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The Unz Review: An Alternative Media Selection

A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
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 Razib Khan Archive
The Emperor Heraclius is a great man. It's a shame most people don't know more about him. His campaigns against the Persians in the early 7th century were truly audacious. But, he also lived long enough to witness the loss of Syria and Egypt. If you haven't, I would highly recommend A History of the... Read More
A new paper in Nature Genetics, Characterization of Greater Middle Eastern genetic variation for enhanced disease gene discovery, is both interesting and important. But, as with the paper on the Andaman Islander genomes it starts out with a naive and misleading utilization of model -based clustering to frame the later results. Here's a major offending... Read More
Recently I was at the supermarket, getting some shrimp at the fish counter. The clerk noticed I had some habanero peppers, and he asked if I'd checked out the ghost peppers. My interest was piqued, but I had no idea what he was talking about. He told me to look at again. They were Frieda's... Read More
Update: If Pontus Skoglund fails to replicate your results it is not an optimal outcome.... @razibkhan I tried to replicate the archaic admixture signal (using 4 other data sets with similar power) but failed — Pontus Skoglund (@pontus_skoglund) July 26, 2016 end update A new paper on on archaic admixture in Andaman Islanders has come... Read More
Though Nassim Taleb is more well known for The Black Swan, I actually liked his earlier book Fooled by Randomness, better. It seemed aimed toward more general issues than The Black Swan. One of Taleb's hobby-horses in Fooled by Randomness is that the book The Millionaire Next Door was based on faulty inferences, and misleading... Read More
When people ask me what they should read to understand genetics, I don't really know what to say. But An Introduction to Genetic Analysis is what I reviewed for my genetics qualifying exam. If you want to understand what PCA is, the Wikipedia page should suffice, especially if you have taken linear algebra. Perhaps ironically... Read More
One of the interesting things about genetics, and population genetics even more specifically, is how the theory and analysis outran the biophysical mechanism of the phenomenon. By this, I mean that the Mendelian laws inferred from transmission of physical characteristics predate any understanding about how genes were embedded within chromosomes, let alone the structural nature... Read More
Reading The Essential Talmud about ten years ago I vaguely recall the author stating that it was common for working class males to devote each day to one page of one a tractate from the commentaries on the oral law of the Jewish religion. As I am not religious, and look dimly on excessive orthopraxy,... Read More
The mutation rate in human evolution and demographic inference: The germline mutation rate has long been a major source of uncertainty in human evolutionary and demographic analyses based on genetic data, but estimates have improved substantially in recent years. I discuss our current knowledge of the mutation rate in humans and the underlying biological factors... Read More
The Time and Place of European Admixture in the Ashkenazi Jewish History: The Ashkenazi Jewish (AJ) population is important in medical genetics due to its high rate of Mendelian disorders and other unique genetic characteristics. Ashkenazi Jews have appeared in Europe in the 10th century, and their ancestry is thought to involve an admixture of... Read More
Been busy with work. Lots of data coming in. Will be good to turn around some science. But I'm eating OK. Location matters.... Here's a FB post from a researcher on Eran Elhaik's weird results which regularly make press. I've started ignoring Elhaik's stuff because it's also so crazy. I'll try to monitor the open... Read More
In my free moments I have been reading R. Scott Bakker's The Great Ordeal, as I needed to take a break from Congo: The Epic History of a People (I stopped before the Great War). As you might guess the latter is not a 'feel-good' work. And to be frank, The Great Ordeal is probably... Read More
I've been in upstate New York, working this week. So busy. Should take a break to crank out some blog posts. In particular, probably "How to read an admixture estimate", since even after so many years readers are confused.... While I've been holed away, Pokemon Go happened. What? Great Ordeal, the third book in R.... Read More
One can appreciate a work of art on two levels. When one beholds the sculpted renderings of the Classical Greeks, across the distance of more than 2,000 years we can feel viscerally that they have touched something beautiful, and made it stone. To reduce this to biology, our perception maps onto to deep grooves in... Read More
The Great Ordeal, the third book in R. Scott Bakker's Aspect Emperor series is going to come out in nine days. Bakker is apparently working on revisions to the fourth book, The Unholy Consult. So this series will complete (apparently Bakker's original vision was for three related sequential series, so this would be the second... Read More
Deep Sequencing of 10,000 Human Genomes: We report on the sequencing of 10,545 human genomes at 30-40x coverage with an emphasis on quality metrics and novel variant and sequence discovery. We find that 84% of an individual human genome can be sequenced confidently. This high confidence region includes 91.5% of exon sequence and 95.2% of... Read More
There have been some media "explainers" about how genetics can't speak to Elizabeth Warren's Native American heritage. This is a complicated issue, and not all the assertions in the media pieces I've seen are wrong, but a lot of the details are very confused or wrong. In sum, this is very bad journalism from people... Read More
It is a common assertion to state Christianity helped maintain the continuity of Classical civilization down to the Medieval era, through the "Dark Age" of Europe after the Fall of Rome. A more extreme position is that Christianity was a necessary condition for the maintenance of this civilizational tradition. I recall once reading an alternative... Read More
My Netflix account is going up in price from $7.99 to $9.99. They had warned this was going to happen. I don't use Netflix much, so I've wondered if I should cancel (I have Amazon video options through Amazon Prime too). I probably won't do so now, as it's really cheap. But I don't have... Read More
I have been very busy obviously. This is not a complaint, though I wish I could spend more time with my family. I do things professionally that I love. And, I'm well compensated for it. Many people are not in a similar situation. I don't have a major comment on the recent British vote aside... Read More
The chart is from an article in Nature. But the source is NHGRI. It illustrates that between 2008 and 2012 genomics as a field crushed Moore's law. Then there was a leveling off between 2012 and the middle of 2015. Illumina had a quasi-monopoly for that period and sequencing costs did not decrease too much.... Read More
There has been extensive discussion online about the fact that the character of Ramsay Bolton on the HBO television show Game of Thrones was irredeemably psychopathic, cruel, and so ghoulishly sadistic as to be a cartoon of evil. But as a reader of the books I've generally shrugged off these complaints, because the character is... Read More
The show runners of Game of Thrones (the HBO television which will actually complete its run under its original creators) admitted that they patterned part of the battle in yesterday's episode on the Battle of Cannae. This was obvious to me, as I was actually thinking that the Boltons were exhibiting something similar to the... Read More
The genetics of an early Neolithic pastoralist from the Zagros, Iran. The genetic structure of the world's first farmers. Busy at the Evolution Meeting.
Pregnancy has been socially gendered as feminine — New Real Peer Review (@RealPeerReview) June 14, 2016 If you aren't following the New Real Peer Review, you should. Endless enjoyment. What happened to the "old" Twitter account? The Daily Caller has an article about it, Social Justice Warriors Declare Battle On Colleague For Exposing Their... Read More
Vox has a post up, This comprehensive Targaryen family tree explains Game of Thrones' most complicated dynasty. I don't really know if the family tree explains much, but it's interesting. It does highlight two important dynamics which are probably important. The Targaryen's are notoriously inbred. The rationale for this is that their affinity with dragons... Read More
Just been notified that there's an update to Admixtools GitHub. Also, of interest to some: "This contains a public domain version of qpGraph, using the GNU subroutine library (gsl)." You can find example data the Reich lab website. (related note, also might check out Alicia Martin's GitHub, it has a lot of local ancestry stuff)
Pretty happy about the quality of comments on my post There Is No Exception in Islam. Compare to the quality of comments on the Reddit thread for the same post. Thanks to Shadi Hamid for pointing to the post on Twitter. One thing on comments. The space of things that someone knows about is finite.... Read More
The Wall Street Journal has a piece up, The Greek Hero at the Gym, which is adapted from a new book, Lift: Fitness Culture, from Naked Greeks and Acrobats to Jazzercise and Ninja Warriors. A lot of the argument seems straight out of the kind of things I've heard from friends involved in CrossFit. Much... Read More
years ago there was a famous exchange between Ben Affleck and Bill Maher & Sam Harris on the nature of Islam. In response I published a post titled "ISIS' Willing Executioners". The overall point was that Affleck's comments were not informed by the nature of Islam or Muslims, but broader political currents. As for his... Read More
Years ago I had a long phone conversation with a journalist about the origins and natural history of the red wolf. The reason was that I had casually mentioned that there was genetic evidence suggesting that the red wolf is a stabilized hybrid between gray wolfs and coyotes. That was 2007, if I recall correctly.... Read More
Reading Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road. It's a quick read. Not because it is not scholarly, it is scholarly. But unlike The Shape of Ancient Thought is relatively economical in its prose (to be fair, The Shape of Ancient Thought covers more ground). Also you probably benefit from reading Beckwith's Warriors of the... Read More
This isn't a good time to be into charismatic megafauna. Mostly due to habitation destruction the numbers are not going in the right direction. There has been a precipitous decline in the number of lions over the past 20 years. This is probably a good thing for rural Africans, but ideally I envisage a future... Read More
It all began in the hillocks to the north of the plains of modern Syria and Iraq. Agriculture that is. Or more precisely, the West Eurasian package which would wash all the way to the Atlantic, and deep into Eurasia, and in innumerable ways influence most human societies. The standard model until recently was that... Read More
The Monkey's Voyage is a book I've spotlighted before. Probably the main reason is that it highlights the importance of migration/dispersion on an evolutionary timescale. That is, change is the norm, and turnover is ubiquitous. The Tuatara is the exception, not the rule, when it comes to the biogeographic diversity of New Zealand. As I'm... Read More
Like you, I am waiting on the Rakhigarhi DNA results. Whatever they come back with is going to definitely impact the textbooks. But until then, I thought this paper in Scientific Reports was interesting (sort of), Oxygen isotope in archaeological bioapatites from India: Implications to climate change and decline of Bronze Age Harappan civilization. I... Read More
Years ago when I was noticing specific population genomic estimates I asked a friend about the confidence intervals, and how much to trust the values therein. One thing he mentioned offhand is that linkage disequilibrium based estimates of time since admixture often seem to give a relatively low figure in terms of generations. When it... Read More
One of the most surprising things that I encountered when reading The World of Ice & Fires is how many noble houses outside of the North still claim paternal descent from the First Men. Reading the books I had no idea the extent of it. For example, the Blackwood house of the Riverlands worship the... Read More
call the guy above "the rabbi of the geeks." The depth and nuance of his analyses are incredible. (I don't watch the non-GoT commentaries from him because I have no idea what he's talking about) I recently read Shadi Hamid's Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam Is Reshaping the World. It's a quick read,... Read More
At the Eurogenes blog there has been a lot of analysis of South Asian genetic history in light of ancient DNA recently. Part of this is probably due to the fact that "Euro" genes (that is, the genetic history of European peoples) are now understood to be inextricably tied to demographic pulses and shifts which... Read More
In the comment thread below there was a lot of discussion about fantasy literature. This is a topic which I have some opinions, because when I consumed fiction regularly, it was mostly fantasy and science fiction (yes, I'm a nerd). The eruption of Game of Thrones into the popular culture space has brought this classic... Read More
The title is my response to this article in The Washington Post, Inequality might start before we're even born. The screenshot to the left is from Twitter, and shows an alternate title. The article is written by a journalist whose work I normally am appreciate of, but when I saw that I started swearing. There's... Read More
Interesting piece in The Wall Street Journal, which could have been cribbed from David Epstein's The Sports Gene (a very good book I might add), NBA Basketball Runs in the Family (if you go to Google News and search for the title it should come up and you can get a free copy): According to... Read More
The origin of the white walkers (GoT). Don't click the above unless you want a major book spoiler. But the television show Game of Thrones is pushing deep into uncharted territory. And by book spoiler, I don't mean the reveal about Hodor. Rather, the scene above reveals the origins of the Others, also known as... Read More
When I wrote the Pleistocene was humanity's Hyborian age, I meant humanity. For contingent reasons the new genetic sciences of ancient DNA have elucidated the history of northwest Eurasia first. But prior to the Great Divergence Europe was not quite so exceptional. In fact the historian Victor Lieberman wrote Strange Parallels, his macrohistory of Eurasia,... Read More
In the comments below it seems that most people don't know about the existence of Eurostat, and the NUTS2 and NUTS3 maps which they generate. They're really great, insofar as they give you a fine-grained picture of variation within Europe. Sometimes you see how national boundaries matter a great deal...and in other ways how they... Read More
Life has been busy. Very busy. The company I'm working for is ramping up on releasing in on the order of weeks, not months. We've already released results to a few early beta testers, and are taking reservations for orders (basically you are in the front of the line for notification when the orders... Read More
One of the most curious things to people is that siblings can vary a great deal in their traits. Sometimes, this is not simply due to environment. Height is a predominantly genetic characteristic in terms of its heritability within the population, but the correlation between siblings is only 0.50 in terms of the trait value.... Read More
Razib Khan
About Razib Khan

"I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. If you want to know more, see the links at"