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 Gene Expression Blog / MiscellaneousTeasers

Screenshot 2016-11-27 20.15.36 It’s been exactly three years since I moved on from Discover. Change is timeless. So I thought it would be a good time to announce the move to another project today.

Until further notice this is my last post as a blogger at Unz Review. Just as when I left Discover, this shouldn’t impact regular readers very much in terms of substance and content. As always you can follow me through my RSS feed,, Twitter,, and of course, my website, (I’m surprised how many people bookmark that website, as I got some emails when I changed the formatting).

Screenshot 2016-11-29 15.20.38 The new site where I will host my content is not up yet, but it should be live within less than two weeks as engineers and designers work to get the final pieces in place (~2 weeks is within 95% confidence interval of the expected value, obviously hope it will be closer to now than not). If you want to be notified by email when the site goes live, subscribe to my newsletter. I probably won’t send out an email more than once a month, but I realize that not everyone uses RSS or Twitter, so it is probably best to start collecting a list of addresses for those who follow my work and would prefer to be contacted that way. If you are old school and just want to bookmark and check the site to see when it goes live, this will work:

If you have a blog, please update your link to: It will help me with getting some PageRank (I’m also going to point the front page of to the new site).

There will be some changes and flux. I’m starting “my own thing” over at N of Everyone, where I’m working with some friends to develop a new way of disseminating science to the masses. That is, I’m not just going to be a blogger, but am taking an active role in running the shop. A few of the big ideas motivating this move can be found in the piece I coauthored with David Mittleman from a few years back, Dragging scientific publishing into the 21st century. So expect the newest iteration of Gene Expression to be somewhat more experimental in terms of playing around with feature set and evolving more over time.

Also, honestly I’m not sure that Twitter will be around in its current form in another five years, so the Gene Expression at N of Everyone is going to be my attempt to create an independent platform so that I can communicate to who I want to communicate without relying on intermediaries…indefinitely (as long as I’m interesting in doing this, my professional path is definitely going to remain in science so I can express my opinions honestly without having to toe party lines).

Addendum: I’ll be moderating comments here for a bit as long as stray threads continue as long as Ron lets me continue with my permissions, but eventually I’ll stop checking.

• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: Last Post 

heart_of_what_was_lost_tad_williams Tad Williams has a new book set in Osten Ard, The Heart of What Was Lost. At only 224 pages it seems more like a novella compared to what he produced for his original series. The last of that of that trilogy, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, To Green Angel Tower, weighed in at more than 1,000 pages in the original print hardcover edition (of course it was split in two for paper back).

People are talking about how Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn Book was an inspiration for series such as A Song of Ice and Fire. First, Williams finished the series in three books. So that’s a huge difference. Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn Book produced large narratives on a per publication basis, but the story was relatively spare compared to what people are attempting now (Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive is already coming out with 1,000 pages books in a projected ten book series). Additionally, William’s world-building was relatively thin and superficial, while the ultimate resolution of the plot threads of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn Book struck me as a bit cliche and pat.

This is not to denigrate what Tad Williams achieved with Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn Book. But to be honest I think the past generation has seen huge changes in epic fantasy. Whether for the worse or better, that is up to you….

• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: Fantasy 

Screenshot 2016-11-27 23.50.40
Screenshot 2016-11-27 23.53.36 I began playing video games as a child after the crash of 1983. At the time I wasn’t aware of the tumult in the culture and the technology scene that that had caused. Video games were just fun, not the it thing I suppose. Perhaps as an analogy it would be like getting online in the early 2000s, after the dot-com crash of 2000. The internet by then was a normal part of everyday life, but the excitement and cultural omnipresence abated.

In that context the original NES took center stage rather slowly and organically in the mid-1980s, eventually triggering the competition between Sega, TurboGrafx, Nintendo, and later Sony. I got off that particular train when I was about seventeen, seeing the amount of time that the hobby swallowed. But I couldn’t help but be amused by this article in The New York Times, Nintendo’s New Console May Feed Your Nostalgia, if You Can Get One:

When she heard that Nintendo was planning to reproduce its iconic Nintendo Entertainment System video game console for the holiday season, Emily Bradbury put a note on her calendar and set an alarm on her phone.

She was not interested in buying it for her children. She wanted it for her husband.

“He’s 40 years old and grew up with a Nintendo,” Ms. Bradbury said. “It’s a nostalgia thing.”

• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: Video Games 

51OftfuYlSL._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_ So I have an Amazon referrer account. I’ve had one since 2003. Pretty much I use it to get money when people buy books (or other items) through links here. It’s a non-trivial, though not princely, sum of money. Especially since it’s passive. These are books I’ve read and want to talk about anyhow (usually around Christmas someone follows a book link, and ends up purchasing a computer or two, which is a way of “supporting my work” that I can get behind).

But one of the more interesting side effects is that I can see what my readers are buying (or if they are). For example, it heartens me when I see someone purchase Principles of Population Genetics. That means “I’m making a difference,” as I doubt that these are advanced undergraduates or graduate students. An interesting aspect is that I can see what interests people in terms of “clickbait”, before clickbait was a thing. Bobbi S. Low’s Why Sex Matters routinely gets a lot of clicks because of the title, despite the fact that I don’t flog it. In contrast, In Gods We Trust gets a lot of clicks because I tell people to read it to understand my thinking on religious phenomena.

51gYdVvOoQL._SX379_BO1,204,203,200_ As the year ends I like to tally books people have ordered. It turns out that the most purchased book through this website for the year leading into December is The Monkey’s Voyage: How Improbable Journeys Shaped the History of Life. For Kindle, it’s Congo: The Epic History of a People.

Another category is conversion rate. In relation to number of clicks what proportion purchase. Tops for the books in that category is Bioinformatics Data Skills: Reproducible and Robust Research with Open Source Tools. My personal experience is that for technical books many people still prefer print for physicality and rendering of figures and graphs. For Kindle the highest conversion was Intelligence: All That Matters and Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time. I think there was a “daily deal” or something at one point, and that prompted many purchases of the latter.

1846077 Finally, there are books I see which I didn’t recommend, and didn’t know about. An intriguing one off this list is Barry Cunliffe’s By Steppe, Desert, and Ocean: The Birth of Eurasia. The main issue I’ve had with Cunliffe’s work of late is that he doesn’t seem to be reading enough of the Reich/Willerslev duopoly’s papers. Not that everyone has time to engage in such primary literature diving, but at this point you’re remiss if you write about archaeology and don’t include genetics. Unfortunately a search inside doesn’t indicate that By Steppe, Desert, and Ocean is DNA-heavy, but sometimes you take history and archaeology on its own terms and integrate them into your overall model of the world, rather than having someone else do that for you….

• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: Books 

510bcY7t15L I spruced up my personal website recently. It was getting sort of cluttered. Also, the new theme should look better on mobile.

Not sure how long Twitter will be around, but as long as it’s around, make sure to follow me.

Screenshot 2016-11-27 00.59.01 Got my copy of The Atheist Muslim: A Journey from Religion to Reason. I’m personally opposed to a term like “atheist Muslim,” because a Muslim by definition to me is not atheist. But the author, Ali Rizvi, is an interesting fellow.

Going to try and get to Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States before Christmas. Don’t know if I’ll get to it, but it’s been on my “to-read” list for a while.

Has anyone ever thought that the novel Musashi was somewhat reminiscent of Cúchulainn? No idea why I think this, but it’s always been on my mind…

I think someone keeps asking about South Asian genetic signatures in Southeast Asia, and I keep forgetting to respond to them. I think there was old (say Iron Age) gene flow from South Asia to various parts of Southeast Asia (basically the cores of Hindu-Buddhist archaic semi-historical polities such as Angkor era Cambodia), and, also more recent gene flow due to colonialism era migration mediated by Europeans. Also, I suspect there was more gene flow from early Holocene Southeast Asia into South Asia than we currently comprehend.

2978777 Ten years after first reading it I appreciate Adam K Webb’s Beyond the Global Culture War more. Why? Probably because universal liberal democracy seems less assured as the final stationary state of society in all places now than it did then. It’s an interesting book in part because it attacks the global cultural element with which it is probably easiest to identify me with.

• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: Open Thread 

ls Went to Z & Y in San Francisco recently. Second time. Still have to give Mala in Houston better marks. A friend who has been to both agrees.

Been busy working recently. But obviously a lot is going on in science and non-science….

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• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: WestWorld 

51jUZQV3r1L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_ (1) Now reading Hume: An Intellectual Biography. David Hume was a man of moderation in his private life. Something to consider.

I was in New York City yesterday. I got a cab from the Upper East Side to Columbus Circle. The cabby did not anticipate the anti-Trump protest. When I said it was the anti-Trump protest probably, he turned around and said “Trump?” I said, “Donald Trump. You know.” He shrugged. By his accent I assume he was an African immigrant. I wonder if his English just wasn’t very good, as I have a hard time how you could be a cab driver in New York City and be surprised at who Donald J Trump was.

Met some friends. Some of them are in the ‘conservative establishment’, at least the more intellectual parts. They are cautiously hopeful. Or hoping for the best.

If you are a Trump supporter, perhaps this is a time to consider that tribal exultation will eventually fade and real life will again intrude. If you are a ‘conservative’, and not married, and without children, and above 30, perhaps you should consider what you need to do to get to a point where you can embody the values you purportedly support. If you are not a Trump supporter, and if you do have a family, perhaps you should reflect that at the end of the day the ultimate thing of substance is your relationship to them, and taking care of them. You have to get up every morning and work to support them, love them, and let them flourish. Politics is just a means toward the end of this sort of flourishing. But just one means.

510bcY7t15L I pre-ordered a copy of The Atheist Muslim: A Journey from Religion to Reason. Skeptical that one can be an “Atheist Muslim,” but the author is someone who I respect from Twitter, and it is important to read differing views. I myself am careful to state that I am not a “cultural Muslim” for two reasons. First, I am not part of the “Muslim community” in any way in my day to day life. I do not attend Muslim celebrations with my family in a nominal fashion. My children will have no affiliation to Islam except their surname indicating some connection to a South Asian Muslim. Second, unlike some people I do not have fond memories of a past life as a believer. I never really believed. My family as isolated enough that I was never part of the Muslim community anywhere that I lived. And my distaste for religion generally increased in a monotonic fashion as I grew into adulthood.

But other people have different experiences. So I’m curious.

Finally, I know people on all sides are binging on analysis of the election results. I understand. I get it. I just wish people would be more enthusiastic about immersing themselves in the life of the mind. People always ask me how I make time to be able to read. Some of the answer is prosaic. I stopped playing video games when I was sixteen. This is not without cost in hedonic utility and the ability to bond with people of my similar social profile. But it freed up a lot of time (similarly, I do not own a television, and have not for over ten years, so I don’t get caught up in passive viewing). Though I work a lot and have a family, various reasons allow for some level of flexibility in time allocation. And, unfortunately, I often do not sleep as much as I should.

But another reason I take time to read is that it is who I am, and who I have always been. I don’t read books and try to learn things to impress people or seem smart. I don’t really care that much about that stuff compared to actually knowing stuff. If that’s not important as an end in and of itself, and it isn’t for most people from what I can grasp (in contrast to winning arguments), that’s fine. But, I think a lot of people aspire to read more, and know more, because its important to them. If so, a little Buddhist or Stoic equanimity again the currents of the world really does help.

• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: Open Thread 

Screenshot 2016-11-06 09.57.53

51deNffGPJL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_ (1) My prediction above. Based on a few minutes scanning online. Also, I suspect that Trump supported is being overestimated. Low confidence that I’m adding value with my opinion.

After finishing Unfinished Empire: The Global Expansion of Britain I’m struck by the fact that the author had to make some criticisms of Edward Said’s Orientalism, because Orientalism is so weak on both details and overall theoretical framework. That’s why I dismissed it fifteen years ago when I read it, but today I have to say that Orientalism is the model of scholarly sophistication compared to what prevails today in postcolonial theory.

• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: Open Thread 

51deNffGPJL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_ I’m reading Unfinished Empire: The Global Expansion of Britain. Not as well paced as his previous After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000, but pretty good nonetheless.

Politics exhausts me. This is an exhausting time for me mentally as I’m overwhelmed by the din of political chatter and fixation. I’m very excited for November 8th to come and go.

There’s lots of stuff in science I want to write about, but the combination of lack of time, and politics saturation all over the place, has been demotivating me. So as the month proceeds I’ll probably get my energy back.

• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: Open Thread 

51OMI4Jez3L._SX260_ I finally “broke” last year, and began watching Game of Thrones, the HBO show. As a longtime reader of the series I had held out hope that The Winds of Winter would come out early enough not to be spoiled by the series, but it was not to be. In fact, it is probably likely that that book will come out after next season.

Say whatever you will about the “fork” between the television series and the books, Benioff and Weiss have made it clear that they know the conclusion, and that they’ll tie the threads back together broadly in line with the books. That means unless Martin engages in a major course correction, we’ll know conclusion of the series years before last book.

I began to watch the show because it was pretty much impossible to avoid spoilers on Twitter as they began to push the story forward rapidly. What’s the point in waiting another ten years? But that also means that I now have access to other material which can spoil the show: below the fold is footage of the actors in what is clearly a very important scene. The scene brings together two characters who are so important that I have a hard time believing that this is a major difference between the book and the television show. It is entirely likely that this scene occurs in the book in some form. It isn’t an entirely unlikely occurrence, but, it still brings into realization what was only a probability.

If you want to be spoiled, click below the fold. Even if you don’t want to be spoiled, it will happen. If you haven’t read the book and are waiting on George R. R. Martin to finish, probably a good time to read all the books that are out and hope Winds comes out shortly.

• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: Game of Thrones 

2016-10-23 08.40.37 Bought Marie Sharpe’s green habanero sauce at Granville Market. The spice level is nothing to sneeze at, and it’s got a nice flavor. But the salt is out of control.

danbo There is a lot of good Asian food in Vancouver. A pretty good meal at the downtown Kirin, but I want to highlight Ramen Danbo. The servers were all young women from Japan, so the ambience and food exhibited an authenticity that’s not typical.

Annexation_Bill_of_1866_mapAfter four days in Canada I really don’t see why at minimum we don’t have a customs union and open borders so we can dispense with these sorts of friction to travel. Canadians are easier to understand in terms of their English for most people who speak General American than some of our fellow citizens. Vancouver in particular reminds me a lot of Seattle, a city I know decently well since I’m from the Pacific Northwest originally and still go back to visit family.

Pandora was blocked in Canada for some reason. And I had to call to make special provisions to maintain data on my phone. Really is there a reason for this?

I am struck by the colonialism described by Colin Woodard in American Nations when it comes to Reconstruction. In his telling Yankees swarmed to the South believing that they could recreate New England in the post-war societies. Eerily familiar in light of what happened after the Iraq War.

51y9UBanyFL._SX386_BO1,204,203,200_ Someone in a comment below asked what population genetics they should read. Start with Principles of Population Genetics. It’s the gold standard. Some people would suggest starting with Population Genetics: A Concise Guide, but I didn’t start with that and I’m fine.

Joe Felsenstein and Graham Coop have some good notes online.

Spent some time with “reiver” online. He seemed curious as to my ability to read a lot and read fast. There’s nothing very impressive or amazing about it actually. I’ve been reading a lot in several areas since I was an early elementary school student, and so I can read and process new information fast because I already have a lot of preexistent structure.

416NQwBS-+L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ But you can lose things. For example I read books on cognitive neuroscience more slowly than I used to because I stopped reading in this topic when I went to grad school. I’m a big fan of Stanislas Dehaene’s work, but I get less out of it than I used to. That’s unfortunate.

Overall I do worry that I’ve focused too narrowly in my interests as my brain has aged and I’ve matured. My knowledge of specific areas is deeper, but I am not as broad in my curiosity as I used to be.

ASHG was good. I’ll say more later, but the popgen was a little thinner than in previous years.

It was interesting that many seemed to know about the company I work for. The fact is that our canine genomic test is the most comprehensive and robust out there. That’s not marketing fluff, and geneticists can discern bullshit from reality pretty easily. So the discussions were more brass-tacks about the value customers. I had a pretty good case for why a purchase is justified or feasible, so easy discussions.

417otmYuMcL._SX303_BO1,204,203,200_ Reading about Poststructuralism, and having a hard time understanding how people take this stuff seriously. That’s a problem, because people do. Perhaps a validation of its weirdly grand take on the power of language to shape the structure of reality.

It will be nice to read about something different. In particular, functional programming. Need to get my NumPy skills up, as I spend so much time struggling with data-types.

• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: Open Thread 

51I3Hux0TsL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ I reread Colin Woodward’s American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America on the plane recently. It’s a less scholarly work than Albion’s Seed or The Cousins’ Wars: Religion, Politics, Civil Warfare, And The Triumph Of Anglo-America, but arguably more straightforwardly relevant to modern conditions and events. I’m rather sure that Woodward would be interested in a further edition which updated with the goings on of the 2016 election campaign, if he’s not working on it already (an important complement, Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Angloworld, 1783-1939, which takes a broader Anglospheric view).

The important point here is that initially developed cultural folkways can be persistent and reinforcing. The author observes that Nordic immigrants seem to have almost invariably chosen the region of the American frontier dominated by a Yankee ethos, the Upper Midwest. Though they overwhelmed this region demographically, rather than changing the culture, they simply accentuated its longstanding features, which were established by Yankees (e.g., social progressivism and communitarianism).

What else is going on? Going to be at ASHG a lot this week.

• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: Open Thread 
• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: Open Thread 

9780192805577Online Life Is Real Life, Aleph-Nought in a Series:

I thought of this while I was reading John Scalzi’s epic post about self-presentation, prompted by someone who complained that he behaved differently in person than that person had expected from Scalzi’s online persona. (Personally, having met John in person several times, I don’t see it, but whatever…) Scalzi rightly notes that there’s nothing at all wrong with this, and that much of the difference is (probably) just basic courtesy and politeness.

It’s a major pet peeve of mine that people deduce from what they see on this blog and Twitter to generate a full picture of whom I am. If the data you saw were representative, then that might be one thing, but they really aren’t. Rather, they’re strongly biased.

A long time reader (as in, back to the ScienceBlogs days) is someone who I now socialize with semi-frequently. One observation he makes is that I tend to engage in more unguarded bloviating in real life. That sounds about right. In real life everything I say is not recorded for posterity.

The basic insight thought is that there is much you don’t see when you consider just what you see.

When people engage in others, they use theories to fill in the background of their interlocutors. It’s pretty impossible not to do so. On the other hand, theories are always imperfect, and you shouldn’t get surprised when those who you theorize about are angry when your theories miss the mark.

One way that my “non-internet” and internet personas do align well is that I’m rather aggressive. If think you’ve mischaracterized me, I won’t be happy in person, or online.

I read Foucault: A Very Short Introduction on a plane last week. I have the “very short introductions” series a great deal (have also read Hegel). It strikes me they’re good to orient and refresh you before a deeper dive.

A commenter below dismissed the importance of the genealogy of intellectuals and their movements in comparison to mass culture. But reading Foucault: A Very Short Introduction you see clearly the lexical armamentarium on display decades before it would percolate to Facebook threads and MSNBC.

51k6n6ma-NL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ Reading about Postcolonialism, I’m really struck by the possibility its intellectual apogee was already attained by Edward Said in Orientalism. I read Said about 15 years ago, but dismissed the work. My objection? It was simply wrong on many facts. In hindsight, it strikes me that I was naive in regards to what people admired about Said’s work, and its significance. That is, it’s importance was not as a narrative about the historical past, but possibilities for narrative frameworks relevant for organizing the political present.

Campus debate on Black Lives Matter called racist, shut down by protesters (VIDEO). If state campuses are to be thought of as arms of the Left-progressive movement in America, I can’t see any reason for states where the majority of the population is not Left-progressive to continue funding them.

My friend David Bachinsky has a GoFundMe to help fight his brain cancer.

Next Big Tech Corridor? Between Seattle and Vancouver, Planners Hope. Next year in Jerusalem. There is only one. There shall be only one.

Pre-Industrial Societies Reward High Status Men With More Children.

ASHG in Vancouver in two weeks….

• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: Open Thread 

Will be back soon.

• Category: Miscellaneous 

4197TkGD1DL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ At a readers’ suggestion I got Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault. Unlike The Dialectical Imagination this is not necessarily a detached academic book. Rather, the author has a definite perspective. About 20 years ago I read George H. Smith’s Atheism: The Case Against God, and there are a lot of similarities between the two books. From that I suspected before doing some research that the author had some influence from Objectivism, and that seems correct. I don’t care too much, and I probably broadly share the authors’ libertarian/classical liberal politics, but the middle sections of the Explaining Postmodernism got a little preachy for my taste.

Nevertheless the first half especially is excellent, and it outlines a genealogy of the Postmodern movement very concisely and in an illuminating manner. There are some details where one might quibble (e.g., the relationship of Immanuel Kant to religion is much more in dispute than presented in Explaining Postmodernism, though that’s a minor objection). But the progression of Transcendental Realism down to the morass we see around us today is a familiar story told more crisply here then elsewhere.

The author does outline a sociological origin for Postmodernism which is very intriguing, as it explains why it is an overwhelmingly far Left movement, despite the implications toward extreme relativism and subjectivism one might infer from the worldview. But there is something that is omitted here, perhaps because the author was not aware of this fact: there is a relationship of Postmodernism to elite intellectual religious revival in the past few decades.

418lqzfRjwL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ Alister McGrath is a proponent of this school, and outlines his thesis in The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World. To condense McGrath’s argument, if everything is a superstition, then people will fall back on the tried and true superstitions. McGrath asserts the collapse of the authority of rationality and philosophical realism signal the end of the Enlightenment project, and undermines the secular world. As an empirical matter there is a lot one can quibble with here; in particular, though Postmodernism may be vigorous in the academy, science and technology are concrete witness to power of naive realism and rationalist presuppositions. But McGrath’s position is philosophically cogent. And, it is not well known, but the doyen of modern Intelligent Design, Phillip E. Johnson, has admitted that the he was strongly shaped by Critical Theory:

I used to refer jokingly to myself as the entire right wing of the Critical Legal Studies movement, which in their view was a contradiction in terms. Their critique was purely the instrument of a left-wing political program, which was chosen arbitrarily and presumed to be good. It was a faith commitment.

So I’m reading a lot of things on Postmodernism. I’m going back to Hegel. On the one hand this is a major opportunity cost. There’s a lot of science and programming stuff I want to read that I don’t have time to read. On other hand, much that I was suspecting becomes very clear. Ultimately I’m respecting Postmodernism more insofar as it is a reasonable tool from what I can see in destroying certainty and realism for those who are innumerate. If you have any understanding of statistics you’re pretty insulated from Postmodernism. But very few people think statistically. I also now believe it is ultimately far more dangerous than before, because it is a serious intellectual tool that can deconstruct much that is precious and rare in the world. In particular, the Enlightenment project, which in many ways goes against the world historical grain, or at least the grain of human intuitions and preferences. Postmodernism as an intellectual exercise is easy to dismiss. But as a tool of political battle it has to be taken seriously.

A Single Migration From Africa Populated the World, Studies Find. I will blog these papers. It’s a question of time. Please don’t pester me on non-open threads about this stuff.

Widespread allelic heterogeneity in complex traits.

14390818_10153997292567984_5603508903928344619_nGunman kills Jordanian Christian writer charged over anti-Islam cartoon. The title is misleading, as the cartoon was making fun of jihadists, not Islam. He posted the cartoon on Facebook.

Chinese Jews of Ancient Lineage Huddle Under Pressure. Most of the Kaifeng Jewish community was absorbed into the Han, though some became Muslim.

Academic Research in the 21st Century: Maintaining Scientific Integrity in a Climate of Perverse Incentives and Hypercompetition.

Please use the “open thread” for random stuff. The OT comments early in threads are pretty annoying.

Also, if you follow me on Twitter if you tweet at me a lot, and I don’t respond, but you keep tweeting at me demanding a response, I’m probably going to block you. Also, I get annoyed at readers and Twitter followers who presume they know my state of mind or aspects of my life from what they see on the interwebs. If you do that and tweet at me, I’m going to block you, just as if you do that in the comments here your chances of me publishing future comments goes way lower. If you have read me for a while you should be aware that I have a really long memory and recall commenters who have crossed me in some way for years, so even if I let you comment again please don’t think I’ve forgotten. The major problem is commenters who presume over-familiarity with me. Probably a function of the low social intelligence of many of my readers.

Finally, Sean don’t post anything on sexual selection on this thread. I won’t post the comments.

• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: Open Thread 


Airports are in interesting window into architecture and perceptions of the future. When I landed at Vienna International in 2010 it was as if I landed back in the 1970s. In contrast, Frankfurt Airport was the closest I’ve felt to really be pushed into the “gleaming future” you sometimes see in science-fiction films.

With that in mind, lately I’ve been thinking that for some reason the airport at Detroit reminds me of what the future was going to be like in my childhood of the 1980s.

• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: Future 

What’s going on?

51I89uOM0AL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ Very busy, so haven’t gotten much further in The Dialectical Imagination, but I do have to say that the distinction between “positive freedom” and “negative freedom” is a useful one to highlight at this point. The comments below make me unsure about the influence of the Frankfurt School on modern socio-political movements, but the ideal of a utopian end state for society which enshrine a vision of the good definitely seems to be one of the things that moderns have lost. Rather, a lot of identity politics talk seems to be about positional games and status competition. The perpetual revolution.

At the suggestion of a reader I purchased Explaining Postmodernism. The Kindle version is $4.99.

There was an ancient DNA convention in England. It turns out that the original Polynesians may not have had much Melanesian ancestry, implying multiple migrations into Far Oceania.

The impact of recent population history on the deleterious mutation load in humans and close evolutionary relatives.

• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: Open Thread 

Scatterplot_r=-.76 The correlation between medical school GPA and career outcomes is low. The correlation between height and number of all-star appearances in the NBA is low. The correlation between SAT score and performance as a Google engineer is low.

Actually, I don’t know if all of these are strictly true. But I think you’ve seen the general form of the fact. So, for example, a professor I knew once recounted that at his graduate institution they once looked at correlation between GRE scores and future positions at tenure track institutions. They didn’t find any association.

51sdHZvYfTL._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_ (1) But there was a problem here: the institution was one of the top 10 graduate programs in the country in the biological sciences. The GRE scores were likely to be very high already. The result reported is certainly correct. But the inference given toward a general audience is often misleading. The correct inferences is within a particular range of the independent variable the correlation between the variable (here, GRE score) and an outcome (here, a tenure track position) is low. But what is often inferred is that there is no relationship between a variable and an outcome. Period. This is usually an incorrect inference.

One reason I’m putting this post up is a blogpost I noticed, Google Finds That Successful Teams Are About Norms Not Just Smarts. It links to The New York Times Magazine article which outlined how Google had attempted to find the “perfect” makeup of a team. The title is key here: not just. Most people who get to interview at Google are very bright. They aren’t arbitrary people pulled off the street. That’s one reason that the old Google system might have been counter-productive, since you already knew that the people you were testing were good at taking tests, as opposed to gauging them on other personal characteristics (e.g., do they have social skills which might allow them to work well on a team?).

Norms matter a lot. Isaac Newton’s father was an unlettered (if prosperous) farmer. If Newton had been born a few hundred years earlier he would not have flourished as he did. Norms matter. Culture matters. But not all men are born Isaac Newtons. Aptitude matters too. When we observe that norms and culture matters in the context of genius we are often engaging in range restriction. The individuals who illustrate the power of culture are not arbitrarily selected from the whole population.

• Category: Miscellaneous, Science • Tags: Ideas 
Razib Khan
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