Archive for August, 2009

Recession = less death?

The effect of economic recession on population health: Economic recessions have paradoxical effects on the mortality trends of populations in rich countries. Contrary to what might have been expected, economic downturns during the 20th century were associated with declines in mortality rates. In terms of business cycles, mortality is procyclical, meaning it goes up with […]

The evolution of pigmentation in deer mice

Much of evolutionary biology focuses on ultimate causation–identifying the evolutionary forces that have led the world to be as it is today, without much regard for the nuts and bolts of how organisms work. Much of molecular biology, on the other hand, focuses on proximate causation–understanding how the world works without much regard to how […]

Curly haired dogs

Since I see p-ter hasn’t posted on this, in Science, Coat Variation in the Domestic Dog Is Governed by Variants in Three Genes: Coat color and type are essential characteristics of domestic dog breeds. While the genetic basis of coat color has been well characterized, relatively little is known about the genes influencing coat growth […]

Empires of the Silk Road

I’m now reading Empires of the Silk Road. I’m about 2/3 of the way through the main text, and being slowed down by the fact that I keep reading the footnotes on almost every page. Additionally, there are 40 pages or so of endnotes which I haven’t gotten to yet, but each one reads like […]

Non-Black voting Democrat in 2008 presidential election

Map from Andrew Gelman’s post, Race, region, and vote choice in the 2008 election: implications for the future of the Voting Rights Act (which has many more charts): Compare with the last map in my post What’s not the matter with Appalachia. Labels: politics

We are all Protestants now….

There are different models of how religion and society interact with each other. The American model is not universal, and Americans sometimes are confused about the relationship between religion and society in other cultures. Nevertheless, the American model is robust and seems to be capable of powerful assimilative feats.* In the early 19th century the […]

Body mass changes & personality

Anyone know of scientific literature on the biologically rooted psychological changes which might occur due to changes in body mass? I always assumed that weight loss or gain induced personality changes because of differences in the social acceptability of an individual’s weight, but am wondering about the possible shifts in the body’s biochemical pathways due […]

Bad headlines?

Nature News headline: Human-chimp interbreeding challenged. Makes it seem like there’s a breeding program somewhere, and others are challenging it on ethical grounds…. Labels: Genetics

Computing the spread of lactase persistence

As most readers of this weblog know most humans as adults cannot digest lactose. The ability to digest lactose via the persistence of the enzyme lactase is differentially distributed. Both inferential methods and a small number of ancient genetic extractions suggest that this ability arose within the last 10,000 years. A new paper, The Origins […]

Web 2.0 party is over — you’re going to pay for the news again, and hopefully more

Recently at my personal blog I’ve been focusing on the idiocy of Web 2.0′s central strategy for growth, namely creating online networks or communities where costly participation is given away for free. (The profitable online papers charge, YouTube and Facebook still not profitable, and a more general round-up of the second dot-com bust.) The hope […]

Monogamy by ethnicity

The Audacious Epigone has a post up where he queries the GSS to see what proportion of which European ethnic groups has had one lifetime sexual partner. Labels: GSS

Microsoft myths that won’t die

At the end of an otherwise good reflection in the WSJ on where Google can go from here, we read the following: It would be foolish to predict that Google won’t have another business success, of course. Microsoft managed to leverage its strength in PC operating systems into a stranglehold over the word-processing and spreadsheet […]

Lives of the ancients

John Hawks has a long post on ancient lifespans. It seems likely that the range has not shifted much, though the shape of the distribution naturally has. Child mortality has obviously declined, but it seems likely that death at any given age in adulthood has probably decreased as well. But for what it’s worth, several […]

Trends in depression and medication

U.S. Antidepressant Use Doubled in A Decade. I’m not against the usage of medicine, but I’m skeptical that this increase is really attributable to chronically depressed people with serious neurochemical imbalances getting treated. Rather, a substantial number of people whose lives “suck” at a given moment convince doctors to prescribe these medications. I’m willing to […]

Risk, personality and testosterone

Gender differences in financial risk aversion and career choices are affected by testosterone: Women are generally more risk averse than men. We investigated whether between- and within-gender variation in financial risk aversion was accounted for by variation in salivary concentrations of testosterone and in markers of prenatal testosterone exposure in a sample of >500 MBA […]

The origins of China

Until the overthrow of the Manchus in the early 20th century the Chinese political-cultural system had exhibited an incredible amount of continuity for over 2,000 years, from the Qin and Han dynasties on. It seems a defensible position that just as the Mycenaean Greeks of 3,200 years ago were cultural aliens to Western elites in […]

What Darwin Said: Part 4 – Speciation

This is the fourth in a series of posts about Charles Darwin’s view of evolution. Previous posts were: 1: The Pattern of Evolution. 2: Mechanisms of Evolution. 3: Heredity. The present part deals with the subject of speciation, that is, the formation of new species. Modern commentators often regard this as one of the weaker […]

Friends & fat

In the McArdle vs. Frum diavlog I alluded to earlier there was a dispute centered around two seemingly contradictory results. First, the fact that heritability of obesity is rather high, in twins-separated-at-birth studies the correlation between monozygotic twins raised apart is on the order of ~0.75. And yet people tend to track the weight of […]

MECP2 and brain structure

ScienceDaily, Genetic Variations Linked To Brain Size. The write-up seems a bit garbled to me, so probably best to read the paper, A common MECP2 haplotype associates with reduced cortical surface area in humans in two independent populations, when it is live on the PNAS site. Labels: Genetics, Neuroscience

Differences in human universals on the margins

Neuroskeptic reviews new research which reports that East Asians and Europeans perceive facial expressions differently. Yes, differences do seem to exist, at least within the small sample studied, but there is a great deal of overlap. Of course much of the phenomena of interest are on the margins anyhow. Speaking of which, Genetic and Molecular […]