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 ...
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.”
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?
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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).
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Comments Off on Around the Web – December 27th, 2010
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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).”
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.
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.
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.
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).”
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. ”
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.
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….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Comments Off on Daily Data Dump – October 28th, 2010
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.
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.
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.
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