Archive for March, 2010

Phylogenetics, cultural evolution and horizontal transmission

For some time now, evolutionary biologists have used phylogenetics. It is a well-established, powerful set of tools that allow us to test evolutionary hypotheses. More recently, however, these methods are being imported to analyse linguistic and cultural phenomena. For instance, the use of phylogenetics has led to observations that languages evolve in punctuational bursts, explored […]

Please change your links

If you have a blog, and you link to, I would appreciate it if you switched to I know most people don’t use blogrolls much, but it matters for PageRank, and the archives have been copied so I’d rather have search engine traffic go to the active weblog ASAP. Thanks.

Natural selection and recombination

Razib has a nice discussion of an interesting observation just published in PLoS Genetics– that there is a negative correlation between recombination rate in the human genome and population differentiation. This observation, along with the complementary observations of correlations between nucleotide diversity and recombination and between nucleotide diversity and density of functional elements, form part […]

America the Catholic, t + 40 years

Bryan Caplan points to a quote from Will Durant’s The Lessons of History: In the United States the lower birth rate of the Anglo-Saxons has lessened their economic and political power; and the higher birth rate of Roman Catholic families suggest that by the year 2000 the Roman Catholic Church will be the dominant force […]

No longer at ScienceBlogs, but at Discover Blogs

Many of you already know this, but I’ve moved from ScienceBlogs to Discover Blogs. There isn’t much to say about this, I had a good run at ScienceBlogs, but Discover Blogs offers some new opportunities. All that matters for you is this, please update your bookmarks and/or RSS feeds: Bookmarks: RSS feed: Also, […]

Matt Stone & Trey Parker on NPR

They review the past 14 years.

Atheists and the legal system

This article at The Jury Expert serves as a nice review of literature. Here’s their summary: Atheists are unique and individual (just like all of us) and we have to attend to the attitudes, beliefs and life experiences that all of us (even atheists) bring to the table as jurors. Conversely, jurors need to be […]

Others in Siberia?

The complete mitochondrial DNA genome of an unknown hominin from southern Siberia: With the exception of Neanderthals, from which DNA sequences of numerous individuals have now been determined…the number and genetic relationships of other hominin lineages are largely unknown. Here we report a complete mitochondrial (mt) DNA sequence retrieved from a bone excavated in 2008 […]

Neuroscience blog of note

Check it out, Wiring the Brain.

Helicobacter pylori strains among Iranians

Ethnic and Geographic Differentiation of Helicobacter pylori within Iran: The bacterium Helicobacter pylori colonizes the human stomach, with individual infections persisting for decades. The spread of the bacterium has been shown to reflect both ancient and recent human migrations. We have sequenced housekeeping genes from H. pylori isolated from 147 Iranians with well-characterized geographical and […]

The Movius Line represents the crossing of a demographic threshold

When examining the dispersal of Pleistocene hominins, one of the more fascinating debates concern the patterns of biological and technological evolution in East Asia and other regions of the Old World. One suggestion emerging from palaeoanthropological research places a demarcation between these two regions in the form of a geographical division known as the Movius […]

Dolphin Chi

Not only do Dolphins have the ability to use marine sponges as foraging tools, they now also emit Chi according to a BBC article: Humans do seem to feel a sense of kinship with dolphins, intelligent, playful, talkative creatures that they are. And separate research shows people feel the benefit from getting up close and […]

The Evolution of Symbolic Language

Terrence Deacon and Ursula Goodenough have written a great article on the evolution of symbolic language. I’m mentioning it because they make two particularly interesting points. First point: Language is in effect an emergent function, not some prior function that just required fine-tuning. Our inherited (“instinctive”) vocalizations, such as laughter, shrieks of fright, and cries […]

Gene Expression Facebook group

I guess I should mention this. A year and a half ago someone started a Gene Expression Facebook group. Nothing much is going on there right now, but I thought I’d point to it….

Monkeys are more complicated than you’d think

Generous Leaders and Selfish Underdogs: Pro-Sociality in Despotic Macaques: Actively granting food to a companion is called pro-social behavior and is considered to be part of altruism. Recent findings show that some non-human primates behave pro-socially. However, pro-social behavior is not expected in despotic species, since the steep dominance hierarchy will hamper pro-sociality. We show […]

Cartman on “gingers”

(here’s the context)

Rare variants versus common variants in complex disease is a political, not a scientific, debate

There’s been a recent uptick in interest in the genetic architecture of complex traits (by which I mean the allele frequencies and effect sizes of the relevant loci), some of which has been driven by a much-hyped recent paper from David Goldstein’s group pointing out using simulations that, as one commenter put it, “LD exists”. […]

There are no common disorders (just extremes of quantitative traits)

On the basis of recent Genome-wide association research, a review by Plomin et al. (2009) predicts that, in line with R.A. Fisher’s reconciliation of Mendelian inheritance and quantitative genetics, investigations “on polygenic liabilities will eventually lead to a focus on quantitative dimensions rather than qualitative disorders”. Basically, they are proposing a shift in thinking: moving […]

Non-deep thought

We’ll never have utopia. A world in which in many nations it is normal for the poor to be fat is, is a utopia by any measure from the perspective of someone who lived in 1900. Prompted to think about this after listening to part of this diavlog between a transhumanist and Massimo Pigluicci. Sometimes […]

How the outsider looks

Heartthrob’s Barbed Blog Challenges China’s Leaders: Since he began blogging in 2006, Mr. Han has been delivering increasingly caustic attacks on China’s leadership and the policies he contends are creating misery for those unlucky enough to lack a powerful government post. With more than 300 million hits to his blog, he may be the most […]