Razib Khan One-stop-shopping for all of my content

February 13, 2019

A brain warped by reading

Filed under: medium,Podcast,podcasting,Writing — Razib Khan @ 1:05 am
Stanislas Dehaene’s Reading in the Brain: The New Science of How We Read is an excellent book because it shows how we reuse preexistent cognitive architecture to extend our capacities through cultural creativity. There is, for example, a part of the brain that is localized toward recognizing the shapes of letters to allow immediate “sight […]

February 7, 2019

BrownCast Podcast episode 13: conversation with a Hindu nationalist

Filed under: Podcast — Razib Khan @ 10:03 pm

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsyniTunes and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at one of the links above. You can also support the podcast as a patron (the primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else…this podcast has been up for nearly a week on the patron page).

I asked our interlocuter for some reading material. Here’s what he suggested:

Essentials of Hindutva

Hindu Society Under Siege

Who is a Hindu?

– The Sarva-Darsana-Samgraha Review of the Different Systems of Hindu Philosophy

Obviously, there wasn’t going to be any resolution after an hour and a half long conversation. Instead, questions and confusions were clarified. Disagreements were aired. That being said, I did leave the discussion crystal clear about what Pinaka opposed, rather than what he supported. At least in the specifics. I would hold that one reason that this is so is that it is easier to say what Hindu culture and religion is not more than what it is.

February 1, 2019

BrownCast Episode 12: The global China, with Carl Zha

Filed under: Podcast — Razib Khan @ 12:34 am

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on Libsyn, iTunes and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at one of the links above. You can also support the podcast as a patron (the primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else).

If you aren’t in a position to be a patron, please give us 5-star ratings and a positive review!

After this podcast was recorded and edited Carl Zha Informed informed me that he is no longer doing CLASH! and rather is starting a new podcast: Silk and Steel. This is actually the first post on Silk and Steel as well. A “cross-over.”

First, Carl and I talked about the problems with the media representation of China. He did offer that The Wall Street Journal, in particular, gets it right more often than not (which made me happy since I’m a subscriber).

We also discussed a bit our disparate backgrounds.  And how Carl’s experience gives him a window onto both America and China. He arrived in the United States in 1990 as a tween.

We also talked about whether China was a colonialist power in places like Africa. Carl objected to the simple analogy, seeing as how China’s relationship with other nations is very economic and pragmatic, rather than rooted in an explicit imperial and supremacist agenda.

I asked Carl about the growth of Christianity within China and in the Diaspora. Carl thinks the Diaspora is different because in many nations Christianity allows the Chinese to cohere and become rooted. It enables the growth of community institutions. In China that is not as necessary, so he believes it will be a small minority religion like in Taiwan.

We talked a lot about Uygurs, Hui, and ethnic relations in China. And the pervasiveness of casual racism among many Asians.

This weekend I will be recording a podcast with someone sympathetic to Hindu nationalism. I don’t have a fixed set of topics. Omar will also be hosting a podcast on military history. And, I have gotten a commitment from a friend who is a screenwriter in Hollywood to talk as well.

January 26, 2019

Brown Pundits BrownCast episode 10, with Josiah Neeley

Filed under: Podcast — Razib Khan @ 11:14 pm

The latest BP Podcast is up. You can listen on Libsyn, iTunes and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at one of the links above. You can also support the podcast as a patron (the primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else).

This week I spoke to Josiah Neeley of the R Street Institute. A policy analyst by day, Neeley is also a host of the excellent Urbane Cowboys podcast (I’ve been a guest twice).

We talked about what it’s like to be a “Trump-friendly” intellectual on the Right in the United States, and whether being a Trump-supporter means you are of course a racist.

China seems to be a topic that comes up on this podcast often, and this was no exception. Josiah and I spoke about how we as Americans need to handle new geopolitical realities and their impact on internal politics.

We discussed the future of Republican politics and the decline of a “white Christian America”, and the rise of something new…which we don’t know yet.

Finally, the conversation ended with musings about whether America was heading toward an Idiocracy-like political system. Josiah recommended Helen Andrews’ excellent essay in First Things, Bloodless Moralism.

January 25, 2019

Notes on Brown Pundits “BrownCast”

Filed under: BrownCast,Podcast — Razib Khan @ 10:07 pm

I’ll be interviewing my friend Josiah Neeley tomorrow about politics and policy in Trump’s America. Since this is Brown Pundits my outline has a lot of brown-themed questions, but we’ll range. If you are reading this before ~2 PM PDT feel free to drop-in questions. Josiah’s podcast, Urbane Cowboys, has had several brown people on. Of these, three are Bengali American. Myself, Reihan Salam, and Avik Roy.

On Sunday I’ll be talking to Carl Zha, who produces the popular CLASH! podcast. Feel free to suggest questions for Carl.

To paid-up patrons: I am posting the podcasts ahead of time on the patron page. These two podcasts won’t drop until February, so if you want to hear them earlier, you know how. I’ve already posted Zach’s podcast on Indian numismatics. That will probably drop tomorrow or Sunday, when Zach writes up some show-notes and pushes it live.

January 16, 2019

Supporting the Brown Pundits “BrownCast”

Filed under: Podcast — Razib Khan @ 2:47 am

When Zach, Omar, and myself began the BrownCast I said that at some point we’d have to think about how we could make it self-supporting. Some people are already complaining about the production quality.

There’s a reason for that: I’ve been doing all the editing. I literally had never used Audacity before, and as most of you know I’m a geneticist, not a sound engineer.

For those of you who think no production is involved, listen to this clip I edited out from the most recent recording with myself, Slapstick, and Zach.

I would like to get a person who has skills and can devote time, to this project. I have someone in mind. But I’m already paying Zencastr bills out of pocket. So I’m asking listeners to chip in. Please consider giving to my Patreon. Since there is a wide range of abilities to pay I’m not stipulating a specific amount.

As a patron benefit, I have just posted links to the next two podcasts on Patreon. A podcast with Omar, Ali Minai, and Charles Cameron which focuses on Urdu literature and before shifting to artificial intelligence and the nature of Western culture is up. As well as another where Slapstick explains “generative grammar” in the context of Sanskrit.

We are unlikely to post podcasts more than once a week. But I often edit them together considerably earlier, so Patrons will get them in batches well before everyone else.

If you are not in a position to be a patron, please rate us positively on iTunes and Stitcher.

January 9, 2019

Brown Pundits – Episode 7, Sarah Haider, Islam, identity, and the “public life”

Filed under: Podcast — Razib Khan @ 12:03 pm

The latest BP Podcast is up. You can listen on Libsyn, iTunes and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at one of the links above.

The guest this week is Sarah Haider. She is executive director of Ex-Muslims of North America.

Sarah and I are friends so I switched into a more informal register. The contrast between her very polished speaking style and my own is pretty striking and unsurprising. Also, please note that an outraged two year old child kept attempting to take over my home office, and you can hear him now and then.

If you want to hear more from her, please check out her speaking on YouTube.

January 2, 2019

Onward to 2019!

Filed under: Genomics,Podcast — Razib Khan @ 11:57 pm

This was a big year for Insitome. Our three flagship products, Regional Ancestry, Neanderthal, and Metabolism, have been present in the Helix store for over a year. Over the next few months, we plan on upgrading and rolling out changes. One of the aspects of running a science-based service is that as the field evolves and changes, with dynamic technology we can update with the science. Watch for new “Traits” on our “Insights” over the next few months!

The Insight podcast produced over 40+ episodes. With over 150+ ratings on Apple, it is now one of the premier science-themed podcasts on the platform.

With 100+ posts on the blog, we are pushing forward with the project of complementing personal genomic products with information resources. The experience of receiving genetic results should be more than a one-time event. Insitome aims to provide continuous updates and revelations past on the latest science.

We’ll also be posting more updates to our YouTube website.

Interested in learning where your ancestors came from? Check out Regional Ancestry by Insitome to discover various regional migration stories and more!


Onward to 2019! was originally published in Insitome on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Onward to 2019!

Filed under: Podcast — Razib Khan @ 11:55 pm

This was a big year for Insitome. Our three flagship products, Regional Ancestry, Neanderthal, and Metabolism, have been present in the Helix store for over a year. Over the next few months, we plan on upgrading and rolling out changes. One of the aspects of running a science-based service is that as the field evolves and changes, with dynamic technology we can update with the science. Watch for new “Traits” on our “Insights” over the next few months!

The Insight podcast produced over 40+ episodes. With over 150+ ratings on Apple, it is now one of the premier science-themed podcasts on the platform.

With 100+ posts on the blog, we are pushing forward with the project of complementing personal genomic products with information resources. The experience of receiving genetic results should be more than a one-time event. Insitome aims to provide continuous updates and revelations past on the latest science.

We’ll also be posting more updates to our YouTube website.

Interested in learning where your ancestors came from? Check out Regional Ancestry by Insitome to discover various regional migration stories and more!

December 22, 2018

Brown Pundits – Episode 6, Chinese history, pop culture and strategy, with Tanner Greer

Filed under: Podcast — Razib Khan @ 11:21 pm
The latest BP Podcast is up. You can listen on Libsyn, iTunes and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at one of the links above. Thanks to everyone who reviewed the podcast! Please leave more 5-star reviews. If this podcasts interests enough people I’ll be getting us on other platforms. This week a very special episode of Brown Pundits’ BrownCast with Tanner Greer of The Scholar’s Stage, one of my favorite weblogs. If I’m a philosopher in the armchair, Tanner is a practitioner in the field. He lived for several years in China, and his observations have a contemporary salience that our discussion last week probably lacked.

December 16, 2018

Brown Pundits – Episode 5, reflections on the Chinese age

Filed under: Podcast — Razib Khan @ 8:42 pm

The latest BP Podcast is up. You can listen on Libsyn, iTunes and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at one of the links above.

Thanks to everyone who reviewed the podcast! Please leave more 5-star reviews. If this podcasts interests enough people I’ll be getting us on other platforms.

One of the most offensive things I have had to personally encounter in my life are people curious that a brown-skinned person would express an interest in China for purely intellectual interests (i.e., my wife is not Chinese, I have no business interests in China, etc.). As this centuries proceeds I think everyone, whatever one’s background, needs to rebalance their perception of what they need to be interested in, because the simple world of European supremacy between 1850 and 2000 is fading away…

December 9, 2018

Brown Pundits – Episode 4, three Hindus talk about the Golden Age of Islam

Filed under: Podcast — Razib Khan @ 12:20 pm

The latest BP Podcast is up. You can listen on Libsyn, iTunes and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at one of the links above.

Thanks to everyone who reviewed the podcast! Please leave more 5-star reviews. If this podcasts interests enough people I’ll be getting us on other platforms.

Note: Using the older context of Hindu.

November 25, 2018

Questions for the genetics of India podcast….

Filed under: Podcast — Razib Khan @ 1:53 am

Zach, Omar, and myself will do a podcast on Indian genetics next week. I already did one on this topic for my main podcast, so I’m curious what readers of this weblog want to hear about. We can’t guarantee we’ll use the questions, but it’s possible. I think the format will mostly involve Zach and Omar leading the conversation and I’ll try to talk as fast and concisely as possible.

Also, we got our first review on iTunes. Would still like to get some on Stitcher. And in case people want to hear more from me, I was a guest on the Two for Tea podcast. My episode should drop in the next day or so.

November 18, 2018

Brown Pundits Podcast #2 – Asia Bibi and Colorism

Filed under: Podcast — Razib Khan @ 12:53 pm

The latest BP Podcast is up. You can listen on Libsyn, iTunes and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at one of the links above.

The title makes it clear what we talked about this week. It as a long podcast at more than one and a half hours. Would appreciate it if some people reviewed the podcast positively on iTunes and Stitcher.

October 13, 2018

Brown Pundits podcast, the Browncast episode 1

Filed under: Podcast — Razib Khan @ 11:02 pm

I’ve already submitted to iTunes and Stitcher. So I’ll post those links for those of you who want to subscribe that way….

October 8, 2018

Brown Pundits Browncast

Filed under: Podcast — Razib Khan @ 8:58 pm

So at some point the Brown Pundits “browncast” (as opposed to brown caste) is a go. I’m not going to submit to Itunes or Stitcher until we have a podcast recorded and up.

September 19, 2018

The Insight Show Notes — Season 2, Episode 2: The Greatest Human Journey

Filed under: Genetics,hawaii,Podcast,science — Razib Khan @ 8:10 pm

This week on The Insight (Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Google Play) we touched upon arguably one of the greatest human journeys of humankind, the expansion of the Polynesians across the Pacific.

Bishop Museum

Spencer discussed his visit to the Bishop Museum in Hawaii.

We discussed broadly the interesting confluence of biology, geology, and history one can see in Hawaii. The book The Monkey’s Voyage: How Improbable Journeys Shaped the History of Life discusses the biogeographic characteristics of many islands, including Hawaii.

We discussed the context of Polynesian languages and culture as part of the broader zone of Austronesian language and culture.

The extent of Austronesian languages

Austronesian societies spread over the last 6,000 years from Taiwan to the far west in Madagascar, and far east in Easter Island. The expansion into Polynesia was prefigured by the expansion of the Lapita culture between 1500 BC and 500 BC.

The Lapita culture is defined by its unique pottery. But curiously the usage of pottery disappeared among the Polynesians, the likely later descendants of the Lapita people. Razib mentioned how there is some evidence that cultural bottlenecks and small populations can result in loss of skills such as pottery.

On the other hand, Spencer pointed out that the Polynesians also did not practice rice agriculture, unlike other Austronesian societies. Instead, they expanded with a cultural toolkit of taro, which likely was adopted from the peoples of Near Oceania, New Guinea, and Melanesia.

Sweet Potato

Additionally, Spencer brought up the fact that the cultivation of sweet potatoes in Polynesia likely indicates contact between Polynesians and the peoples of South America. The genomic evidence that Polynesian sweet potatoes derive from South American ones is conflicted. Spencer mentioned that the word for “sweet potato” in Quechua, the language of highland Peru, is kumar. In Hawaiian, it is ku ala.

We mentioned in passing Thor Heyerdahl’s view that there was a South American migration to Polynesia. But the genetic, cultural, and archaeological evidence does not support this.

The Polynesian mtDNA motif was mentioned. With a high frequency in Polynesia, the mtDNA lineage seems to have spread from the west, in line with the idea of a migration to the east. In contrast, the Polynesian Y chromosomes show a mix of Asian and Melanesian heritage.

Much of the arguments hinge on the argument of whether the expansion of Austronesians into the Pacific was via the “slow boat” or “express train” model. The slow boat model suggests widespread cultural and genetic mixture gradually with the Austronesian expansion through Melanesia. The express train model implies a more rapid migration with far less interaction. Culturally the adoption of taro cultivation aligns with the slow boat thesis. As does the existence of Melanesian Y chromosomes across the range of Polynesians. But the overwhelming Asian nature of Polynesian mtDNA lineages fits the express train model.

One way that scholars have reconciled this is that there was a slow expansion of the Lapita people, but that they only assimilated Papuan and Melanesian men into their matrilineal communities. This broad framework was reinforced with the publication of genetic results from native Hawaiians, which showed a minority ancestry from a Papuan-like population.

But wait, there was a twist! Ancient DNA now shows that the Lapita people had almost no admixture with Melanesian people! Follow-up results from Vanuatu and Tonga confirm that the Lapita people had no admixture from Melanesians. Rather, in Vanuatu 2,500 years ago the Lapita people are replaced by an almost entirely Melanesian population, and the Melanesian ancestry begins to show up in Polynesians after this period. The conclusion then is there were multiple migrations into Polynesia!

Spencer and I concluded that the broad sketch is now established, but a lot of complicated details need to be worked out. Instead of express trains or slow boats, some researchers now wonder if Polynesia was more like a subway network.

Interested in learning where your ancestors came from? Check out Regional Ancestry by Insitome to discover various regional migration stories and more!


The Insight Show Notes — Season 2, Episode 2: The Greatest Human Journey was originally published in Insitome on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

May 2, 2018

The Insight, Episode 19: Roberta Estes, the Golden State Killer, and forensic genetics

Filed under: Podcast,The Insight — Razib Khan @ 11:26 pm


Last week Spencer & I took a break from The Insight. We’re at 71 iTunes ratings. I would appreciate it if readers of this weblog could help us make it to 100 (then I’ll stop pestering you). Also, we only have 5 reviews on Stitcher.

This week we’re talking to Roberta Estes about the arrest of the suspect in the “Golden State Killings”. We kind put this together really quickly since it seemed relevant, and Roberta, Spencer and I have some competency in this area (we’ve all been talking to science journalists). The biggest takeaway from our conversation is that we were a little surprised that it took this long to apply 21st century genomics to forensics.

When I first heard about the arrest I told my wife that it probably was due to a relative match on something like GEDMatch. After the media reported that it was a “new method” I dismissed my supposition because relative matches aren’t a new or novel thing. Well, it turned out that’s exactly what they were talking about!

A lot of the story here is how law enforcement snapped a bunch of pieces together that were out there. The horse has left the barn, and everyone is trying to figure out how to deal with it.

April 11, 2018

The Insight, episode 17: Stuart Ritchie, intelligence and genes

Filed under: Podcast,Stuart Ritchie,The Insight — Razib Khan @ 10:38 pm


On this week’s episode of The Insight (Stitcher and Google Play) we talk to Stuart Ritchie, a postdoc in Ian Deary’s lab, about recent developments in cognition and genomics. There’s a reason that Deary gets some time in She Has Her Mother’s Laugh, his group is publishing some really interesting work.

Before we get to the good stuff, Stuart gives us a quick review of general intelligence and why it matters. If you want a book-length treatment then own book should suffice, Intelligence: All That Matters. Richard Haier’s The Neuroscience of Intelligence goes a little more into the “wet biology” aspect of the brain if that is more your style.

There are two reasons I wanted us to have Stuart on the podcast.

First, psychometrics is not a field which was hit by the replication crisis. It’s a pretty robust and reliable discipline. Companies such as the Educational Testing Service (ETS) rely on the predictive power of the constructs in the field to sell their products. And yet most well-educated people don’t really know much about intelligence testing except that it has been “debunked” by the Mismeasure of Man.

Because people don’t understand the history of intelligence testing (i.e., it enabled the meritocracy by removing the importance of “polish” and “good breeding”) it’s easy for American graduate schools to do things like removing the GRE as a criterion on admissions. Privately some academics have told me that this will mostly result in increasing the importance of undergraduate education and pedigree (because anti-GRE sentiment has become connected to “social justice” I think it’s removal is a fait accompli).

Second, the field of cognitive genomics is moving through a major turning point. A publication like this in January, A combined analysis of genetically correlated traits identifies 187 loci and a role for neurogenesis and myelination in intelligence, is going to be superseded in months. I’m not speculating. I know this as a fact, and so do many others. Where will we be in two years?

Ray Kurzweil has many ideas. Some of them interesting, some kooky, and some of them wrong. But one idea he’s promoted which I think is correct is humans are not good at modeling exponential rates of growth. The field of psychometric genomics is now moving into the steep phase of ascent, as sample sizes go well above 1 million, and some researchers shift from proxy characteristics such as education and delve into raw intelligence test scores. Most people “outside of the know” are about to smash into the concrete before they even know it’s coming up at them….

The Insight, episode 17: Stuart Ritchie, intelligence and genes

Filed under: Podcast,Stuart Ritchie,The Insight — Razib Khan @ 10:38 pm


On this week’s episode of The Insight (Stitcher and Google Play) we talk to Stuart Ritchie, a postdoc in Ian Deary’s lab, about recent developments in cognition and genomics. There’s a reason that Deary gets some time in She Has Her Mother’s Laugh, his group is publishing some really interesting work.

Before we get to the good stuff, Stuart gives us a quick review of general intelligence and why it matters. If you want a book-length treatment then own book should suffice, Intelligence: All That Matters. Richard Haier’s The Neuroscience of Intelligence goes a little more into the “wet biology” aspect of the brain if that is more your style.

There are two reasons I wanted us to have Stuart on the podcast.

First, psychometrics is not a field which was hit by the replication crisis. It’s a pretty robust and reliable discipline. Companies such as the Educational Testing Service (ETS) rely on the predictive power of the constructs in the field to sell their products. And yet most well-educated people don’t really know much about intelligence testing except that it has been “debunked” by the Mismeasure of Man.

Because people don’t understand the history of intelligence testing (i.e., it enabled the meritocracy by removing the importance of “polish” and “good breeding”) it’s easy for American graduate schools to do things like removing the GRE as a criterion on admissions. Privately some academics have told me that this will mostly result in increasing the importance of undergraduate education and pedigree (because anti-GRE sentiment has become connected to “social justice” I think it’s removal is a fait accompli).

Second, the field of cognitive genomics is moving through a major turning point. A publication like this in January, A combined analysis of genetically correlated traits identifies 187 loci and a role for neurogenesis and myelination in intelligence, is going to be superseded in months. I’m not speculating. I know this as a fact, and so do many others. Where will we be in two years?

Ray Kurzweil has many ideas. Some of them interesting, some kooky, and some of them wrong. But one idea he’s promoted which I think is correct is humans are not good at modeling exponential rates of growth. The field of psychometric genomics is now moving into the steep phase of ascent, as sample sizes go well above 1 million, and some researchers shift from proxy characteristics such as education and delve into raw intelligence test scores. Most people “outside of the know” are about to smash into the concrete before they even know it’s coming up at them….

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