2009). Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward. (PDF)
Wallace, D. B., & Kassin, S. M. (n.d.). Harmless Error Analysis: How Do Judges Respond to Confession Errors? Law and Human Behavior, 1–9. doi:10.1007/s10979-010-9262-0
Image Credit: Adapted from Flickr/Emmanuel Huybrechts
Iranian Tolkien scholar finds intriguing parallels between subcontinental geography and famous map of Middle-earth.
- J.R.R. Tolkien hinted that his stories are set in a really ancient version of Europe.
- But a fantasy realm can be inspired by a variety of places; and perhaps so is Tolkien's world.
- These intriguing similarities with Asian topography show that it may be time to 'decolonise' Middle-earth.
Mental decolonisation<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMDM0OS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MDU4Mjg3N30.pKS1PLxKYeJ6WDPAcleg7NCxzDn7Pddcg9rSJaul6no/img.png?width=980" id="56ee5" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1d2ba98946accd12f7e0070c8d10154d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Menu page for Arda.ir, the website of the Persian Tolkien Society." />
Menu page for Arda.ir, the website of the Persian Tolkien Society.
Image: Arda.ir<p>Where on earth was Middle-earth? Based on a few hints by Tolkien himself, we've always sort-of assumed that his stories of "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" were centered on Europe, but so long ago that the shape of the coasts and the land has changed. </p><p>But perhaps that's too easy and too Eurocentric an assumption; perhaps, like so many other things these days, Tolkien's fantasy realm too is in dire need of mental decolonisation.</p><p>And here's an excellent occasion: an Iranian Tolkienologist has found intriguing hints that the writer based some of Middle-earth's topography on mountains, rivers, and islands located in and near present-day Pakistan. </p><p>As mentioned in a previous article – recently reposted on the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/VeryStrangeMaps" target="_blank">Strange Maps Facebook page</a> on the occasion of the death of Ian Holm – Tolkien admitted that "The Shire is based on rural England, and not on any other country in the world," and that "the action of the story takes place in the North-West of 'Middle-earth', equivalent in latitude to the coastlands of Europe and the north shores of the Mediterranean."<br></p>
Non-European topography<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMDM1MC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NTQ4MzcyMX0.891LPW42L78fdrwUhXdgOab7cbhs3YOqZK4ukIQx-Rw/img.png?width=980" id="6741c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2b50c57cb3b8a3a1cc8a4696c89ad954" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Map of Tian-shan, the Himalayas, and the Pamirs" />
If you look at it like that, yes: that does resemble Mordor...
Image: Mohammad Reza Kamali, reproduced with kind permission<p>Extrapolating from the location of the Shire in Middle-earth and from other clues dropped by Tolkien, geophysics and geology professor Peter Bird matched the geography of Middle-earth with that of Europe (more about that in the <a href="https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/121-where-on-earth-was-middle-earth?utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR0ZFYK1EXrf4J3B3X5_U4hSAgidgBs24ZNTYV9QEFbz2qI34OA_DpZsn70#Echobox=1592583835" target="_blank">aforementioned article</a>).</p><p>However, seeing Middle-earth as a mere palimpsest for present-day Europe is to place an undue limit on the imagination of its creator. As Tolkien also said about the shape of his world: "[It] was devised 'dramatically' rather than geologically or paleontologically."</p><p>In other words, certain parts of Middle-earth may very well have been inspired by other places than European ones. It is telling that it took a non-European connoisseur of Tolkien's topography to find some examples. <br></p>
"Seen that map before"<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMDM1MS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTQ3Njc3NH0.azDO1_NWm9q9FwMpmqBOV2troOX0ajAXS4lP2bLstJI/img.png?width=980" id="1b193" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="21c3d38b14503ba8edac18c0ef1cceb0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Map of Indus river" />
The Indus river is a prominent geographical feature of Pakistan. Its course is similar to that of the Anduin, the Great River of Middle-earth.
Image: Mohammad Reza Kamali, reproduced with kind permission<p>In an article published on <a href="https://arda.ir/" target="_blank">Arda.ir</a>, the web page for the Persian Tolkien Society, Mohammad Reza Kamali writes that during several years of cartographic study, "I found that maybe there are real lands [that] could have inspired Professor Tolkien, and some of them are not in Europe."</p><p>Around 2012, Kamali's eye stopped when it came across a Google Map of Central Asia that showed the mountain chain of the Himalayas, the peaks of the Pamirs bunched together in an almost circular area, and the huge, flat oval of the Takla Makan desert, bounded to the north by the Tian-Shan mountains. </p><p>"I had seen that map before," he writes. "This is of course Mordor, the land of Sauron and the dark powers of Middle-earth, where Frodo and Sam destroy the One Ring." </p><p>In <a href="http://lotrproject.com/map" target="_blank">Tolkien's world</a>, the Himalayas transform into Ephel Duath, the Mountains of Shadow; and the Tian Shan into Ered Lithui, the Ash Mountains. And the circle-shaped Pamirs "are the same shape and in exactly the same corner as the Udûn of Mordor, where Frodo and Sam originally tried getting into Mordor, via the Black Gate."<br></p>
Similar shapes<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMDM1Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMDQyODMzNX0.KHrY7rDCNNaKKJQz-xn431APM2TqxGPCaMsqNvBe1xA/img.jpg?width=980" id="7a9fa" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e87f1af97902201abc042640255606b2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Marine Corps helicopter flying over Tarbela Dam" />
A US Marine Corps helicopter flying over the Tarbela Dam on the Indus river in Pakistan. At its center: a former river island which may have been the inspiration for Cair Andros, a ship-shaped island in Middle-earth's Anduin river.
Image: Paul Duncan (USMC), public domain<p>Mulling over these similarities, Kamali became convinced that Tolkien's map work was heavily inspired by Asia. Looking further, he found more evidence. Consider Anduin, the Great River of Middle-earth, in whose waters the One Ring was lost for more than two thousand years. </p><p>On Tolkien's map, the Anduin bends toward the sea in a shape similar to that of another great river: the Indus, which runs the length of Pakistan. Like the Anduin, it flows to the west of a major mountain chain. A prominent feature of the Anduin is the river island of Cair Andros, just north of Osgiliath. Its name means 'Ship of Long Foam', a reference to its long and narrow shape, and the sharpness of its rocks, which split the waters of the Anduin like a prow. <br></p><p>Kamali is not entirely sure, but proposes that Tolkien may have been inspired by a similar-shaped island in the Indus. Now integrated into the Tarbela Dam, which was inaugurated in 1976, it would still have been a separate island in the 1930s and '40s, when Tolkien dreamed up his map.</p>
Kutch as Tolfalas Island<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMDM1NC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwOTU5NjcyNn0.869W8iiowQb9_T3laFKOUe5o5UMXuMlSITb1VxRlC2g/img.png?width=980" id="9c49e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="548bafc6042cc7515e07f77657aa161c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Map of Kutch" />
During the rainy season, the coastal region of Kutch, near the mouth of the Indus, turns into an island that resembles Tolfalas Island, near the mouth of the Anduin.
Image: Mohammad Reza Kamali, reproduced with kind permission<p>Turning our eyes to the mouth of the Anduin and Indus, we see another pair of islands, and Kamali is more certain about the real one having inspired the fictional one. The fictional one is Tolfalas Island, the largest island in Belfalas Bay. <br></p><p>At first glance, it doesn't seem to have a real-life counterpart near where the Indus joins the Arabian Sea. But take a look at the coastal part of the Indian state of Gujarat. It is known as <em>Kutch</em>, a name which apparently refers to its alternately wet and dry states. In the rainy season, the shallow wetlands flood and Kutch becomes an island – the biggest island in the Gulf of Kutch, and not too dissimilar to Tolfalas Island. </p>
General knowledge<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMDM1NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMDIwODkyOH0.aInJedv3tiQo1LmW-M6D5LV699oeWNltxeYcVKWwtF0/img.jpg?width=980" id="9bc6e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="01d97d3941f9ba732b4df35c3aedd977" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="British Indian Empire 1909 Imperial Gazetteer of India" />
1909 map showing British India in pink (direct British control) and yellow (princely states). Circled: Kutch, clearly recognisable as an island.
Image: Edinburgh Geographical Institute; J. G. Bartholomew and Sons, public domain<p>But are these similarities really more than coincidences? Why would Tolkien, who was based in Oxford and steeped in English lore and Germanic mythology, turn to the Indian subcontinent for topographical inspiration? Perhaps because cartographic knowledge of that part of the world was far more general in Britain then than it is now. Until the late 1940s, the countries we know today as India and Pakistan were part of the British Empire. Detailed maps of the region would have been standard fare for British atlases. </p><p>Kamali is convinced that the topographical features on Tolkien's map of Middle-earth are not mere fantasy, but derive from actual places in our world, and were 'riddled' onto the map. In that case, we may look forward to more discoveries of Tolkien's real-world inspiration. <br></p>
From Frodingham to Frodo<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMDM1Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MDkwNTE2OH0.zxa0eVWzVuySpq5wQTLSYrFjdVGWyvpXecQhQc_miy8/img.jpg?width=980" id="4ad77" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ff9aace7fc7c111df3639a276cedf63c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Photograph of J. R. R. Tolkien in army uniform" />
J.R.R. Tolkien in 1916, when he was 24. Around that time, he was stationed near the village of Frodingham, which may have given him the inspiration for the name of the main protagonist in Lord of the Rings.
Image: public domain<p>Here's one example of Tolkienography—if that's what we can call the effect of actual geography on this particular writer's imagination—which I gleaned myself, some years ago in East Yorkshire. A local historian told me that Tolkien had been stationed in the area during the First World War, and had apparently stored away some local place names for later use. The name Frodo, he said, derived from a town where he had attended a few dances – Frodingham, a village across the Humber in northern Lincolnshire, not far from Scunthorpe (<em>Scunto</em>? We dodged a bullet there). </p><p>Whether that story is entirely true or not is beside the point. As fantasy fans know, any grail quest is ultimately about the quest, not the grail. In fact, to quote Mr Kamali, the treasure is important only because it's well hidden, "by a clever professor who enjoys riddles."</p><p><em>Unless otherwise indicated, illustrations are from Mr Kamali's <a href="https://arda.ir/the-tale-of-the-annotated-map-and-tolkien-hidden-riddles/?fbclid=IwAR3RmtU0ZdyzQGlK-iCsUjho4LA2W279fwO9dt8vv90FX2IeO3zrfMuMToU" target="_blank">article</a> on <a href="https://arda.ir/" target="_blank">Arda.ir</a>, reproduced with kind permission. </em><br></p><p><strong>Strange Maps #1036</strong></p><p><em>Got a strange map? Let me know at </em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a><em>.</em></p>
Tea and coffee have known health benefits, but now we know they can work together.
Credit: NIKOLAY OSMACHKO from Pexels
- A new study finds drinking large amounts of coffee and tea lowers the risk of death in some adults by nearly two thirds.
- This is the first study to suggest the known benefits of these drinks are additive.
- The findings are great, but only directly apply to certain people.
Maybe you should enjoy this article with a cup of coffee or tea.<p> The <a href="https://drc.bmj.com/content/8/1/e001252?T=AU" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">study</a> involved 4,923 type 2 diabetics living in Japan. The average participant was 66 years old. All of the participants were taken from the rolls of the Fukuoka Diabetes Registry, a study geared at learning about the effects of new treatments and lifestyle changes on the health of diabetics. <br> <br> The participants filled out questionnaires concerning their health, diet, habits, and other factors. Among the questions were two focused on determining how much green tea or coffee, if any, the participants consumed over the course of a week. The health of the participants was recorded for five years. During this time, 309 of the test subjects died from a variety of causes. <br> <br> Subjects who drank more than one cup of tea or coffee per day demonstrated lower odds of dying than those who had none. Those who consumed the most tea and coffee, more than four and two cups a day, respectively, enjoyed the most significant reductions in their risk of death. This level of consumption was associated with a 40 percent lower risk of <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/10/201020190129.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">death</a>. </p><p>Most interestingly, the effects of drinking tea and coffee appear to combine to reduce risk even further. Those who reported drinking two or three cups of tea a day and two or more cups of coffee were 51 percent less likely to die during the study, while those who drank a whopping four or more cups of tea and two or more cups of coffee had a 63 percent lower risk of <a href="https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/diabetes-coffee-and-green-tea-might-reduce-death-risk" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">death</a>. </p>
So, should I start swimming in a vat of coffee and green tea?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/LY0E-JQxeoY" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> Not quite. </p><p> The primary takeaway from this study is that Japanese adults with type 2 diabetes who drink a lot of green tea and/or coffee die less often than similar people who do not. If this effect is caused by something in the drink, lifestyle choices people who drink that much tea all make, or something else remains unknown. The finding must be considered an association at this point. <br> <br> The eye-popping reductions in mortality rates are compared to the risk of death of others in the study. The people who died reported drinking less tea and coffee than those who lived. Unless you have several demographic and conditional similarities to the subjects of this study, you probably won't suddenly be at a two-thirds lower risk of death than your peers because you drink green tea. </p><p> Like all studies that depend on self-reporting, it is also possible that people misstated how much they consumed any one item. The study also did not look into other factors like socioeconomic status or education level, also known to impact death rates and potentially linked to coffee and tea consumption. </p><p> However, it is yet another study in the pile that suggests that <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-13-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-coffee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">coffee</a> and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-green-tea" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">green tea</a> are good for you. That much is increasingly <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/health-benefits-linked-to-drinking-tea" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">agreed</a><a href="https://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/health-benefits-coffee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> upon</a>. This study also suggests the benefits are additive, which is a new development.</p><p><br> So, while it isn't time to start the IV drip of green tea, a cup or two probably won't <a href="https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/news/20201022/coffee-green-tea-might-extend-life-for-folks-with-type-2-diabetes" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">hurt</a>. </p>
But most city dwellers weren't seeing the science — they were seeing something out of Blade Runner.
On Sept. 9, many West Coast residents looked out their windows and witnessed a post-apocalyptic landscape: silhouetted cars, buildings and people bathed in an overpowering orange light that looked like a jacked-up sunset.