Archive for December, 2009

The engineer terrorist

Slate reviews the scholarly literature. Explaining the mechanics of the over-representation of engineers at the higher echelons of transnational terrorism is a guessing game, but the empirical reality seems relatively robust. Though I suspect that sociological and economic factors are necessary (see the linked paper in the article), I think the ultimate precondition has to […]

Why do we delay gratification even when there is no downside?

Earlier this year, John Tierney reviewed several studies on how delaying gratification makes us feel better in the short term by preventing guilt but makes us feel more miserable in the long term by causing regret over missed opportunities. I added my two cents here, just to note that this sounds like part of the […]

One year after the financial collapse, Gotham in a downward spiral

Actually, not really. New York on Track for Fewest Homicides on Record. I assume that those who project long term fiscal problems due to a contraction in the financial sector in New York City are probably correct (assuming that the financial sector actually doesn’t expand back to its pre-2009 size). But the assumption that the […]

New comment format

A lot of people (including paying readers! kidding!) are complaining about the new commenting format. I’ll be euphemistic and observe that it’s suboptimal. But I don’t have time to work on tweaking and beautifying it now, so please be patient. Over time it’ll move up the stack of my priorities, and hopefully your awesome contributions […]

Mutation and selection in stickleback evolution

Understanding the precise molecular mechanisms underlying changes in animal morphology is a tricky problem–usually two species which have diverged morphologically (say, mice and humans) are now so unrelated as to make genetic study exceedingly difficult, if not impossible. For years, a group led by David Kingsley has been addressing this problem in a cleverly-chosen model–three-spined […]

Merry Xmas

& a happy New Year.

The old old time religion

Ross Douthat, Into The Mystic: But as the Pew chart suggests, there is one sense in which religion was less influential in mid-century American life than it is today, and that’s the realm of personal mystical experience. Slightly more people went to church in 1962, but many fewer people went out looking for their own […]

The diversity of the east

Just a weird random thought. In the early 20th century the Ainu of Japan were considered by many physical anthropologists a branch of the white race. This fit in nicely with the historical fantasy of the period which often featured “Lost Races,” with a lost white race the best of all. By contrast, the Negrito […]

Transhuman Goodness

Most of the readers of this weblog probably have as much use for the Singularity as John Derbyshire, but for those of you who dig Overcoming Bias and Less Wrong, you might check out Transhuman Goodness. The author, Roko Mijic, is so normal he could almost pass as a civilian!

Why are Mormons the American success story?

I was skimming through a book on Scandinavian migration to Utah the other day, these Scandinavians being converts to Mormonism. The author noted that while most Scandinavian Americans settled in areas where farming was relatively easy, these converts went to Utah, which is a less than optimal territory when it comes to per unit productivity. […]

Selection & African Americans

I already posted on the new paper on African American Genetics. I noticed that Frank Sweet says: It is interesting that the 18 percent mean of Euro DNA markers in A-As has been holding steady for about 8 years now, having replaced the prior estimate of 25 percent. Where did the prior estimate come from? […]

NPR has a science blog

Cosmos and Culture.

Reminder on comments, enter a handle

Please remember to enter a name when you put in a comment. Can be fake and such. Just something distinctive. I’m deleting comments from “Guests.”

Canada & North American theocracy

In the comments Europeans often point out that nations we Americans consider very secular, such as the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, actually provide state subsidy to religious schools. Part of the issue here is that Americans have a caricature of Europeans in mind, just as Europeans often have a caricature of Americans. Though in […]

Brain size & microcephaly genes

Microcephaly Genes Associated With Human Brain Size: Highly significant associations were found between cortical surface area and polymorphisms in possible regulatory regions near the gene CDK5RAP2. This gene codes for a protein involved in cell-cycle regulation in neuronal progenitor cells — cells that migrate to the cerebral cortex during the second trimester of gestation and […]

Crime way down. Who exactly knows stuff?

Despite recession, crime keeps falling: In times of recession, property crimes, in particular, are expected to rise. They haven’t. Overall, property crimes fell by 6.1 percent, and violent crimes by 4.4 percent, according to the six-month data collected by the FBI. Crime rates haven’t been this low since the 1960′s, and are nowhere near the […]

Coincidence or adaptation?

Different Evolutionary Histories of the Coagulation Factor VII Gene in Human Populations?: Immoderate blood clotting constitutes a risk factor for cardiovascular disease in modern industrialised societies, but is believed to have conferred a survival advantage, i.e. faster recovery from bleeding, on our ancestors. Here, we investigate the evolutionary history of the Coagulation Factor VII gene […]

Cultures of constraint; Islam, India and Marxism

Pew has a new report, Global Restrictions on Religion (HT JohnPI). It illustrates rather clearly some general trends which I’ve been mulling over for several years looking at cross-cultural data. Here’s a 2-dimensional chart which plots the 50 most populous nations in their data set along an axis of governmental vs. social restrictions on religion. […]


Open thread for reader reactions. Don’t plan on watching it in the near future myself, but curious….

The new comments

Make up a name if you want to comment. I’m not going to let any “Guest” comments through from now on, since they seem to mess up the recent comments, and it makes it hard to know who is who.