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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
Year Google Scholar hits 2000 64 2005 271 2010 1670 2011 2210 2012 3200 2013 4020 2014 4380 2015 4820
The above talk is from Alice Dreger, author of Galileo's Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and One Scholar's Search for Justice. I don't know Dreger personally, but she seems like a brave and courageous person. In the broadest strokes there's very little where we disagree. Yes, our politics, and many of our specific beliefs, diverge, but... Read More
Since there was some discussion about East Asian genetic structure below...I pulled about 20 South Koreans I have in my data. Merged them Han and Japanese from the HGDP. I then ran a PCA and plotted it, and also unsupervised ADMIXTURE, and plotted it. The results are below.
About thirteen years ago I expressed the opinion that an understanding of population structure will become a matter of intellectual curiosity once we have a better understanding of the genetic basis of characteristics. A friend, who was a statistical geneticist, told me that this was unlikely. We were unlikely to capture the ability to predict... Read More
About 2/3 of the way through The Ocean of Churn: How the Indian Ocean Shaped Human History by Sanjeev Sanyal. It's a wide-ranging book which synthesizes diverse disciplinary threads. The big over-arching thesis seems to be that movement of peoples and ideas was far less unidirectional than we often tend to think and are told.... Read More
Update: In light of further comments I may have been wrong about Hong's recent admixture! See the comments below (also, further discussion with Spencer Wells offline). I don't have total clarity on what's going on, because I'm sure my friends weren't lying...but they were also early adopters, and the methods may have changed. And, I... Read More
No matter the Yelp reviews, if it doesn't have dry pot or whole boiled fish on the menu, not worth it. Also, should feature something where the peppercorn is salient.
I got this hot sauce at Whole Foods. The original Whole Foods. What a disappointment. Salty. Without much other flavor besides the spice. It was like a watery spin on Louisiana hot sauce. I couldn't taste the "aromatic spices" and "fresh herbs." And don't tell me it is because it's too spicy, I didn't find... Read More
In 2011 I was having dinner with an old friend who was an engineer at Intel. He also has a Ph.D. from MIT. Smart guy. But when I mentioned casually offhand that we were all a few percent Neanderthal (outside of Africa), he was surprised. I was a bit shocked, as I explained that this... Read More
I don't really have strong opinions on the whole controversy over women's sports at the elite level...mostly because I have a really hard time following all the logic. For me the biggest problem seems to be that we have two categories, men's and women's, and there are those who are arguing that they're actually nearly... Read More
Guy Gavriel Kay's Children of Earth and Sky is set in the same world as the Sarantine Mosaic duology, and the Lions of Al-Rassan, The Last Light of the Sun, and A Song for Arbonne. I've enjoyed Kay's work for more than half my life at this point, so no surprise that I enjoy Children... Read More
Taking a break in my work of the day I stumbled upon the fact that Bernard Cornwell's series based on King Alfred's period, which began with The Last Kingdom, is a Netflix series. To be honest I much preferred the three volume Warlord Chronicles, set more than three centuries earlier, in post-Roman and pre-Saxon Britain.... Read More
Joe Pickrell and Yaniv Erlich did an AMA on Reddit yesterday. I recommend you check it out. They promote their new project, seeq. It looks pretty slick, and I'm excited to be part of the batch of beta testers.
Obviously I'm doing more development right now than I would have expected. But in the long term I want to move beyond hacking to survive for the present, and write some code that's sustainable. So I think I want to read a design patterns book. The last one I read was 15 years ago and... Read More
Over at The Genetic Literacy Project Jon Entine has a post up, Usain Bolt’s Olympic gold proves again why no Asian, white–or East African–will ever be crowned world’s fastest human. Fifteen years ago Jon wrote Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports And Why We're Afraid To Talk About It, so he knows something about this... Read More
Sabine Hossenfelder on her side gig as a physics consult, What I learned as a hired consultant to autodidact physicists: Sociologists have long tried and failed to draw a line between science and pseudoscience. In physics, though, that ‘demarcation problem’ is a non-problem, solved by the pragmatic observation that we can reliably tell an outsider... Read More
Spencer Wells, along with many others, such as Jared Diamond, argued that agriculture was a disaster in terms of what it wrought for the quality of life for the average human in his book Pandora's Seed. This is broadly plausible to me. On the other hand, I also think it is highly likely that agriculture... Read More
I just bought my friend Sanjeev Sanyal's book, The Ocean of Churn: How the Indian Ocean Shaped Human History. Sanjeev is a polymath with varied interests, some of which intersect with my own. A few years back I had the pleasure of having dinner with him and Reihan Salam, and the server kept unapologetically offering... Read More
A friend recently emailed to ask about the best way to pick a proper "K" value when inferring structure. K just being the parameter which defines how many putative ancestral populations you have in your model to explain some data on genetic variation. Obviously some value of K are more informative than others of population... Read More
Evolutionary theory famously predated the emergence of genetics by decades. Initially there was some conflict between the heirs of Charles Darwin and the first geneticists in terms of their mechanistic understanding of how evolutionary process occurs. Within a few decades though genetics and evolutionary biology were synthesized so that the former came to be integral... Read More
Recently Daniel Falush's group came out with a preprint, A tutorial on how (not) to over-interpret STRUCTURE/ADMIXTURE bar plots. If you read the science posts on this weblog (basically, if you read this weblog), and you haven't read it, read it now. At his weblog, Paint My Chromosomes, Falush has talked about both the production... Read More
Probably the most incredible science story of the week, Eye lens radiocarbon reveals centuries of longevity in the Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus): The Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus), an iconic species of the Arctic Seas, grows slowly and reaches >500 centimeters (cm) in total length, suggesting a life span well beyond those of other vertebrates. Radiocarbon... Read More
A follow up on the Ancient Archaic Admixture Into the Andamanese story, No evidence for unknown archaic ancestry in South Asia: Genomic studies have documented a contribution of archaic Neanderthals and Denisovans to non-Africans. Recently, Mondal et al. 2016 (Nature Genetics, doi:10.1038/ng.3621) published a major dataset--the largest whole genome sequencing study of diverse South Asians... Read More
Sorry about the light posting. I'll get back into gear in a few days. Very busy professionally and personally the past week or so. I've been getting into writing Python code, as opposed to reading it. It's a different beast altogether, obviously. I'm a lot slower than I would be in Perl, but I'm getting... Read More
An excellent open access review of population genetics history from 1966 to the present in Heredity, Population genetics from 1966 to 2016. From the abstract: We describe the astonishing changes and progress that have occurred in the field of population genetics over the past 50 years, slightly longer than the time since the first Population... Read More
For the past few days I've been using the Python data analysis library, or "pandas." Most of the time I work with Perl, R, and shell scripting. But the Perl/R combination has gotten to be pretty unwieldy recently, and some of my coworkers swear by pandas. So in the interest of firm cohesion I converted... Read More
I don't follow cycling closely, but I once praised Lance Armstrong, who I had read about in the media, to a friend who had been a journeymen professional in the sport in the late 1990s. My friend expressed some irritation, shrugged, and told me that everyone in the sport knew that Armstrong doped. He didn't... Read More
The employment data above are from Randall Parker (seasonally adjusted for what it's worth), and originally the Labor Department. Randall had it as a tabular display, but I think a simple bar plot is more illustrative. The percentage of unmarried births is from the Census. It looks like Americans with university degrees or higher are... Read More
They say to write about what you know. One thing I know are peppers, and hot sauce. So in addition to my writings on genetics, history, and assorted odds & ends, probably more pepper writing than before. Class is important, but it doesn't seem to be a good organizing principle around which an organic social... Read More
The above visualization is from a Reddit thread, Almost all men are stronger than almost all women. It's based on grip strength, and basically reiterates my post from last year, Men Are Stronger Than Women (On Average). The same metric, grip strength, is highlighted. The plot above shows that the "great divergence" occurs on the... Read More
Yellowbird is a pretty good hot sauce. As you can see it gives you quantity, and the quality is decent. But there's a major problem with the serrano and habanero brands. According to the scoville scale the habanero is about 10 times spicier than the serrano. That sounds about right to me. So if you... Read More
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
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"