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There have been some good posts at Gene Expression Classic you might want to check out. In particular:

Synaesthesia and savantism and Where do morals come from?. The second is a review of Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality by Kevin Mitchell

Natural selection and the collapse of economic growth and Natural selection and economic growth by Jason Collins.

Earliest Art in the Americas: Ice Age Image of Mammoth or Mastodon Found in Florida. Claims that the a rendering of a elephant-like creature in Florida is at least ~13,000 years old because “this is the date for the last appearance of these animals in eastern North America.” If this is based on fossils probably you can fudge that a little lower, since first and last fossils tend to be a subset of the real interval of time.


The Michael Hecht-Rationally Speaking affair. Jennifer Michael Hecht is making accusations of plagiarism against Massimo Pigliucci and Julia Galef. One can’t render final judgment on this sort of thinking without digging deeper, but my personal experience is that most perceptions of plagiarism and copying have to do with the fact that the web is very, very, big. And, you tend to anchor upon and self-select segments of the web which are intersecting with your own interests and biases. People who produce similar material and share a similar world view are likely to also generate ideas and concepts very similar in structure and even style to yours. In other words, I think there can be sincere perceptions of plagiarism which are mistaken.

Do Kids Prefer Playmates of Same Ethnicity? Since the study is based out of Montreal I conclude that French culture is just racist.

Wild Cuban Crocodiles Hybridize With American Crocs. Some of you care, I don’t too much.

Psychologists Find Link Between Ovulation and Women’s Ability to Identify Heterosexual Men. Really this is kind of boring. I want really weird correlations. I’m sure they can find them.

Post-Hoc Supernatural Punishers. Some good skepticism of ahistorical tendencies which crop up in explanations for religion. For example I’m tired of people explaining to me that an awesome afterlife is the reason for religion, when Sheol and Hades kind of bit. A nice afterlife is a relatively recent cultural innovation.

Koi Assisted Birth. This is happening.

As Greece Ponders Default, Lessons From Argentina. I like how the reporters emphasized the fact that the commodity boom has been a boon to Argentina. That condition doesn’t hold for all nations.

Why Do We Like the Taste Of Protein? Jonah Lehrer, delicious prose as always!

What is g?

Phylogeography of a Land Snail Suggests Trans-Mediterranean Neolithic Transport. I think this sort of thing is going to be more common. With the confidence interval this seems more a “first pass.”

Sexting and Infidelity in Cyberspace: Humans Are Still Social Creatures Who Need Face-To-Face Contact, Study Finds. In other words: study finds earthlings are not Solarians.

InTrade And Jon Huntsman: Why the Media’s Faith in the Internet Betting Ring Is Foolish. There’s a tendency to allocate too much precision to quantities.

Women Freezing Their Eggs To Make Babies Later. This seems like a rational investment for many couples.

Ancient links between Siberians and Native Americans revealed by subtyping the Y chromosome haplogroup Q1a. “…this lineage appears to be closest to the extinct Palaeo-Eskimo individuals belonging to the Saqqaq culture arisen in the New World Arctic about 5.5 Ka. This finding suggests that Q1a*-MEH2 likely traces a population migration originating in Northeast Siberia across the Bering Strait.”

Low Fertility in Europe Reversed. Still below replacement though.

Newcomers’ Arrival Scares Up Tales of the Mayan Apocalypse. Very amusing confusions. We’ll see more….

On Funny men, Intelligence and ‘Mating Success’… Many of you will be able to guess one of the paper’s authors.

Dutch Court Acquits Geert Wilders of Hate Speech. Good.

Ten Percent of Middle-Aged Europeans Are On Antidepressants, Study Suggests.

Dogs Discriminate Identical Twins. Cool, but not surprising.

The evolution of conscientiousness. As important as intelligence. Smart people can be evil more effectively.

Mechanisms for the Evolution of a Derived Function in the Ancestral Glucocorticoid Receptor. Great paper where Sean M. Carroll is the lead author.

How Serious Is Son Preference in China? A minor note: it is important to remember that son preference tends to shift to daughter preference in developed societies with small families. This happened in Japan ~1990, and it is happening in Korea now.

Saudi women threaten to breastfeed drivers. People have different values.

Female extrapair mating behavior can evolve via indirect selection on males. Blame the men when women stray! Pretty funny.

All brown everything. An article which profiles Brown Pundits. Since Secular Right has also been profiled by the media, it would be interesting to see if anyone ever takes an interest in this little weblog I’ve been running on genetics for over 9 years in various forms….

Instapaper accuses FBI of stealing data in raid. Pinboard also got caught up in this. Basically the server where these sites were stored also hosted a scamware site. it happens.

Goolu. Don’t know if I buy this argument, but interesting.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
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Monuments to Clan Life Are Losing Their Appeal. A rule of thumb is that the Chinese tend to emphasize permanent architecture less than other societies, probably due to the tendency not to use durable materials.

The Next Bubble: Farmland. Did not know: “And large-scale farmland bubbles are quite rare: There was only one in the United States in the entire 20th century, during the great population scare of the 1970s.”

Tortoise and Hare, in a Laboratory Flask. Carl on the new paper out of the Lenski lab.

Unknown Animals Nearly Invisible Yet There. There aren’t enough labor hours to catalog the tree of life.

A Proud ‘Lobbyist’ and ‘Southerner’ Weighs ‘President’. We haven’t had a fat president in nearly 100 years.


Europe’s Rift Over Energy Is Widened by France. Go France!

Less Wrong NYC: Case Study of a Successful Rationalist Chapter. Brass tacks: what’s the rate of drop of proportion of virgins over the course of the past year?

Law of Averages. Finally, people are responding to the disincentives of low-tier law school attendance!

Vaccine to Cure Asthma Brought on by House Dust Mite Allergies?

Canine Genetic Wrinkle Has Human Potential. Dog genetics yields important insights for humans. Not too surprising. Dogs and humans exhibit a lot of convergences from different sections of the mammalian bush.

The skull that proves those New Stone Age farmers weren’t so peaceful after all… My null model is that intra-specific competition results in violence once at the Malthusian limit.

Economics and Evolution Help Scientists Identify New Strategy to Control Antibiotic Resistance. This is the sort of thing that’s potentially the most potent antidote to Creationism.

Sizing Up Kinship: Larger Groups Win. Review of the Kim Hill paper.

Hunter-gatherer kinship and band composition. John Hawks on the Kim Hill paper.

Population-Based Resequencing of Experimentally Evolved Populations Reveals the Genetic Basis of Body Size Variation in Drosophila melanogaster.

A Molecular Phylogeny of Living Primates.

A Faded Industrial Town Is Feeling Britain’s Cuts. Half the workers in the public sector? This is not a sustainable ecosystem.

Public Jobs as the Ticket to Middle Class Status. Reihan Salam offers some skepticism.

Molecular Evolution, Mutation Size and Gene Pleiotropy: A Geometric Reexamination.

Return of the Sailer Strategy. I’m feelin’ more and more right-wing of late. But no pinker.

Wildlife defies Chernobyl radiation. Similar to the phenomenon of wildlife refuges created by land mines.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
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February always goes by so fast….

Should you go to an Ivy League School, Part II. I think the value of an Ivy League degree will be more, not less, important in the future. It seems possible that we’re nearing the end of the age when the wage gap between unskilled and skilled workers is relatively modest (roughly, the wage gap decreased between 1800 up to 1970, and has been increasing over the past 40 years). Credentialing and finding juicy rents and sinecures is probably the way to go in the future. As the past was, the future shall be?

Anthropologists Trace Human Origins Back To One Large Goat. “Read the whole thing.”

Advanced Degrees Add Up to Lower Blood Pressure. I’m sure that the paper itself is less irritating in terms of conflating correlation and causation. The problem is that it is the least intelligent people who will think that extra years of education = extra years of life in a magical manner. That being said, peer group effects probably matter, so I suspect that that’s part of what’s going on here after you correct for background variables.

Election Defeat Predicted for Ireland’s Ruling Party. It is rather strange that the more right-wing party generally enters into coalitions with the left-wing party, against the centrist party.

At last – an explanation for ‘bunga bunga’.


Genome-Wide Association Study Identifies Loci for Body Composition and Structural Soundness Traits in Pigs.

The Decline And Fall of Effects In Science. Measured take from Neuroskeptic. Incentives matter. Positive results mean getting published. So keep trying until you get a statistically significant result, and get published. Sometimes the sociology of science matters.

Most Doctors Do Not Know Guidelines Well, German Study Finds. This is for German doctors. Since we have the Best Healthcare In The WorldTM and American doctors are absolute geniuses, it doesn’t apply to this side of the Atlantic.

Bamiyan Buddhas Once Glowed in Red, White and Blue. Ancient Classical monuments and statues were also supposedly once gaudily painted.

A Population Genetic Approach to Mapping Neurological Disorder Genes Using Deep Resequencing. On the rare variants side of the ledger.

A Genome-Wide Study of DNA Methylation Patterns and Gene Expression Levels in Multiple Human and Chimpanzee Tissues. Another stab at trying to characterize human-chimpanzee differences in terms of gene regulation.

Discovery of Oldest Northern North American Human Remains Provides New Insights Into Ice-Age Culture.

Man has 39 wives, nearly 100 children. ‘He heads a local Christian religious sect, called the “Chana,” which allows polygamy. Formed in June 1942, the sect believes it will soon be ruling the world with Christ and has a membership of around 400 families.’ Instead of proselytizing, he is propagating.

Catastrophic Drought in the Afro-Asian Monsoon Region During Heinrich Event 1. “Here, we demonstrate that the height of this stadial, about 17,000 to 16,000 years ago (Heinrich Event 1), coincided with one of the most extreme and widespread megadroughts of the last 50,000 years or more in the Afro-Asian monsoon region, with potentially serious consequences for Paleolithic cultures.”

Ancestor Worship. Brian Switek reviews the “first human” arguments. Must read.

Late Neandertals and the intentional removal of feathers as evidenced from bird bone taphonomy at Fumane Cave 44 ky B.P., Italy. This is naturally resulting in some funny “artistic renderings.”

Fossils May Look Like Human Bones: Biological Anthropologists Question Claims for Human Ancestry.

Single-Tissue and Cross-Tissue Heritability of Gene Expression Via Identity-by-Descent in Related or Unrelated Individuals. ” Finally, we obtained similar estimates of the cis components of heritability using IBD between unrelated individuals, indicating that transgenerational epigenetic inheritance does not contribute substantially to the “missing heritability” of gene expression in these tissue types.”

India East and Inward. Comment on the involuted outlook of many Hindus.

Dwarfism Gene Linked to Protection from Cancer and Diabetes.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
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The first month of 2011 is almost over….

Exiled Islamist Leader Returns to Tunisia. “…while Ennahdha was branded an Islamic terrorist group by Ben Ali, it is considered moderate by scholars.” I remember talking to a gay friend after 9/11 about Islam, and he began to repeat the pablum about how most Muslims were moderate and tolerant. I had to disabuse him of the notion that they would be as tolerant of him as the Christians at the local Congregationalist church. One can be moderate, but if the scale is set at one end of the broader distribution, that moderation can be quite extreme from the vantage point of an outsider. So a recent survey of British Muslims found that 0 out of 500 would accede to the position that homosexuality was morally acceptable. Certainly within the set of 500 there were many moderates on the issue, but the center of the distribution would probably not be what we’d consider “gay-friendly” (it might in fact be tolerance in a more pre-modern sense, where the majority suffers that the minority may exist, so long as they do not become undue burdens or flout public mores).

Selection is random. I don’t know if this is what the general population would term “random,” but it is an important point insofar as even if natural selection can be conceived as a deterministic process when you expand the parameters of population size and time to infinite, it still operates in a stochastic cauldron. That beings said, another point worth remembering is that selection is also stochastic insofar as it may operate over a set of equally fit adaptive peaks, and there’s no rhyme or reason to which peak selection may eventually drive the population toward (or, consider different genetic architectures which would lead to the same phenotypic value for a quantitative trait).

A Golden Age of Foreign Films, Mostly Unseen. I don’t know if this is relevant, but from what I have heard the “long tail” has not really panned out.


Chinese Man Who Bragged of Privilege Gets Six Years. I guess six years is better than nothing. I recall hearing about this incident last spring, so I’ve kept an eye out for the resolution.

Jebel Faya and early-stage reduction. Obviously I think this sort of thing needs to be looked at with many disciplinary lenses, but it is nice when the fossil people can speak clearly, as John always does.

The Prize. Noah Millman on Egypt.

Educational attainment and fecundity in the US. Female baby boomers in the 2000s who had no high school education had more than three children on average. Those with a doctorate had 1.4.

Use Family SNP Data to Phase Your Own Genome. The phasing Java app actually crashed on my computer. I’m sure more people will get into this as 23andMe V3 results trickle in.

Cluster Sequencing with Oxford Nanopore’s GridION System. These pieces about relatively “blue sky” sequencing tech make me want to look at articles from 2005.

Black? White? Asian? More Young Americans Choose All of the Above. The article ignores the elephant in the room: that Americans do not treat African ancestry like they treat Asian (or Amerindian) ancestry. Someone with a black American parent may identify as mixed race, but there is a great deal of social pressure and expectation, such that they are de facto viewed as black. Someone with a Chinese parent and a white parent has a somewhat different set of expectations, and more genuine realizable flexibility about their multiracial heritage.

Social Security and Welfare Benefits Going Paperless. Change happens with us barely noting in many cases.

Infants Ascribe Social Dominance to Larger Individuals. I know people underestimate infants, but really, does anyone think they’d be that dumb?

Genetic Variation among Major Human Geographic Groups Supports a Peculiar Evolutionary Trend in PAX9. Alas, the SNP isn’t typed by 23andMe.

A Meta-Analysis of Genome-Wide Association Scans Identifies IL18RAP, PTPN2, TAGAP, and PUS10 As Shared Risk Loci for Crohn’s Disease and Celiac Disease. Always with Crohn’s disease!

Nice map showing population distribution in 3-D for the USA.

Some thoughts on the Dutch-Afrikaner connections. Interesting, Afrikaners tend not to emigrate to the Netherlands.

Jumbo Shrimps: Why Mega-Mammals Still Looked Puny Next to the Biggest Dinosaurs. Contingency?

There is no labor shortage.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
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FF3

1) First, a post from the past: Theological incorrectness – when people behave how they shouldn’t….sort of .

2) Weird search query of the week: “khoikhoi woman in porn.” I had a suspicion I knew who entered this search query, but it came from Kumasi, Ghana. So unless a certain someone is doing fieldwork, I guess not.

3) Comment of the week, in response to Portlandia:

Razib, is this post locally grown? And I know it’s organic but is it *certified* organic?

4) And finally, your weekly fluff fix:

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
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Participants So Far. Zack reports 10 people of South Asian ancestry have sent their raw data. His coverage seems OK, but he only has multiple samples from Punjabis. I know some people who will be sending their data in soon, and I’m going to swap my parents in for me, so Bengalis will go from N = 1 to N = 2, but please spread the word. Better coverage in eastern and southern South Asia is really needed.

Why Rich Parents Don’t Matter. Jonah Lehrer references my post When genes matter for intelligence. This is a possibility which I think needs to be more widely spread by the mainstream media: “Eliminating such inequalities in the early years of life would simply create a new kind of inequality, driven by genetics.” When people fret about the relative lack of class mobility into Ivy League universities compared to the 1960s, they might consider if the mobility of that era was simply a function of the relatively recent removal of previous discriminatory barriers. Once those barriers are gone for a few generations there’s no reason to expect that the “peak churn” would match the transition phase.

US equivalents. Comparing the aggregate GDP of American states to nations around the world.

Human Prehistory and Genetics Wiki. I don’t “do” the wiki thing myself, but in case you’re interested.


Introduction to Nanopore Sequencing. “For solid-state nanopores we are probably looking at 5 years or more.”

Genetic Sequencing Alone Doesn’t Offer a True Picture of Human Disease, Research Suggests.

Multiculturalism at its limits? “As for the relationship between multiculturalism and constraints on free speech, an argument has developed that runs something like this: we live in a society where there are lots of different peoples and cultures, each with deeply set, often irreconcilable, views and beliefs. In such a society we need to restrict what people say or do in order to minimize friction between cultures and to guarantee respect for people embedded in different cultures.” What about when the existence of some people gives offense? For example, open homosexuals are offensive to many cultures. Someone like me, an open atheist from a Muslim background is offensive in many parts of the world. Multiculturalism at its root is a farce, because at the end of the day there are real values which cultural elites will not flinch from. If there is a deep enough chasm between cultures then something like the Ottoman millet system will emerge. Each ethno-religious community will govern itself. The Potter actress whose brother threatened to kill her is expressing conventional behavior in the context of Bangladeshi culture. To sanction and eliminate these sorts of “honor” values entails a radical change to the Bangladeshi subculture. True multiculturalism will allow that “way of life” to persist.

Amish Fashion Week.

Close Encounters of the Buddhist Kind. “An exclusive look inside a booming multibillion-dollar, evangelical, global Thai cult.” And this is fascinating: ‘He called Dhammakaya’s rapid growth and mass ceremonies “power trips” inspired by the head abbot’s fascination with the Muslim hajj gatherings and Nazi parades.’

When & Where Grapes Domesticated. The trans-Caucasian region is, I suspect, going to become very important in our understanding of how the past 10,000 years have been shaped.

Maybe Japan Was Just a Warm-Up. Many people warn about the over-wrought hysteria about Japanese economic power in the 1980s. But people have to remember the difference of scale: there are an order of magnitude more Chinese than Japanese. Though it’s going to be a long haul for the Chinese to catch up with American per capita GDP, something disastrous will have happened if the Chinese don’t exceed the USA in aggregate GDP in the next generation.

An evolutionary explanation of consumption. From the about: “I am an Australian economist and a part-time student completing a PhD at the intersection of economics and evolutionary biology.” Just added to my RSS.

Rapid Reaction: Steelers 24, Jets 19. Why have the Steelers been to so many championship games since the 1960s?

Delving Into the Past of a Big Cat: Clouded Leopard Redefined. Water barriers matter inordinately to large mammals it seems.

Evolution of molecular error rates and the consequences for evolvability. Title makes this self-evidently of interest.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
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Yes, The Singularity is the Biggest Threat to Humanity.

Imitation and Social Cognition in Humans and Chimpanzees (I): Imitation, Overimitation, and Conformity. Doesn’t fall into the trap of either/or, where chimpanzees are qualitatively different from humans in too stark of a manner, or simply quantitatively different in an implausible fashion.

Emulation, Simulation, and the Human Brain. Tim B Lee is skeptical of whole brain emulation.

Borderless Economy, Jobless Prosperity. The real issue is whether the nation-state matters in any deep way as anything more than an organizational convenience and semantic convention. I would say it does. Many globalists would disagree.


The Chicken, The Egg, The Media and Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin is magnetic.

Buying Blind: Steve Jobs isn’t saying why he’s taking a medical leave. Is that fair to Apple investors? Looks like there’s a lot of squishiness about what does, and doesn’t, need to be disclosed. But if Apple is so dependent on its CEO’s vision, is it really a good long term hold?

Politically Confident, Iran Cuts Subsidies on Prices. Incentives matter: “I used to be the kind of person to have all the lights on because I liked the house to be very bright,” says Fariba, 28, an office worker. “But now I’ve changed my ways. I think it’s because they have been talking about it so much on the radio and television.”

New Influx of Haitians, but Not Who Was Expected. Naturally rich Haitians take advantage of generosity intended for the poor dispossessed.

Museum Is Symbol of Waste in Georgia. Tragic and funny story.

The Vehicle of Street Food Is Getting an Overhaul. Creative destruction. Chefs out of work are on the street, in a good way.

For Lebanese, Crisis Has Become a Way of Life. Demography is destiny. Shia have gone from the third largest group, to arguably the largest segment of the Lebanese religious marketplace.

Towards threaded publications: helping to set the scientific record straight.

Have women evolved to protect themselves from sexual assault?

More Intensive Methods Needed to Identify TB in HIV-Prone Populations.

Accuracy of CNV Detection from GWAS Data. More than SNPs.

Is breast not best for babies?

Deep Genomics: In the Case of DNA, the Package Can Be as Important as Its Contents, New Work With Fruit Flies Reveals.

The Deadly Logic of Anti-Blasphemy Laws. “In recent weeks, a coalition of Muslim nations has demanded (again) that the United Nations criminalize blasphemy. A considerable number of Christians might, at least at first hearing, think this as a reasonable demand. After all, we do not disagree that slander against the honor of God is a very, very dangerous sin. But anti-blasphemy laws place the power of theological coercion into the hands of the state, and this is deadly dangerous.” Christianity itself is in some ways blasphemous. To other religions. So is Islam.

New Evidence for Climate Impacts on Ancient Societies. Keep in mind that humans were much more impacted by exogenous factors in the recent past.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
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Sex and Statistics or Heteroscedasticity is Hot. Heteroscedasticity just means differences in variances. So it turns out that two women who have the same expected attractiveness rating from different males can still exhibit a difference in variance of evaluations. So a woman who is average, and everyone perceives her as average, gets less attention than a woman who some perceive as beautiful and some perceive as ugly. Seems common sense. Interestingly one of my roommates in college, who is now an economist, expressed this theory. I would forward him the article on Facebook, but I’m not sure if his wife would be excited if she saw it….

Hotheads by nature. Even more interesting is the intersection of nature and nurture. There are differences across the USA among “Anglo” subcultures in propensity toward aggression and violence. One of the reasons that John Brown became such a hero in the North before the Civil War was that his violent behavior was seem as appropriate retaliation for the ubiquitous aggression and intimidation which Yankee settlers experienced on the frontier when they encountered Southerners. It would be interesting to see how genes expression in different American subcultures.

By This Time in the Last Presidential Cycle, 14 Candidates Had Jumped In. A guess a sitting president makes a big difference. I recall in 1992 many of the “big names” in the Democratic party passed, allowing Bill Clinton to rise to the top of the dwarfish pack.


Mystery solved: The evolution of 
diagnostic abilities in genetic testing. Also see this post at Genomes Unzipped on a related issue.

A true cultural topography. I argue that Brown Pundits on the complex nature of cultural variation. A major problem is that most people are ignorant of cross-cultural ethnography and history, so they rely on cartoonish theories and models which are based on their normative preferences.

Evolution of an antifreeze protein by neofunctionalization under escape from adaptive conflict. “This study reveals how minor functionalities in an old gene can be transformed into a distinct survival protein and provides insights into how gene duplicates facing presumed identical selection and mutation pressures at birth could take divergent evolutionary paths.”

Medieval mtDNA from Byzantine Sagalassos. Historians now root around archives. I wonder if by 2020 rooting around online genome repositories will be a new skill necessary. It seems that many demographic and economic historical hypotheses could be answered by old DNA.

Ancient Denisovans and the human family tree. “Stringer concludes, ‘Personally I think that the distinctiveness and separate evolutionary histories of groups like Neanderthals and modern humans warrant their continuing recognition at the species level, provided we remember that this may not preclude some hybridisation.” I think we spend too much time obsessing over the term ‘species’ myself.

The Real Problem With China. Everything is pirated in China. Is that a bad thing?

Hot Social Networking Site Cools as Facebook Grows. The end of MySpace for all practical purposes. I think MySpace’s failure is a learning opportunity for other firms though.

What Killed the Hominins of AL 333?. Man as prey. Brian Switek has been doing some good stuff at his new perch at Wired. Too bad there’s no direct link from Wired’s front page.

A rant on the evolution of religion. I agree with a lot of it, though I think Tom a touch understates the “naturalness” of religion. I’ll probably be reviewing Michael Blume’s paper mentioned (Dr. Blume contacted me directly. I get these inquiries now and then, but if you’re a scholar and you think I’d be interested in reviewing your paper, do email. It will increase the probability greatly. I’m not omniscient, I miss a lot of great stuff).

Reconstructing the Indian Origin and Dispersal of the European Roma: A Maternal Genetic Perspective. The big picture inference is massive bottlenecking and rapid population growth. The I think the term “Roma” by the way is a slight misnomer; Roma refers to a specific subset of Gypsies. Groups in Spain, Finland, or the United Kingdom have different terms for themselves.

Oxytocin promotes human ethnocentrism. See Ed Yong.

Pakistan Faces a Divide of Age on Muslim Law. This is the face of what Fareed Zakaria has termed “illiberal democracy.” Should we always favor the Populares?

The not-so-great Islamist menace. The numbers suggest that most European terror is due to nationalist or politically motivated groups, not Islamists. Islamic terrorism is naturally much more of a problem for majority Muslim nations.

Some scientists also embrace creationism. Good for a laugh.

“Band of Brothers” Commander Dies. Someone who was 18 in 1945 is now 83.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
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Denisovans did not have red hair. John Hawks pokes around the Denisovan genome. Interesting that he notes that the coverage of the Denisovans is very good in comparison to the Neandertals.

I Won’t Hug This File — I Won’t Even Call It My Friend. A weird screed against the internet and free content, posted on the internet for free (observed by David Dobbs).

The Web Is a Customer Service Medium. The main skepticism I have about these sorts of pronouncements is that they underestimate the diversity and pluralism of the web medium. Some outfits are bottom-up, others are top-down. Some websites solicit a lot of feedback, others do not. Some blogs post lots of short posts and observations, others post extended essays. I don’t see the point of triumphalism or defeatism. In the aggregate the pie is growing, though unfortunately in this bout of creative destruction many people are losing their livelihoods during the transition.

Americans: not as religious as they think they are. Basically Americans claim to allocate twice as much time to religion as they really do. This is an old and robust finding.


Vietnam Confronts Economic Quagmire. Inflation and mismanagement. That being said, Vietnam is on the balance a success story. Communism can only destroy so much human capital.

Is Law School a Losing Game? This is a long piece in The New York Times, which may reflect a cultural inflection point. The non-elite law school scam has been well known for years in the blogosphere, but it might start finally pushing more aggressively into the mainstream media. But law school is just the canary in the coal mine; the current inflation in higher education is not sustainable.

On the Perception of Religious Group Membership from Faces. He’s got Mormon face!

Why you CAN have your $1000 genome – so long as you learn what to do with it. This seems about right. More than $1000 would reflect the bundling of various services. If you want the raw sequence data, and are willing to put your own labor hours into it, you can get it for a lower sticker price.

Hard Core. A woman explains hardcore pornography and men. It’s all so easy.

Facebook hype will fade. I don’t know if this is right…my main contention is that the rate of growth is going to slow down. I am not expecting an AOL-esque collapse of Facebook, but I wouldn’t be that surprised. I’m not sure that it is that critical.

Announcing The Open Lab Finalists! Lots of familiar faces. Mad props to Jason Goldman for cranking through all that.

Why Restaurants Want Fewer Customers. Most of the time expensive meals are probably signalling, especially on the high end margin, but I have to say that last week I had an expensive meal which was well worth it in substantive terms.

Study Linking Vaccine to Autism Was Fraud, Journal Reports. What are the consequences? I haven’t followed this closely, but it seems that Andrew Wakefield’s fraud was motivated by financial incentives. Science needs to crack down on this behavior harshly.

Southern Sudanese, in a Jubilant Mood, Begin to Vote on Secession. I hope I’m wrong, but I doubt we’ll see this end well. South Sudan has lots of oil, a great deal of ethnic diversity, and, very little human capital. That hasn’t been a good combination in other regions of Africa. I support independence because it seems cruel to allow the north to rape the south, metaphorically and sometimes literally, indefinitely. On the other hand, I do wonder if the British did a disservice to the long term Benthamite project of maximal utility by preventing the spread of Islam amongst the southern tribesmen, and so blocking their assimilation into the broader Afro-Arab Muslim culture of the nation.

Penis injections lead to 1.5 hour erections, scientists regret not letting the subjects just watch porn. S. M. is back.

Thought of the day. “Also the assassin of the Governor belong to the Barelvi sect, which is the more “liberal” and “Sufiesque” Sunni sect of Pakistan.” I’ve long said that most Muslim “moderates” are really equivalent to conservative American Protestants. There are some religious liberals in Islam, but they are marginal, and more often than not private mystics. While Christian Identity is ~0.1% of Christians, the Muslim equivalent is 1-10% of the population in some nations (such as Pakistan). Sam Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order is a book that good liberals love to hate (often without reading it), but it’s ultimate message was to take cultural differences seriously, and learn to live in a multipolar world where everyone is not on the same page on all values.

Facebook Wins Relatively Few Friends in Japan. I recall reading the iPhone isn’t big in Japan either. Not enough features.

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I don’t do too many New Year’s Resolutions. My main goal this year which is of interest readers is increase total quantity of quality in terms of content. In other words, I want to keep volume up, but increase the quality of posting.

If you haven’t contributed to the Open Thread this week, it’s about post requests.

Since “Scissors” Michelle already nudged the “soft launch” a bit harder, I thought it might be time to introduce Brown Pundits. Zach Latif & were spending too much time talking to each other on the comment boards of Sepia Mutiny. I thought Zach’s comments would probably benefit from a wider venue, and I am (along with others) coming on board. The topicality is brown, but that’s about it. Now, I’m about as brown as a Jewish guy raised in north Alabama who loves ham sandwiches & Christmas tree decorations is Jewish (or, the perhaps the biggest Jain patron of Outback Steakhouse is Jain). But like being Jewish being brown is to some extent inalienable, so of course I’ll speak up. Since Zach is a Pakistani Bahai who grew up in Kuwait and Britain whose mother is an ethnic Persian, I think it’s kosher to add him to the “league of odd-brownz.” BP has a twitter account and a Facebook page.

Speaking of Michelle, she’s back to blogging more regularly. Wish her well after her less-than-optimal 2010 part 2.

Amerindian-like sequences in Baltic Finns (aka. phased data and extended haplotypes are the way forward). David seems to be suggesting that there are traces of some commonality between Amerindians and Finns not found in other Europeans. First thought would be that this is a common circumpolar element.


A genetic map of West Eurasians. Oh my! Read the whole thing. Note the large gap between Pakistani Iranian speakers, and Farsi speakers. Is this simply a function of geography? Do Tajiks, or Farsi speakers from Khorasan, resemble Pathans more? Or perhaps the Indo-Iranian languages are overlain on preexistent genetic variation?

What the Roman Empire’s demographics were like and what they mean. ” the only countries that comes close to the likely life expectancy of the average Roman are a long list of terribly poor countries, all but Afghanistan located in sub-Saharan Africa, most with very high levels of HIV infection in addition to any number of other illnesses. But even the worst-off country, Swaziland, comes at 39.6 years at least a decade ahead of the Roman average and on par with the luckiest Roman districts.” And many people in very poor countries today have cell phones!

World population 500BC. Also see John Hawks’ comment.

American English Dialect Map. A definite time killer!

Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber? This one is not behind a paywall.

A kiss still outperforms a dating website. “When choosing a mate, you can’t beat up-close chemistry.”

Israel’s Fundamentalist Future. You’ve already encountered this argument here.

Twins’ Facebook Fight Rages On. Can’t decide whether it’s irrational greed or irrational pride.

100 Trillion Connections: New Efforts Probe and Map the Brain’s Detailed. That’s an incomprehensible number. Ironic if that’s the root of comprehension.

How old is Y-chromosome Adam? Many people, including myself, have been known to treat Y and mtDNA methods of inference as “black boxes.” But now is the time to go back and check our premises.

Economic Optimism? Yes, I’ll Take That Bet. John Tierney won his bet on oil prices by 2010, recapitulating the famous Simon-Ehrlich bet. Can’t believe that Ehrlich won a MacArthur award in the year in he lost the bet!

Brooklyn Immigrant Congregations Clash. Religion is not always the solution to inter-ethnic clashes.

Doctors on Facebook Risk Compromising Doctor-Patient Relationship, Study Suggests. A lawyer friend commented that if people had to pay medical expenses out of pocket like they often have to do with legal bills, doctors wouldn’t be nearly as a popular. The operation of the AMA as a licensing cartel is hurting the median well being of the average American. Pushing M.D.’s off their pedestal by showing them to be toolish humans on Facebook might be a good thing!

Rodents Were Diverse and Abundant in Prehistoric Africa When Our Human Ancestors Evolved. Africa, the mother of the rat?

From Simple To Complex. Repeated emergence of multicellularity?

Artificial intelligence makes some progress, but robots still can’t match humans. Check out some books about the future of robotics from th early 1980s. Revealing.

Was There Any Cannibalism during the “Great Drought”? A few years ago Martin Gardiner was promoting the idea of some cultural anthropologist that cannibalism was a universal myth.

Behavioral consequences of dopamine deficiency in the Drosophila central nervous system.

Muslim ham complaint thrown out. “A prosecutor has thrown out a complaint made by a Muslim family against a geography teacher who mentioned pork in their son’s class.” Barbarians strike again!

19 of the Best Infographics From 2010. A list I want to make in 2011!

On Genetic Denialism.

Europe’s Economic Pain Awakens Old Arguments.

Default Position. “Why we needn’t worry too much about municipal bankruptcy.” Hope it’s so!

The Year of the Exome. Yes!

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Hope Christmas went well for everyone. No complaints about mine.

Pinboard. Thanks for the Delicious replacement recommendations. I know that Delicious is going to be sold and not shutdown, but confidence is lost. Pinboard seems to work well, and you can import all your Delicious bookmarks. Additionally, there’s a serviceable Chrome extension so that I can easily add bookmarks. Already have the new RSS up: http://feeds.pinboard.in/rss/u:gnxp/.

HTC Evo 4G. I’m not an early adopter of hardware, but I have no big complaints about the HTC Evo 4G. It’s lame that they call it 4G when Sprint’s 4G coverage is so sparse (no coverage in San Francisco, but coverage in Merced and Stockton!). But their version of Android is reasonably user friendly, though not as much as the iPhone (or at least what I could gather from playing around with the iPhones of others). Though I already ran into one app which made the phone crash and reboot. It was an online banking app, distributed by that specific bank.

The genome of woodland strawberry (Fragaria vesca). It’s in Nature, but open access!

Genomic DNA Sequences from Mastodon and Woolly Mammoth Reveal Deep Speciation of Forest and Savanna Elephants. This paper has gotten a lot of coverage. I didn’t hit it mostly because of the time investment I made in the Denisovan paper, but I do think it is interesting. The deep separation of African forest and savanna elephant populations may be interesting because of the sort of analogies one can make about the gross evolutionary pressures on mammalian lineages due to ecological and geological parameters. I’m thinking in particular of apes, the bonobo-chimpanzee and hominin vs. ‘great ape’ divisions.


Peretz in Exile. The future of Israel seems to be that of a more conventional Middle Eastern state. The ultra-Orthodox are reproducing at a fast rate, and currently their labor force participation is low. This is not sustainable. I suspect once they are forced to enter the labor market en masse they will be much more assertive than they are now in the domain of politics. Producers can call the shots more than consumers.

Person of the Year 2010. Mark Zuckerburg. Nothing too original in the piece, though it’s well written. I would also add that it’s a pretty good sign that Facebook’s phase as an “It” company is nearing an end as it starts to saturate the mainstream media chatter. It’s profitable, and it will get bigger, but the rate of growth is already decreasing (second derivative is negative). Amazon, Microsoft and Google make bank, so it isn’t as if Facebook is going away. But soon there’ll be someone else on the horizon (I’m skeptical of the sustainability of Groupon in some of the areas where it is popular, such as restaurants).

Conflict Over Squatters Divides Argentina. Peronism has always been a contradiction in so many ways.

Tallinn-Evans $125,000 Singularity Challenge. ” Jaan Tallinn, a founder of Skype and Ambient Sound Investments, and Edwin Evans, CEO of the mobile applications startup Quinly, every contribution to the Singularity Institute up until January 20, 2011 will be matched dollar-for-dollar, up to a total of $125,000.”

Thiel Fellowship. Deadline December 31st.

Grown-Up Startups. “Why old people make better entrepreneurs than young ones.” I’m interested in the academic literature on this. I believe it is better for society to produce more failed entrepreneurs than successful financial engineers. A few Fritz Haber’s per generation will do.

The Priorities of the Left. Kevin Drum explains why the nature of the Left and Right coalitions in the USA over the past two generations have resulted in more economic and social liberalism. That is, less regulation and welfare state, more individual personal liberty. See The Age of Abundance for a positive take on this.

Necessity Pushes Pakistani Women Into Jobs and Peril. “Then he confiscated her uniform, slapped her across the face and threatened to break her legs if he saw her outside the home….Her family may be outraged, but they are also in need. Ms. Sultana donates her $100 monthly salary to supplement the household budget for expenses that the men in her family can no longer pay for….” Men during the Victorian era regularly visited brothels. There is a level of sexual “traditionalism” which turns men into habitual perverts and male relatives of women into de facto chattel slave owners. This is relatively common in the Muslim world and much of South Asia. I think most people lead more balanced lives somewhere between this sort of barbarism and the “no rules” sexual liberation experiments which have caused such havoc in communes since the 19th century.

Fears Growing of Mugabe’s Iron Grip Over Zimbabwe. The difference between Zimababwe and Bostwana show to some extent the importance of contingency. It is arguable that the rational thing for an autocrat to do is behave like Robert Mugabe, squeeze as much out of the orange as possible and leave it dry. But the cost in aggregate misery is high. I think this might give us an insight into the problems Western nations are starting to have due to problems of coordination for the greater good.

Female Bomber Kills Dozens in Pakistan, Official Says. Never underestimate the pragmatism of “principled” radicals. Here you have a case of reactionaries who would prevent women from becoming literate using a woman as a weapon of war; a highly transgressive act which even most Western nations avoid except in circumstances of extreme need.

Chip To Sequence Genome In Minutes? Someday. Though let’s wait a bit, because the hype is getting to become a bidding war in this area.

What is a human? Mulling the implications of the Denisova admixture paper.

Too Big To Bail. “Is Japan the next major world economy to tank?”At ~120 million people Japan has a population greater than the “PIIGS” combined. I do think either innovation will save them/us, or, they/we’ll have to get used to a reduction in nominal per capita wealth.

Self-organising principles in the nervous system.

Neandertal band of brothers. John Hawks on the Neandertal cannibal story, and its implication of patrilocality. Only ~70% of human societies are patrilocal, so I wouldn’t be surprised if our own lineage doesn’t exhibit the extreme obligate social patterns of bonobos, elephants and chimpanzees.

Genetic evidence for patrilocal mating behavior among Neandertal groups. The paper is open access. Social evolution and cannibalism all in one!

The Influence of Natural Barriers in Shaping the Genetic Structure of Maharashtra Populations. “Our analysis suggests that Indian populations, including Maharashtra state, are largely derived from Paleolithic ancient settlers; however, a more recent (~10 Ky older) detectable paternal gene flow from west Asia is well reflected in the present study.” First, I suspect that the dating here is wrong. Second, I don’t think that southern Indian populations by and large have such deep roots, because there are strong pointers from the autosomal data that they don’t, and, the nature of farmer & hunter-gatherer interaction make it implausible, though not impossible.

Jon Tester draws ire of liberals. This is a bad thing in Montana? Avowed liberals are only ~20-25% of the American electorate, vs. ~30-40% who are avowed conservatives. This means that liberals can mobilize and impact successfully when the public is on their side (e.g., “Don’t ask, don’t tell”). But when it come to policies where there is less unanimity locale matters.

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Countdown to Christmas! Hope everyone has pleasant holidays.

Apple v Google. Very long article highlighting the different strategies of the two companies. I do though think Google is starting to get a touch annoying trumpeting their “open ways.” They’re not a struggling start-up, they’re a massive corporation.

More on “culturomics”. Also see the #ngrams hash-tag.

Hmong’s new lives in Caribbean. They’re 1% of French Guinea’s population, but control 70% of the agriculture, since arriving in the 1970s.


Cables Reveal Resentment at Chinese Influence in Africa. Resentment isn’t going to stop the investment. In some ways we’re in the early stages of a latter day Scramble for Africa, though is a matter more of economic than political hegemony.

Evolution of an Agriculture-Associated Disease Causing Campylobacter coli Clade: Evidence from National Surveillance Data in Scotland. ” Taken together these analyses are consistent with an evolutionary scenario describing the emergence of agriculture-associated C. coli lineage that is an important human pathogen.”

Mark Madoff’s Name Became Too Big a Burden to Bear. His more calculating brother is still alive, as is his sociopathic father.

I Want Chromedroid. “Google’s new Android phone and cloud-based Chrome computer would work better together.”

In India, Chinese Leader Pushes Trade. It seems inevitable that there’ll be a political chasm widening while economic integration continues apace.

Upwardly Mobile. I don’t get Angry Birds.

In France, Civil Unions Gain Favor Over Marriage. I favor marriage personally, but there is something to the argument in my opinion that some people are dispositionally unsuited to a multi-decade commitment.

Sweden Bombing Doesn’t Soil Image of Tolerance. ‘…image, as captured by a security camera: a man in a red jacket kneeling by the dying bomber, asking if there was anything he could do for the man while other bystanders, spying unexploded pipe bombs still strapped to the man’s waist, backed away, shouting, “Bomb! Bomb! Bomb!”’ You wonder why Finns think something is off with the Swedes?

Stockholm bomber denounced by father-in-law. ‘In the letter, written in Arabic, Thwany said Abdulwahab had betrayed Sweden, “which gave us home and treated us well and offered us things that others, Arabs, non-Arabs, Muslims and non-Muslims, refrained from doing.”‘ If troops in Muslim lands was an issue it seems that Taimour Abdulwahab would have attempted terrorism in Britain. Sweden’s commitment in Afghanistan seems token by comparison to what Britain has been involved in in both Afghanistan and Iraq. So other issues probably were important, such as the ‘blasphemous’ Swedish cartoonist. Of course my liberal friends will perhaps suggest that Swedish racism played a role in this (mind you, I believe that Europeans are more racist than Americans, even if they are not malicious about it). But if racism was a primary predictive variable then Russia should be ground-zero of terrorism. As it is, Russian “Islamic” terrorism is pretty straightforward Caucasian nationalism which requires minimal unpacking. More Black September than Al-Qaeda.

Epstein-Barr: Scientists Decode Secrets of a Very Common Virus That Can Cause Cancer.

Feast, Famine and the Genetics of Obesity: You Can’t Have It Both Ways.

Report Names Kosovo Leader as Crime Boss. Though of us who are skeptical of humanitarian intervention generally have the attitude that foreign conflicts are never as black-white as they are portrayed. It was pretty obvious back in 1999 that the KLA had a thuggish side. There were no angels in the conflict, just demons and more demonic. Similarly, Paul Kagame’s forces defeated an explicitly genocidal Hutu regime, but has been implicated in its own massacres. International relations is more alchemy than physics.

Anti-Austerity Protest in Greece Turns Violent. Wow. Every news story makes me wonder if it’s the end of Europe as we know it.

General Epistatic Models of the Risk of Complex Diseases. ” These results imply that, in general, gene interactions will result in greater heritability of a complex inherited disease than is expected on the basis of a multiplicative model of interactions and hence may provide a partial explanation for the problem of missing heritability of complex diseases.”

The Rate of Fitness-Valley Crossing in Sexual Populations. “We find that low recombination rates can speed up valley crossing relative to the asexual case, while higher recombination rates slow down valley crossing, with the transition between the two regimes occurring when the recombination rate between the loci is approximately equal to the selective advantage provided by the adaptation.”

The evolution of dissent. “Even more intriguing is the implications for understanding cultural-genetic co-evolution. After all, we know that viruses and their hosts co-evolve in a kind of arms race – sometimes ending up in a relationship that benefits both.”

Where Unconscious Memories Form.

Meet the woman without fear. Much of the phenomena was expected, but not this (at least for me): “She’ll happily stand a foot away from complete strangers, far closer than most people would be comfortable with (even though, again, she understands the concept of personal space).”

Mystery pigs of tropical Asia, and capturing them on film.

Why Humans Are More Sensitive to Certain Viruses: Primate Immune System Differences Identified.

Staying active lessens age-related weight gain, especially in women. I guess the sex difference makes this not necessarily a “duh” study.

SNL Digital short captures something essential about being a 20 year old male. NSFW.

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Estimating Heritability Using Twins. Luke Jostins lays out the A’s, E’s, and C’s. Very informative. This part was kind of funny though: “Interestingly, the Bioscience Resource Project post cites this paper, which makes their mistake somewhat surprising.” Wonder if Luke is making a reference to the tendency for people not to read papers they cite too closely.

The cell is a messy place: understanding alternative splicing with RNA sequencing. Another of the talks about a paper they just published in PLoS Genetics.

One of the Sweden Bombs Exploded Prematurely. Looks like Sweden dodged a bomb here, more or less. But ~5% of Sweden’s population is Muslim (culturally or by practice), mostly from Middle Eastern countries. It cancels some of Sweden’s historic military neutrality out when you bring populations recently subject to political disturbance into the nation. I say some because Britain has recently combined worst of both worlds, importing in a culturally alienated population along with an adventurous high-risk foreign policy.


Humans Helped Vultures Colonize the Canary Islands. Humans are not exogenous to the ecosystem; we’re part of it. Less evident in the post-industrial age, but more so in the pre-industrial one.

Analysis of streptococcal CRISPRs from human saliva reveals substantial sequence diversity within and between subjects over time. Personalized dentistry?

Sincerest Form of Flattery: Some Joke! About “intellectual property theft” in comedy. Comedians seem to be taking the practice more in stride than other groups.

Poland, Bastion of Religion, Sees Rise in Secularism. One should be cautious of causality. Something similar has happened in Spain, and there the Church has progressively been marginalized from its central role during the Franco regime.

The Tragic Decline of Ivory Coast. Ivory Coast is a case of re-equilibrium and with feedback loops. Its economic prosperity drew migrants, who eventually became the source of political discord, which removed the economic prosperity which drew the migrants.

Change in voter turnout from 2008 to 2010.

New Study Reports Men Fake Orgasms Too. “He attributes this rise to the proliferation of SSRI-based antidepressants such as Prozac and Paxil….”

Why Most Hardware Specs Are Total Bullshit. ” A recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research suggests that quantitative specifications are so powerful that, even when given the ability to directly test the attributes of a given product ourselves, we still tend to choose the thing with the longer list and bigger numbers (ahem, megapixels).”

Push for Stricter Abortion Limits Is Expected in House. This sort of thing is symbolic, but usually boots the percentage who identify as “pro-choice.”

Bizarre Reptile Challenges Notion of Crocodiles as ‘Living Fossils’. The whole ‘living fossils’ concept is more trouble than its worth.

The George Clooney Effect – High-Earning Women ‘want Older, More Attractive Partners’, Research Finds. They did a study on this?

Genome-Wide Screen for Mycobacterium tuberculosis Genes That Regulate Host Immunity.

Caste, Hinduism and Human Rights. ” Contrary to the wide academic and media conflation of caste and Hinduism, the practice of caste-based discrimination is in direct contradiction to the quintessential Hindu teaching that each individual is equally divine and has the potential to realize God based on his or her own effort.” As an irreligious atheist I always roll my eyes when religious people claim that unpalatable practice Y which is strongly correlated with religion X is actually in total contradiction with X. But something like caste in Hinduism seems to be ameliorated much more by economic development than the fulminations by religious leaders.

Sexual Display and Mate Choice in an Energetically Costly Environment. ” We found that male guppies performed fewer sexual displays and became less choosy, with respect to female size, in the presence of a water current compared to those tested in still water. In contrast to males, female responsive to male displays did not differ between the water current treatments and females exhibited no mate preferences with respect to male size or coloration in either treatment. ”

Five Films Where the Asian Male Lead Gets the Girl. Yes, we’re still talking about this in 2010.

Madoff Trustee Seeks $19.6 Billion From Austrian Banker.

Eugenics Has Become Personal.

Duffledud. “The new Narnia movie doesn’t revive the magical franchise.” I’m waiting for The Hobbit.

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For Those About to Rock…You’ll Need These. Chris Mooney has a round-up of ‘Rock Stars of Science’. I’ve been meaning to talk about this, as Chris gave me a heads up, but I’ve been kind of busy with other things. But better late than never. I have some of the same concerns as the nay-sayers. Is this really necessary? The campaign strikes me as kind of cheesy and ill-thought out. But the critical thing to focus on is that it isn’t about me, it’s about the efficacy of this sort of thing in furthering the ends of science. I’m not convinced that this will help, but I’m skeptical that this will hurt. Therefore though my personal gut response is consonant with the reaction of those who think this strikes a false note, I can acknowledge that I’m not the typical person on the street. Additionally, many marketing campaigns work through implicit associations, and this might get the job done on that level and shatter some old associations. The target audience is presumably the type of person who’ll never encounter PV = nRT or doesn’t know that acceleration is the derivative of velocity with respect to time. Both cool concepts, but total gibberish to the masses. Science is a cultural enterprise which needs institutional support, and I am not going to judge these sorts of campaigns on my personal reaction. Rather, I’ll be interested in whether these campaigns reduce or elevate the image of science as an enterprise in the eyes of the public. For that, there needs to be some social science! More marketing as science, and less as art, in the interests of science!

Smart Republicans, Stupid Democrats. Apparently the trend started in 1994, where “Red States” were net debtors to the public fisc. I still want to see more data on the possibility that the transfer of monies is from Republicans in the Upper East Side to Democrats in North Dakota, though I’m open to anything.

Adam’s Ancestors: Race, Religion and the Politics of Human Origins. John Lynch reviews a book on the history of polygenism. Though I’m willing to cop the role of secular progressive intellectuals in forwarding ideas which we’d perceive as very illiberal and objectionable today (e.g., H. G. Wells contention that the colored races would have to go extinct because it was the law of nature that the strong should supersede the weak), it is always interesting to me how Christians of a given age are strongly shaped by the secular currents of thought. So Southern promoters of slavery who were Christian believers integrated polygenism into their ideology, whereas Christian abolitionists were explicit monogenists. Though many Christians opposed eugenics, man advocated eugenics. And so forth.


Prolific Science Bloggers 2.0. I’m apparently #2! Wait until Jan 1st 2011, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

The ‘Give Me a Job’ Microbe. The biographical backstory of the ‘arsenic bacteria.’ “At the workshop, Felisa came up with the most incisive suggestion: Maybe there is a life form that uses arsenic instead of phosphorus (they are chemically similar) in its organic structure. The participants were intrigued but not convinced.” Well, obviously the lead researcher here is an opportunist, but I don’t say that as an insult. I’m relatively skeptical of the findings, and I do not feel that most of the press covered itself in glory, but I have to admit some grudging admiration of the boldness of Felisa Wolfe-Simon. There’s a lot of self-serving bullshit politics in science, like any human enterprise, and least she took a stab at something that was high risk-high yield. On the other hand I’m getting tired of NASA’s over-hyping of these microbial findings with hyperbolic press conferences. If they do this a third time I’m going to be really pissed. Not that they care…but I vote!

Autism and Old Fathers. Many people assume that fathers contributed a disproportionate amount of the mutational load to their offspring because of the errors in the replication of sperm over their lives. This would seem to support that general finding.

12 Common Misperceptions About Book Publishing. “But most authors who rely on writing as their primary means of support are poor indeed. Authorship, like it or not, is a form of celebrity, and we live in a winner-take-all society with very few winners.” Not too surprising. Reminds me of something else….

Hobbits Are White, But Should We Pretend Otherwise? You can pretend otherwise, as it’s fantasy. But Middle-earth was an extremely detailed secondary world whose horizons were thoroughly fleshed out by J. R. R. Tolkien. The Hobbits were white, because they were based on the English middle class rural gentry. In J. R. R. Tolkien’s time these were white.

Attacks on Immigrants on the Rise in Greece. Social phenomena you’d expect in light of the stresses which Greece, and other European nations, are going through. Generosity and liberality flourish in circumstances where want and deprivation are not on the horizon. This is why liberals should be very careful when talking about ‘sustainability.’ If it sacrifices ‘blue skies’ then the vistas become dark.

Deborah Solomon Hates It When (Other) People Ask Stupid Questions. People like Deborah Solomon give the media a really bad name. How does she keep her job? If any blogger or regular person pulled the crap she did with her interviews it would no doubt reflect badly on the ethics of that individual. But The New York Times keeps her around. I don’t re-edit my “10 Questions” in case you’re curious.

Your Web Surfing History Is Accessible (Without Your Permission) Via JavaScript. Not cool. On the other hand I’m a little perplexed by the freak-out: unless you use cash your transactions are being tracked already. This is a specific instance of a general trend, which the public has generally accepted without much protest.

Indian State Empowers Poor to Fight Corruption. One of the things my family hated about Bangladesh was the corruption. Those who caved to the corrupt norms have flourished. Those who refused have not, or had to flee to the West or the Middle East.

The Surprising Wealth and Success of Japan. Stagnant affluence isn’t all that bad. Japan is not a dystopia, just a slowtopia.

Euro Zone Is Imperiled by North-South Divide. Europe did OK under the Roman Empire, but then there was some explicit and concerted coordination at the center. As it is, the Brusselsocracy seems to only be in a position to annoy and harass, rather than enable a real integration.

Timing and dynamics of Late Pleistocene mammal extinctions in southwestern Australia. “We conclude that the arrival of humans was probably decisive in the southwestern Australian extinctions, but that changes in climate and fire activity may have played facilitating roles. One-factor explanations for the Pleistocene extinctions in Australia are likely oversimplistic.” No shit. Humans were a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition. It says something that these sorts of papers reiterating this highly plausible point continue to get published. Let’s move on.

When Farmers Met Foragers. Two year old article has aged rather well I’d say.

Genetic Switch for Determining Gender Identified; Gene Linked to So-Called ‘Intersex’ Families. But, some perspective: “Approximately 1 in 1000 individuals is affected by these disorders, says Dr. Ostrer.”

How to Eat at Chipotle. Rather funny observation about the incentives of employees of chain eateries.

The Allergy Gene. I have asthma, had eczema as a child, and have allergies. I suspect many of you have the same issues.

Christian Minister: Muslim Congressman’s Support Of ‘Homosexuals’ Is Part Of Sharia Plot. Very amusing. On the other hand, liberals laughing might reflect on the reality that they’re acknowledging that the Islamic religion is mostly a ‘hate group’ when it comes to gays.

Ideal Body Mass Index Identified in New Study; Overweight and Obesity Associated With Increased Risk of Death. In many quantitative traits the ‘golden mean’ holds true…but what happens when the mean is way shifted out of the norm? ~30% of Americans are obese, and they’re skewing the mean and median.

Primates Are More Resilient Than Other Animals to Environmental Ups and Downs. Though it might depend on what you define as ‘environment.’ There’s circumstantial evidence that H. sapiens sapiens rendered our cousins not-so-resilient. The past 20 million years have also shown a shift away from apes to monkeys in terms of how speciose the two classes are.

Most Low Birth Weight Babies Become Productive Adults, Study Finds. Don’t stress out too much parents!

Researchers Identify Gene Tied to Extremely Rare Disorder That Causes Inflammation and Loss of Fat. I don’t know that the genetics of fatness are going to get very far (prediction: like height by and large)…but be careful about headlines if you’re the media. “Loss of fat” genes might prompt stupid people to wonder about gene therapy.

Evolution of Cooperative Cross-Feeding Could Be Less Challenging Than Originally Thought. Cooperation is an area where theory is less robust than the observation and experiment. There’s a lot more cooperation than there “should” be according to theory. That means theory is wanting, or we’re ignoring theory that’s out there.

Associations between Dopamine D4 Receptor Gene Variation with Both Infidelity and Sexual Promiscuity. Too sexy a result. Put on your skepticism condom!

The end of this YouTube clip is NSFW, but very amusing nonetheless:

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Epilepsy’s Big, Fat Miracle. Two points to note: 1) modern medicine seems to have strongly resisted the ketogenic diet because of ideology, 2) this treatment works, but they don’t really understand why. It shows the importance of empiricism in medicine, but the reality that even an empirical discipline can be shifted by ideology.

Grumpy Kvetching of the Day. One of Sean Carroll’s readers complains about the content he’s posting up. If I ever get one of those blogs where my readers “sponsor” me, then I would listen to this sort of input. You paid for the privilege. Until then, shove it. Anyone who leaves a comment like that would be on my permanent “sh*t list.” I’m not really that disagreeable in person, but in person people rarely make demands on my own time as if such requests are the nature of things. Not so on the internet.

“Operation: Stop Palin” Gets Rolling. I was expecting this to happen some point soon, but my probability that the Republican establishment will be able to crush Sarah Palin is dropping from ~1.0, perhaps moving toward ~0.5. The main issue from what I tell is that the establishment is unlikely to be able to co-opt Mike Huckabee, who is the only other candidate on the horizon that could eat into her base.


Economics & Abstraction. Interesting exchange between Jim Manzi and Karl Smith. The great thing about economics compared to other “social sciences” is the reliance on a common formal language. The bad thing is that the formality hasn’t seemed to be able to remove all these verbal arguments on the margin of what everyone else means.

The most alpha occupations. Sex partners by occupation.

Why are boys’ brains bigger? But the subhead is: “Men cannot multi-task and women cannot read maps – is that a sexist nonsense or scientific fact?” The necessary way to talk about differences between groups today is to make sure that the “privileged group” comes off less flatteringly.

For Russia’s Poor, Blond Hair Is Snippet of Gold. A lot of the world’s wigs and hair extensions are re-purposed Chinese and Indian hair. But with Russians you don’t have to dye their hair necessarily. I believe there’s going to be a premium on that sort of thing because of the importance of authenticity. “Real Blonde HairTM.”

French Professors Find Life in U.S. Hard to Resist. Shocking number: “Of the 2,745 French citizens who obtained a doctorate in the United States from 1985 to 2008, 70 percent settled there, the study found.” It would be interesting to compare international students from various nations and see how many stay in the states and become permanent residents. I predict that the proportion of Chinese and Indian graduate students who remain after receiving their doctorates has been declining, but what about these European nations?

Thirty new loci for age at menarche identified by a meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies. I’m curious if the age at menarche is a quantitative trait. It would be interesting to do cross-species tests.

Ancient mtDNA from Sargat culture. I assume that ancient DNA is going to elucidate population flows in the Asian interior a lot in the coming years. The climate is cold and often dry, so ideal for a slower rate of degradation.

The Parental Non-Equivalence of Imprinting Control Regions during Mammalian Development and Evolution. “Our results support the notion that two independent evolutionary forces have led to the numerical and functional dominance of maternal ICRs: a selective advantage of parent-specific regulation of genes important for the fetal-maternal interface and pressure to avoid the mutagenic environment of the paternal germline.”

Second thoughts on Ireland. Sad. Revenge of Raymond Crotty?

Are We Hardwired to Love Taxes? The main reason I call myself a conservative and not a libertarian is that I believe humans are a communitarian species. This does not make me a social democrat, but it radically alters my normatively biased reflexes. Do note that I am talking about the average human. Myself, I’m still relatively detached from the community of man. I simply don’t confuse my own psychological biases for the average human.

Neanderthals Lived Fast, Died Young. Last paragraph: “Smith and her team, however, hint that forthcoming new studies reveal genetic and brain differences that existed between Neanderthals and members of our species, further heating up the scientific debate.” Someone clearly has inside information.

Vague Assertions of Copyright Infringement. The Financial Times claims you can’t quote any of their text. This sounds as dumb as the argument a few years ago that you’d need permission to link to some web sites. The irony is that these stupid copyright cultures simply mean that people will rewrite what other people say, and probably not give them credit as often. I’m not an anti-intellectual property absolutist, but over the years I’m moved more and more in that direction seeing how it hamstrings real creativity.

Deep Sea News. One of the finest “independent” science blogs out there.

Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception. Haven’t read it yet, but seems kind of interesting. One datum the author divulged on the radio is that while men overestimate how many sex partners they have, and women underestimate, hooking them up to lie detectors suggests that women underestimate much more than men overestimate!

Strange Parallels: Volume 2, Mainland Mirrors: Europe, Japan, China, South Asia, and the Islands: Southeast Asia in Global Context, c.800-1830. Not a front-to-back read, but dense and extremely well worth it. Synthetic world histories with a scholarly focus are rare.

American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us. I wish the book wasn’t so padded with vignettes. The core data is interesting though.

Less Wrong. If you love Heuristics & Biases you’ll find this weblog of interest. Also, if you’re a 17 year old nerdy virgin and feels isolated from your bestial classmates across the chasm of genuine sentience, you’ll find fellow travelers. You can actually increment the age up to 100 and substitute classmates for colleagues.

Researchers Kick-Start Ancient DNA.

Sleep Program Needed for IT Engineers. A study for this, really?

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
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I am not doing daily link round ups right now because I’m not reading the web as much, but I certainly have enough material to put up one link round-up/pointer per week.

David Burbridge of GNXP has completed five posts on the Price equation. One more to go (focusing on group selection). Highly recommended.

Vitamin D Deficit Doubles Risk of Stroke in Whites, but Not in Blacks, Study Finds. There has been other stuff about different healthy basal levels of micronutrients by population. This is an important one to keep an eye on, and should make us reflect on the importance of personalized medicine. A friend of mine who is a doctor observed that one reason that more well educated and higher socioeconomic status patients get better diagnoses and treatment is because they do so much leg-work and are so assertive as advocates for their own health.

Questionable Science Behind Academic Rankings. It’s long been known that academic rankings (like lists of all sorts) are 1) voodoo in terms of adding any real value beyond what you know, 2) crack in terms of profitability. US News & World Report wouldn’t even exist at this point if it wasn’t for their yearly rankings, and if the weekly folds I’m sure that their rankings could be spun-off as a profitable annual publication.

The Way the Future Blogs. Frederik Pohl’s memories. One of the things I really enjoyed about The Price of Altruism is that it gave me a wider lens on George Price the man, who I knew primarily through the recollections of W. D. Hamilton. Pohl does the same for the luminaries of the “Golden Age of Science Fiction.” I especially enjoy the stuff on Isaac Asimov.

Thoughtful Animal. A blog worth reading.

RocketMelt. It’s a browser with social networking apps integrated, like Flock. I like it better than Flock, though I don’t do enough social networking to really justify switching from Chrome, which has some extensions I use a lot.

Africa Channel reveals lost lineage for guests at launch party. Personal genomics focused on ancestry probably has two primary groups for whom there’s a real value-add: adoptees, and, those of the African Diaspora. In the article linked they’re focusing on maternal and paternal lineages, which are a tiny slice of one’s ancestry. But they offer a level of unequivocal certitude and precision which isn’t possible with an assessment of the total genome. True, uniparental lineages are only a tiny slice, but for people of the African Diaspora a small slice is better than none.

Europe Works on Possible Irish Rescue. I believe financial historians have observed that problems with national debts have usually followed in the wake of financial crises, so this is expected. Something to consider: the Republic of Ireland has a population on the order of ~1/10th that of Spain.

Facing Austerity, Britain Unveils Welfare Cuts. One issue that I can see is that there are an awful lot of non-means-tested welfare services in the United Kingdom. I don’t have too much sympathy for students who complain about rising tuition in the United Kingdom, as in some ways it seems to me a transfer of wealth from the society at large toward the middle and upper middle classes, in the aggregate. I understand the argument that education is a capital investment for the future, but there needs to be a real pricing system which reflects the underlying benefits being gained. In the United States there is clearly an education bubble driven by the fact that student loans can not be discharged in bankruptcy.

Genetics Has a Big Impact on How a Person Operates in a Social Group. This sort of research is fascinating. I assume there’s heritable variation in also sorts of personality traits. It would be interesting if different populations had different dispositions toward group social behaviors. For example, if populations which had been agriculturalists for a long time were far more amenable toward following the leader and group conformity?

Perfect applicant not indigenous enough for job. As noted by “Sandgroper” a person doesn’t even have to have Aborigine ancestry to be an Aborigine in Australia. But it seems in this case a woman who appears to be white, but does have Aborigine ancestry from her father, was rejected from a poster campaign because of the disjunction between her identity and her appearance. People can be whatever they claim to be in my book, but, there’s a serious issue with people who can pass as white blurring the differences between their experience of life and those who are clearly “visible minorities.” I personally oppose most programs aimed at ameliorating differences in outcomes between ethnic/social groups, but, so long as such programs exist they need to be implemented judiciously. A white person who has non-European ancestry and identifies with that ancestry is not equivalent to a visibly non-white person.

In Yemen, Cultural Propriety Poses a Security Challenge. Women in Yemen go about daily life veiled, and escorted by men (though this was not always so in the former South Yemen within living memory). But they also attend university. This hybrid between the modern and the pre-modern is totally new. One of the problems I have with Muslim women who assert that their religion demands that they veil their face in all sorts of public situations is that in the pre-modern context where this was demanded women did not have a public life.

New Statistical Model Moves Human Evolution Back Three Million Years. The last common ancestor of chimps and humans 8 million years BP instead of 5. We live in an awesome time, but it’s humbling that we have to deal with +/- 3 million years even in questions as central to the origin of our species as this.

AVPR1A: Music in your Genes? Familiar gene. We have fewer than 20,000 genes last I checked, but two dozen or so always pop up when we’re talking behavior genetics.

World’s oldest axe found in Australia. Interesting. Though one should be cautious about dating, period.

Gene discovery supports link between handedness and language-related disorders. And yet from what I know left-handedness has a strong aspect of cultural constraint, or lack thereof. In other words, presumably a certain proportion of people in a population have a disposition toward left-handedness, but only in certain populations does this express because of the taboos against left-handedness in many societies. Even in the United States teachers would encourage left-handed children to write with their right hand. As for me, I write right-handed, play basketball left-handed, and, can switch hit and pitch. Perhaps of some interest, I have slower reaction time when I hit left-handed, judging by the fact that I often go opposite field on that side of the plate, but generally pull hit right-handed.

The New Scandinavian Model. Swedish socialism ain’t what it used to be.

Strange Parallels: Volume 2, Mainland Mirrors: Europe, Japan, China, South Asia, and the Islands: Southeast Asia in Global Context, c.800-1830. A difficult and dense book. But worthwhile for the thickness of fact and subtly of argument.

Why some young US workers now seek fortunes in India. If you’re in a white collar track and not protected by licensing regimes expect to hustle for the rest of your life.

Collapse Was Slow. Need to think on this more deeply, but the examples given are less complex and vertically integrated that our contemporary societies.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
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Might not post these every day for a few weeks as I’ll be busy, and not on the net as much. So no more “Daily” Data Dump until I’m more assured of my schedule.

In Icy Tip of Afghanistan, War Seems Remote. Profiles the people of the Wakhan Corridor, which is part of Afghanistan mostly because of the 19th century “Great Game” between Russia and the United Kingdom. The most striking aspect for the journalist seems to have been that the local Nizari Ismaili population of ethnic Kirghiz do not have their women don the burqa, except in the major town where ~50% of the population are Sunni Muslims. The Nizari Muslims are led by the Aga Khan, who holds the position of imam for this sect. Interestingly the current holder of the title is half-English, one-fourth Italian, and one-fourth Persian. He is married to an Englishwoman. Even the Sunni Kirghiz are generally not as punctilious about adhering to the normative Islam of Central Asia, so I don’t think we should chalk up all the differences to religion.

Debt Collectors Face a Hazard: Writer’s Cramp. I suspect many readers have had to deal with debt-collectors who keep calling for other people at their phone number, and won’t stop calling. Just the tip of the iceberg.


Why We Haven’t Met Any Aliens. Basically extinction by consumerist nihilism. I’ve offered a less gloomy assessment in a similar vein. But this may all be wrong. The choke point to intelligent life may be the switch from prokaryotes to eukaryotes. If that’s the case the ascent toward sentience might stall out a real low level of complexity.

PacBio IPO, Not Exactly the Netscape Moment of 2010, But a Win for Genomics. Competition pushes down prices. Basic economics driving innovation.

Evolution of Fairness Driven by Culture, Not Genes. “Biologically speaking, people in the study weren’t fundamentally different from their circa-200,000 B.C. ancestors, or from each other.” A 200,000 year span would probably make the assertion trivially false, but a 10,000 year span may also be false. Culture can drive changes in biology, and biology can set the preconditions for culture. Dichotomies and contrasts make neat titles, even bloggers know that, but they probably aren’t going to get us too far when it comes to properly characterizing the shape of human behavior.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
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A very special note: I endorse Christie Wilcox for 2010 Blogging Scholarship.

A map of human genome variation from population-scale sequencing. This paper is getting a lot of play. A taste of things to come from the 1000 Genomes Project. It’s OA, so check it out.

Difficulties in Defining Errors in Case Against Harvard Researcher. I think Marc Hauser will be an emeritus professor by the time the case involving his alleged misconduct is resolved.


Where did all these monkeys come from? – Fossil teeth may hint at an Asian origin for anthropoid primates. We were all Asians before we were all Africans! Before that perhaps were all Laurasians and/or Gondwanans. How about Pangaeans?

Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Risk of Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes. “…individuals in the highest quantile of SSB intake (most often 1–2 servings/day) had a 26% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those in the lowest quantile.” Genetic background probably matters in terms of the effect size.

The evolution of the marine phosphate reservoir. “We propose that these two factors are intimately linked; a glacially induced nutrient surplus could have led to an increase in atmospheric oxygen, paving the way for the rise of metazoan life.” Interesting stuff.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
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In Mideast House of Cards, U.S. Views Lebanon as Shaky. Some of the problems here are structural demographics. The institutions of Lebanon’s democracy were formed when Maronite Christians were the plural majority, followed by Sunni Muslims, then Shia Muslims, and finally minorities such as the Greek Orthodox and Druze. Today the likely plural majority are the Shia, followed by the Sunnis and Maronites. Add on top of this the fact that the Shia tend to be poorer, and, have an invested international backer in Iran. The connection between the Iranian Shia and the Lebanese Shia has traditionally been closer than between the Iranian Shia and the Iraqi Shia.

Saudi Border With Yemen Is Still Inviting for Al Qaeda. Interesting coincidence that I posted on this issue last week. I think my libertarian friends such as Will Wilkinson and Bryan Caplan will get their wish for relatively open borders in the 21st century as a matter of pure probable prediction (there will be exceptions, I suspect Japan may be one). The future will be something more like the United Arab Emirates, though I hope we’ll be able to effect some humanitarianism on the margins, as well as mitigate the popularity of ugly modernist mega-structures.


Steve Hsu has an interesting weblog. He’s a physicist at the University of Oregon with an interest in various other topics, including behavior genetics and psychometrics. He also looks things up.

Dusk in Autumn is a weblog by an individual who goes by the handle “agnostic.” He doesn’t post often, but when he does it is generally interesting and quirky. He is a callipygiaphile.

reaction norm keeps pumping out content. Don’t burn yourself out dawg.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
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Just a heads up, I might be posting less later in the week and into the weekend. So might skip these at some point.

Are Democrats Overachieving in the Senate? Is Nate Silver is having a downward pressure on other political coverage? I don’t even bother checking the other analytical stuff in The New York Times; they’re just going to basically do souped-up trend stories with cherry-picked quotes from “experts” attempting a bit of man-bites-dog to product-differentiate. The basic outlines of what’s going to happen at the mid-terms is known, as well as the uncertainty. Beyond that most people are guessing and spinning. On the specific issue at hand, I’m not too versed in politics but I had assumed that the Senate was a less volatile institution in election-to-election change in party proportions because only 1/3 of it was up for election in a given year, vs. 100% of the House of Representatives. Silver points out that if the whole Senate was up for reelection we might be looking at filibuster-proof Republican majority, and an outside shot at veto-proof majority.

The Myth of Charter Schools. It’s basically a review of the problems with Waiting for “Superman”. I think this current educational enthusiasm is at a bubble-point, I noticed a few weeks back The New York Times published a downbeat assessment of Geoffrey Canada’s results with the Harlem Children’s Zone.


Evolutionary history of partible paternity in lowland South America. Basically these are cultures where there’s a high degree of expected paternity uncertainty and you simply distribute appropriate the probability of fatherhood explicitly. I found this section of interest: “Most importantly, why is partible paternity rare in the rest of the world and yet, so common in lowland South America? We suspect that the general lack of important heritable resources combined with a strong reliance on kinship and broad networks of social capital in the lowlands have prompted the bargaining and exchange of shared parentage.” From a male perspective then basically someone who is not your own biological child isn’t going to inherit much from you anyway, while in the short-term you might be able to gain social capital through the ties your wife forms with other men. This isn’t that shocking, Winston Churchill’s mother’s affairs supposedly aided in her husband’s and son’s political careers because of the contacts generated. Sex is social.

Moving away to get better. Interesting point that it is easier to get away from bullying in the United States because Americans move and reorder their social networks so often. I wasn’t a victim of bullying, but I know I’ve done the same. I see two or three friends from college about once a year. The last time I hung out with someone I knew from high school was in early February of 2006. I might be an deviated-from-the-norm case, but I’m not that atypical. And though moving and reordering social networks can have benefits, I think we don’t talk about the upsides to having stable networks and a familiar environment. I suspect that it decreases social anomie and increases trust.

DQB1*0602 predicts interindividual differences in physiologic sleep, sleepiness, and fatigue. See the summary at ScienceDaily.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
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Razib Khan
About Razib Khan

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