One of the stranger call-ins on my interview with Kathleen Dunn last month was when a woman who proudly declared that she was a math major in college asserted that 23andMe had told her she wasn’t at risk for many diseases which now in her 60s she had developed. I didn’t want to be too pointed about it, but if you are in your 60s you are at risk for developing many illnesses no matter what your “genetic risk.” This is clear from 23andMe’s statistics, which display high baseline risks for many common diseases. From reading comments on 23andMe discussion forums it seems that perceived false negatives are going to be a much bigger issue than false positives over the long run. If the tests are “wrong” in a direction which leaves you in a better state than predicted you might feel like you’ve dodged a bullet. On other hand if the tests are “wrong” in a direction which gave you false comfort, or add insult to injury when you’ve developed a debilitating disease, then you feel much more burned.
November 24, 2013
January 3, 2013
One of the major annoyances with the redesign of this weblog was that its precipitous nature was such that many of the sidebar links, etc., were removed. But, it did make me admit a major point: blogrolls are pretty much dead. In the early years of the blogsophere they served as a way to share traffic and endorse sites of interest. But with the rise of RSS, and later Twitter and its confederates they went into decline. By the end I barely recalled which sites I had on my blogroll; most of them I followed in via RSS. So I’m not going to recreate one at this point. Rather, if you want to get a sampling of what I read and such, please see my Pinboard page (to which you can subscribe via RSS if it suits you). And of course you can follow me on Twitter, though that will include my banter with other people and such. A more likely avenue is to note which websites I link to in my posts…though I’m not a copious linker to other blogs at this point….
January 2, 2013
You may have heard that Andrew Sullivan & compnay’s The Daily Dish is leaving The Daily Beast. This is making some waves in the blogosphere, with many of my thoughts being in line with Tyler Cowen‘s. I’ve followed Sullivan’s career since the mid-1990s when he was editing The New Republic, and I remember reading Virtually Normal in 1999. In 2000 I noticed he had is own independent website, and over the course of the decade he’s become a internet impresario of sorts. In those years Andrew Sullivan has linked to Gene Expression in one of its incarnations many times. The Daily Dish has also been one of the major boosters of another website with which I am involved, Secular Right. I was even solicited for my own reflections on the 10 year anniversary of Sullivan’s blog.
This is all on my mind because Sullivan et al. are now rolling out a $19.99 membership plan for all their original content & curation services. That’s a very small price (and the gate is very leaky). I can spend more in two visits to Panera Bread. The Daily Dish is certainly an essential part of my information ecosystem. But, the important point for me is that I am only a marginal consumer of the primary production of Andrew Sullivan and his confederates. I encounter as people share links on Facebook, via Twitter, and through referrals (my non-science friends and acquaintances in “real life” only encounter my blogging persona on Sullivan’s site). There’s just so much there that I assume I’ll encounter it through the sieve of the broader internet, in which Sullivan and company loom large. So what I’d be paying for is Andrew Sullivan’s role in the ecosystem, not Andrew Sullivan’s blog per se. It would be like paying for Twitter or Facebook, which I don’t pay for now.
$19.99 is a pittance. But if I give Andrew Sullivan his due, who else should I “tip.” How about Tyler Cowen? Or Maria Popova? I consume more of Tyler’s content directly than Andrew’s, and Maria’s even more indirectly and in a diffuse fashion. In terms of media consumption I’m currently a subscriber to The New York Times, contribute to Wikipedia, try and support bloggers who I read and have fund drives, and also have a Netflix account. This isn’t much. But it starts to add up. The content universe of the internet is vast for the infovore, especially for one who relies a great deal on intermediating technologies to sift and filter the stream of content.
Like Tyler I don’t really know where we’re going with all of this, and how people who generate content and take time to curate can be appropriately compensated for their time.
September 26, 2012
September 12, 2012
September 5, 2012
Forgot to post this last week I think. Same as usual. Be nice. And I’ll be nice too!
Back the summer of 2002 I recall a friend of mine telling me, “so you’re a pundit now!” I’d been blogging for a few months, and I didn’t feel like a pundit, whatever that meant. ~10 years on I guess I am a pundit. In that vein I was discussing with a friend what it took “to be a blogger” (they wanted to get into the game). First, blogger is a rather expansive category. I have no idea what one would need to do to be a food blogger beyond any old person off the street. But I do know how to be what I am. I focus on three things:
And exactly in that order. It’s of the essence you say what you mean to say. Confusions will still occur, but you can mitigate it by trying to be precise. Accuracy is important, but not as important. That’s because I don’t know everything very well. I’m going to be wrong a lot of the time. I know what I think I know, and so can be precise in my description, but I don’t know what I don’t know, and can only do my best in ...
August 28, 2012
This morning on Twitter the estimable Carl Zimmer stated that I had “reported” on the recent paper on European skin pigmentation evolution. I wondered, wait, am I a reporter? I don’t really know, and this really is rooted in the “am I a journalist” thread. I’m starting to get worn down by those who claim I am a journalist. My main issue is that once you’re pegged as a journalist, you’re held to journalistic standards. So, for example, people might demand that I selectively misquote and misrepresent the opinions of others, because I might alienate readership by telling them what I think, instead of using mouthpieces who I don’t even bother depicting with any accuracy. I’m only half-kidding here. I’ve had great experiences with journalists, and not so great experiences. I really, really, hate it when people go fishing for quotes to fit their story arc.
In regards to papers, I don’t exactly take the tack of someone like Ed Yong or Dave Munger. I’m just a guy offering my own unvarnished opinions, and the reality is what I do “on the blog” intersects strongly with the way I talk and behave in “real life.” If this blog ...
August 21, 2012
Wanted to ping by readers on this:
As a means of publicizing the vast quantity of high-quality content material uniquely available on its recently released website, UNZ.org is announcing a historical research competition.
A First Prize of $10,000 and several other cash prizes will be awarded for the most significant and interesting discussion or analysis of some historical issue based on the published source material provided at UNZ.org. All entries must be received by August 31, 2012, and awards will be made by September 30, 2012.
Since I’m a judge a few friends have asked if this is for real. Yes, it is.
July 24, 2012
I need to rationalize my process of modulating the stream of comments I get. Toward that end I am going to be posting an “open thread” once every week (I’ve scheduled the next month already). If you have the urge to leave an off-topic comment on a post immediately, just put it here. You can of course contact me, but I understand that is often suboptimal, insofar as you may wish for input from other readers. Because this option is available I am inclined to simply delete off-topic comments more aggressively now, with repeated violations resulting in banning.
The nature of the restrictions of the comments are relatively loose on this post. You should maintain some decorum as usual. But you can post links, ask me or other readers questions, etc.
July 23, 2012
This is probably relevant if you have a blog or run a webzine of some sort. It’ll be much more abstract if you are a commenter, and can’t relate concretely to weirdo creeps who persistently spam your comments and contact you via email. In relation to bloggingheads.tv my own two primary complaints from my experience on that web-show:
1) A group of commenters, lead by one particular commenter, persistently verbally abused me as a racist repeatedly even if I was talking about something totally unrelated to race (the commenters admitted that their goal was make sure that I was not invited to the show again through the campaign of harassment). Of course most of these individuals were anonymous. I told the producer that I wasn’t excited about this in relation to my future possible appearances, and he admitted that they were looking into correcting these issues.
2) The commenters are not, in my opinion, as smart as Bob Wright thinks they are. One regular commenter would offer opinions on evolution based on what Stephen Jay Gould write. This a problem for anyone whose bread & butter is evolution (I’m sure the commenter is not knowledgeable enough to know that ...
July 21, 2012
Interesting discussion on the nature of media today, and the tendency toward driving traffic via the information equivalent of Twinkies. Below are my top 10 posts since moving to Discover Magazine measured by visits. The numbers to the right is the ratio of visits of the post over the past 2 years to the rough number of visits in an average day on this weblog.
1 People of class drink alcohol 41.8 2 Verbal intelligence by demographic 18.6 3 1 in 200 men direct descendants of Genghis Khan 14.8 4 Verbal vs. mathematical aptitude in academics 11.0 5 Atheism as mental deviance 7.8 6 Genetics & the Jews 7.7 7 How Ashkenazi Jewish are you? 6.2 8 Why Tibetans breathe so easy up high 5.7 9 No Romans needed to explain Chinese blondes 5.0 10 Facebook finally plateaus in 2011! 4.6
July 17, 2012
Apropos of the discussion below, Classic SNL Clip Of The Day: Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. Probably one of the best arguments against resurrecting Neandertals.
July 10, 2012
There’s something about this 1995 single from Collective Soul, The World I Know, which is redolent to me of the Pacific Northwest.* Yes, it’s precious, but the Pacific Northwest is a bit precious. The land of misty mornings, SWPLs, and strong coffee. The shadows alternating with colorized high key lighting common in these alter-rock videos from the mid-90s does neatly parallel some of the scenery which you encounter in the geography of that region. It was only through happenstance that my family moved to the land of big trees when I was on the cusp of puberty, but it was where I matured as a person. Living outside the Northwest now I regularly identify as a Northwesterner, and I certainly miss some of the perks of that region, though I could do without the feeling that I’m walking around in a cloud forest scene in a fantasy novel all the time. ’till we see each other again, on 47th and Division.
* I am aware that CS is not a “Seattle band.”
Bora Zivkovic has what is basically a short history of science blogging up. I was one of those who was there at the beginning, and I honestly can’t say that he left anything of great relevance out of the narrative. In normal circumstances I don’t think much about what I do, I do. But one thing I will add: blogging isn’t some exotic and peculiar aspect of science anymore, many labs use WordPress as a content management system. Blogs as they were 10 years ago aimed out, toward the populace. Today the info-ecological niches what we would have called blogs fill are much more diverse. Some blogs basically exist to update lab members and interested researchers on their publications and journal club. I add these to my RSS even though I’m not a member of the lab and don’t participate in the journal club because they’re educational to me (e.g., gc bias). Imagine, if you will, that R. A. Fisher had had a blog at Rothamsted. Though this is an opportunity to point you to the R.A. Fisher Digital Archive in case you don’t know about it. We live in rich times for the infovore.
July 6, 2012
I’ve been thinking that I should post about what it’s been like being a blogger for 10 years. 1/3 of my recollected life! (I recall fragments of being 3, but continuity of self starts somewhere at the end of my 4th year) Actually, I always assumed I would do this post in 2012 when I joined ScienceBlogs in 2006 and realized I could turn this hobby/sidelight into a source of semi-professional fulfillment. But now that the time is nigh (I started blogging in April 2002, while the original Gene Expression launched in June of 2002) I find myself procrastinating, ironic in light of the fact that blogging is often parodied by some as a form of procrastinating. I will say that whenever I have a “9-5″ (or, in my case more often an 8:30 to 6:30 at minimum) I don’t ever write for the blog during those hours (if a post shows up in that period, it’s a feature called scheduling enabling that miracle, something obviously unknown to those readers who stupidly ask “why are you posting now loser! Shouldn’t you be hittin’ on bangin’ chicks, like I am on Friday nights?”). So blogging is not a way procrastinate for ...
May 19, 2012
May 10, 2012
The genetics of the Malagasy people have been essentially unstudied. Analysis of Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA markers have corroborated the lingustic evidence that the Malagasy result from admixture between southeast Asian and east African populations [1,2]. However, no genome-wide data from Malagasy individuals has been analyzed to date (with the exception of the individuals in this project).
Our goal is to address a number of questions about the genetics of the Malagasy. These include, but are not limited to:
1. What fraction of ancestry in the Malagasy is from Africa rather than southeast Asia?
2. Does this fraction vary geographically and/or ethnically?
3. Who were the populations that first settled Madagascar?
4. Was Madagascar settled once from southeast Asia, or multiple times?
5. Can we use genetics to more precisely date the arrival of African populations in Madagascar?
Our approach to this project is to use data contributed from Malagasy individuals who have been genotyped by a personal genomics companies. If you would like to contribute your data, please contact us.
Current results are available from the tabs at the top of this ...
May 8, 2012
I’m not big into music, being of the aesthetically retarded set, but as I age memory becomes more important, and that is strongly colored by music. The 80s anthems of the Beastie Boys were part of the cultural firmament for me, but at that stage I was more of a Transformers kind of guy. In contrast, So What’cha Want takes me back to the summer of ’92 in a very visceral way. I had come to an age where the Beastie Boys were no longer social white noise, but the rhythm of a life which seemed to roll out before me with possibilities (OK, let’s keep it real, at the time the possibilities were quite proximate and driven by hormonal rushes of puberty).