Archive for January, 2007

Women in engineering

There has been much serious discussion on this website and others on the relative dearth of women in the fields of science and engineering. This stereotype has become so pervasive in our culture that one bold engineering program, fed up with it all, took it upon themselves to prove, conclusively, that there are indeed women […]

Thrifty genotype hypothesis

For the population geneticist, diabetes mellitus has long presented an enigma. Here is a relatively frequent disease, often interfering with reproduction by virtue of an onset during the reproductive or even pre-reproductive years, with a well-defined genetic basis, perhaps as simple in many families as a single recessive or incompletely recessive gene. If the considerable […]

Home labs

Coturnix made me notice that you can isolate DNA and run gels using legos and products from asian groceries. This got me thinking about what experiments I would run if I set this up. I think I could probably keep bugs of various sorts around and dissect out nervous systems. Could I select for certain […]

News to watch

This month’s Nature Genetics has a meeting report on the Human Genome Variation 2006 conference. This little bit caught my eye: Andrew Clark and Neil Risch provided some exciting first glimpses into these large data sets, including some remarkable findings in population genetics. For instance, Andrew Clark examined global FST in different regions of the […]

Direct measurement of the genetic contribution to the BW IQ gap

To follow-up on two older posts, here is a comment on the direct tests of the genetic contribution to the Black-White IQ gap that were proposed by David Rowe and Charles Murray. Each appears to be describing the same set of experiments. The aim of these experiments is to ascertain the relative contribution of genes […]

The Pig Men Cometh

“I wish there were pig-men. You get a few of those pig-men walking around, suddenly I’m looking a lot better.” -George Constanza of Seinfeld Of course, a world with pig men would be a less beauteous thing. Kind of what I thought when I read Steve’s most recent column on the rise of academic inequaliy, […]

Norm of reaction and Williams Syndrome

Cite: Despite the differences in upbringing, in both countries children with Williams syndrome were rated significantly higher in global sociability and their tendency to approach strangers than were their typically developing counterparts. But cultural expectations clearly influenced social behavior, since the sociability of normal American kids was on par with Japanese Williams syndrome kids, whose […]

Icelandic fire

This week’s Lancet has a profile of Kari Stefansson, CEO of DeCode Genetics. Regular readers have been exposed to much of the groundbreaking research done by the company, which has DNA samples from ~65% of the Icelandic population and a geneology that stretches back 1000 years. This is the group that published on the “fertility […]

Pinker on consciousness

Steven Pinker has an article in Time called “The Mystery of Consciousness”. An extract: What remains is not one problem about consciousness but two, which the philosopher David Chalmers has dubbed the Easy Problem and the Hard Problem. Calling the first one easy is an in-joke: it is easy in the sense that curing cancer […]

Anthropology on BBC4

People with access to the UK digital TV channel BBC4 should note that the channel has been showing a really outstanding series of programmes on anthropology. So far there have been four, on: – Margaret Mead – Bronislaw Malinowski – Desmond Morris – Tom Harrisson. I missed the one on Margaret Mead, but I’ve seen […]

Blondes are not sexier: What the theory predicts and the data say

Steve has an interesting post on assortative mating in which he purports, in passing, that blondes have greater sex appeal, citing Peter Frost’s hypothesis that blonde hair was sexually selected in Northern Europeans (I’ll post on the assortative theme later). A danger in discussing which traits might be sexually selected is that the ponderer will […]

I say inbreeding depression, you say heterosis

We’ve talked a lot about inbreeding and the its health consequences many many times before ’round these parts. Most people think of the consequences in terms of unmasking recessive disorders like rare bith defects or the inability to feel pain. But the consequences are also apparent in complex traits–a new article shows a negative correlation […]


A fascinating new article in PLoS One follows up on a previous paper documenting a possible evolutionary response to sperm competition– sperm cooperation. The idea here is simple– if a number of males mate with a female, there are a huge number of sperm competing to be the lucky one who ends up fertilizing the […]

Imagination and memory

A recent paper in PNAS is getting some press. Patients with hippocampal damage and amnesia (the normal symptom) are also impaired in imagining future scenarios. The authors contend that this fits with a view of the hippocampus as necessary for creating the context in which we have rich inner experiences. The data hinge on how […]

Hippocampal subfield differentiation

There has been a lot written in recent years about interneuron diversity. Excitatory interneurons exist, but more often than not interneurons produce and release the major inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA. Interneurons are locally connected, and they can control local circuit oscillations and excitability. There are about a zillion different types of GABAergic interneuron based in morphology, […]

Where are the freaks?

So I’ve been mulling over the recent publication in Annals of Human Genetics of a review of the recent skin color genomic work. The conclusion is pretty predictable given the recent findings: a) Dark skin is the modern human ancestral traitb) Light skin is derivedc) The derivations are independent There is lots of stuff to […]

David Byrne = Neville Chamberlain?

I like David Byrne. He makes interesting music and visual art, and now he’s making an interesting journal. This is why intelligent people can be religious. That’s an arrogant statement – it presumes that religion and intelligence are incompatible, that anyone with any sense wouldn’t believe in unproven supernatural faith-based scenarios. But of course that […]

Dendrite evolution

Trawling the net, I came across this chapter from the forthcoming 2nd edition of the Dendrites monograph: Phylogeny and Evolution of Dendrites by Gayle M. Wittenberg and Samuel S.-H. Wang (pdf). I was hoping to find something about the origin of dendrites and maybe something about differences in primates or humans. Unfortunately, there isn’t much […]

Storms and Teacups

As GNXP’s only British contributor I feel bound to say a few words about the Big Brother controversy. For the past week Britain – and perhaps also India – has been gripped by a bout of collective insanity. I’m not sure how far the rest of the world has taken any interest in the affair, […]

10 Questions for György Buzsáki

György Buzsáki is Board of Governors Professor at the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience at Rutgers University. His recent book, Rhythms of the Brain, is a clear explication of the study of network-level dynamics in the nervous system, ranging from innovations in extracellular recording to theoretical solutions to the binding problem. Rather than list […]