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I once read of a paper which attributed the birth of agriculture to increasing seasonality across the world. Amazingly enough, though I didn’t remember it, it was from Marginal Revolution over a year ago. So I know I was a reader of that blog at that time.

In any case, this post isn’t about the origin of agriculture. This post is about the mystery of Asian natural intelligence. Now, first, you must be acquainted with the reality of the situation: Japan, Taiwan (with most Taiwanese Chinese descended from migrants from Fujian Province), and Korea have the highest average IQs in Asia. In Southeast Asia, Vietnam does better than richer Indonesia and Thailand on the math PISA, this being strong circumstantial evidence of higher Vietnamese natural IQ. Fujian is one of the leading producers of double-cropped rice in China, the first crop being planted in March and harvested in June, and the second crop being planted in July and harvested in November. In Korea, only a single crop of rice is possible, planted in spring and harvested in autumn. Japan does have double-cropped rice.

Anecdotally, Laotians are laziest people in Asia. It is similar for Cambodians, even in regards to such a vital matter as food production. Their social outcomes in the United States are consistent with this. According to J. Malloy, the average achievement quotient of Vietnamese-Americans on Californian Standards Tests (with Californian Whites at 100) is 104, that for Cambodian-Americans is 95, and that for Laotians is 90. Curiously, Laotian IQ in Laos is also estimated by Malloy at 90, while Vietnam and Cambodia are apparently far behind their potential. Note that Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians in America are roughly equally unselected, judging by their High School completion rates.

I think I may have half the solution to the conundrum (though this does not even begin to touch on the mystery of India). On December 10, when I was supposed to be doing something else, I decided to glance on the Weather app on my WinBook TW700. The Weather app had its default location set to Hanoi. I looked at the app’s historical data section. I then thought of the vast difference in Vietnamese v. Laotian-American social outcomes, despite similar starting backgrounds for the first generation. How would the climate of, say, Vientiane compare to that of Hanoi?

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Note: precipitation shows basically the same pattern for both.

I then quickly checked some test cases: Fuzhou, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Jakarta, Delhi. The only obvious outlier was Delhi, and that question must be set aside for now.

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Screenshot (108)
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Note that the most populous island in the world has basically a constant temperature year-round. No wonder its PISA scores are so low.

However, what works for East and Southeast Asia here does not work for Europe. Albania has basically the same temperature seasonality as Fujian Province. However, the rain pattern in Albania is precisely the opposite of that in Fujian -driest when the temperature is hottest, wettest when the temperature is lowest. This surely makes a great difference in how Albanian and Fujianese intelligence was selected for.

Despite this evidence, I’m not sure quite in what direction it leads to. Looking at solar irridance in the case of Asia, as in the case of Europe, seems just as powerful as looking at seasonality.