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Daniel Drezner explains how superstar economics has reached the world of public intellectuals, including such as Fareed Zakaria and Niall Ferguson. They become brands, the internet concentrates attention upon the few at the peak, and money showers down on them, with $50-75k speaking fees. But they are also vulnerable: the web allows for fact-checking and concentrated criticism when they get things wrong.

A team from New Zealand argues in Science that Indo-European languages derive from Anatolia 8-9.5kya and spread from there along with agriculture – and not from the steppe about 5-6kya and spread with horses, wheels, and iron.

The majority view in historical linguistics is that the homeland of Indo-European is located in the Pontic steppes (present day Ukraine) around 6,000 years ago. The evidence for this comes from linguistic paleontology: in particular, certain words to do with the technology of wheeled vehicles are arguably present across all the branches of the Indo-European family; and archaeology tells us that wheeled vehicles arose no earlier than this date.

The new analysis

combines a model of the evolution of the lexicons of individual languages with an explicit spatial model of the dispersal of the speakers of those languages. Known events in the past (the date of attestation dead languages, as well as events which can be fixed from archaeology or the historical record) are used to calibrate the inferred family tree against time.

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