« Brawn drain from Africa | Gene Expression Front Page | Understanding The Religious on Their own Terms »
August 30, 2003

Bookish moi & the VMAs

Reading Theoretical Population Genetics by J.S. Gale. Venturing into chapter 3. Nice to have Principles of Population Genetics under my belt, all the equations (and more) that you find in Clark & Hartl's book are derived in great detail by Gale (again, judging by what I've read so far)[1]. The references & notations are themselves a gold mine. As I said, I'm early on in the book, but though some of the derivations might seem byzantine, the mathematical methods themselves don't seem out of reach for someone who has a basic understanding of statistics, with calculus, differential equations & and a smattering of linear algebra. If you read evolutionary psychology & biology for fun & pleasure, I would suggest first Hartl & Clark's text, and then this, I think it's worth it to keep digging-stuff your brain with data & theory and result might turn out as delicioius as fois gras. My main complaint is the notation of the equations seems kind of primitive & clumsy-but the book was published in 1990, so perhaps that explains it.

Please read further for my take on the MTV Video Music Awards (VMA).

fn1. From page 13, "We shall, in general, adopt a 'stochastic' approach; that is, we take account of factors leading to random changes in allele frequencies...." The author states that stochastic models of population genetics are more difficult for lay persons to grasp than the deterministic ones-which is surely correct. Fuck, take a Quantum Mechanics course, and come out of it without turning cross-eyed when you see some plain ole Mechanics.

OK, I didn't watch it, rather, I downloaded the Britney & Christina + Missy & Madonna performance from Kazaa. Some observations:

  • Britney should not sing right before Christina unleashes her voice

  • Christina should not shake her ass after Britney has done her divine wiggling

  • Madonna has a better voice than Britney (who doesn't) & can dance better than Christina

  • Britney & Christina are plausible modifications of Madonna's genome-but they would indicate that talent is a zero-sum equation, what Britney lacks in vocals she makes up for in riotous rump-shaking & while Christina lacks the rhythmic movement on display in the form of Ms. Spears and Ms. Ciccone, she is possessed of a megaphone for a voice and a Madonnically sluttish demeanour

  • Christina's looks seems to have peaked during her clean-cut Genie-in-a-Bottle phase, while Britney has augmented her more modest physique over the years, at some point, the two functions intersected

  • I did not object to the kissing[2], though it seems plausible that Christina & Madonna swapping spit might give rise to lethal hybrid super-slut viruses. Watch out Guy Richie and all the men backstage on the Justin & Christina tour!

fn2. Derb better not write about straight flight based on the lesbianism on display at the VMAs.

Godless comments:

Re: Population Genetics

I recommended Hartl to Razib, and it's the book I learned Pop. Genetics from (though I'm much more a molecular bio & systems biology kinda guy). If you want to check out population genetics in action, check out this phat set of simulations on various concepts in population genetics. For example, they've got a section on selection and drift here.

I agree with Razib's belief that the methods of population genetics are not truly arcane. At root, what population genetics is about is:

  1. Postulating some probability mass function (aka pmf) over individuals and/or alleles of genes. Call this an initial condition.
  2. Postulating some sort of updating rule/fitness definition (e.g. fitness matrices), which tells you which alleles become more or less frequent (i.e. how the pmf evolves). [1] These can be continuous rules (i.e. diffy q's) as well as difference equations.[2]
  3. Calculating the effects of multiple iterations of the updating rule on the initial condition (ideally without resorting to simulation, though that is often necessary).

This is something of a simplification, but in this form (initial conditions + updating equations), it's recognizable to physicists and other quantitative people. Molecular biology comes into play as a constraint on the sorts of updates. For example, diploid populations have paired alleles for every gene, which introduces quadratic nonlinearities (top of page 3, equation for p') into the updating equation. More on this later...

Re: Christina, Britney, and Madonna

Here are some more pics:

I agree with Razib's assessment on this issue, though I think Aguilera is still very attractive. Dark hair doesn't suit her, though. Here's some more depravity and licentiousness, courtesy of Tatu:

If they were real lesbians (rather than Hollywood lesbians), they ain't gonna be reproducing (so we can safely set f=0 in the evolution equation)...but it's fun to look at ;)

Along the same lines - I've often thought that facilitative lesbianism is more frequent/more easily inducible in women than the analogue is in men. Not sure if this is backed up by data, but my (totally speculative) theory is that it has something to do with the frequency of polygamy vs. polyandry.

fn1. In this respect the update equation is conceptually similar to the Fokker-Planck equation, which also directly describes the evolution of a pdf.

fn2. Note that conventional definitions of fitness (with births at periodic intervals) do not account for the fact that people can have kids at any time. The way to get around is this to introduce something called the "Malthusian parameter", which is analogous to the idea of continual compounding in finance. More on this here. You can also read the aforementioned Hartl, or else Maynard Smith's book, page 38.

Another update from GC:

Listen to this sorry conservative, bemoaning the tackiness of it all:

These were smackers smacking of desperation. What was Madonna's last single? [ Die Another Day was decent...] No, I can't remember either.
We can assume safely that this was pre-arranged. Madonna is too fly by far to risk, in front of an audience of millions, having the younger, prettier Britney Spears grab her by the shoulders and push her away.

The question is, however, whether both Britney and Christina Aguilera knew that she had come to an arrangement with the other one. My money is on not.

The headlines that this gap-toothed, career-on-the-slide, ageing pop legend had in mind will have been "Madonna in sexy snogfest", not "Madonna anoints chosen successor - and it's Britney!"

I bet this is the kind of guy who'd sneer at masterpieces like There's Something About Mary or a classic like Ace Ventura . I should probably shake him by the shoulders, point and say "Dude - Lesbians! Dude...*lesbians*!"

Posted by razib at 12:55 AM

Finally some value in the archives. Christina gets my vote as the hottest of the trio. Her hair is no doubt a shrewd marketing ploy. In the 80s I thought Madonna was really going to be at a deep level of sexuality at this age, but she seems content to keep it bubble gum. She should have spanked those ample young rumps into submission. Make 'em prove their love. Maybe by VMA 2007...

Posted by: martin at August 30, 2003 09:56 AM

christina has the best raw material in my opinion-but compare her in come on over baby and her new video can't hold us down, and she's maximizing the horizontal...that girl is gettin' chunke!

Posted by: razib at August 30, 2003 10:21 AM

Jeez, $247 for the book? BTW, isn't stochastic one of the more highly g-loaded concepts aropund? Hmmm?

Posted by: Dick Thompson at August 30, 2003 10:35 AM

Exactly razib-I find the older I get the more I don't mind, and actually like, some cush in the tush. Physiques I formerly saw as screaming "do me" I now see as crying "feed me." My aesthetic horizons are constantly expanding, so to speak. Since it's not a reasoned taste switch-I assume it's hard wired. A promising research topic.

Posted by: martin at August 30, 2003 10:38 AM

Thanks godless. I am just a 70 year old "retired" (=laid off and old) guy trying to keep his brain from Alzheimers by studying hard stuff. It works too ... uh.. where was I?...Oh yes. It Works. I do know a little about the topics mentioned, and I'll see if my budget lets me pop for the book.

Posted by: Dick Thompson at August 30, 2003 04:00 PM

also, remember wym an nyquist's stat genetics notes.

Posted by: razib at August 30, 2003 05:12 PM

Thanks to both of you for the info. I will follow it up.

Posted by: Dick Thompson at August 31, 2003 07:16 AM