Archive for April, 2010

Angus Maddison, 1926-2010

OECD’s Gurría mourns death of economist Angus Maddison. I highly recommend his books such as Contours of the World Economy 1-2030 AD. I would concede that the data would sometimes be sketchy or fragmentary, but when it comes to historical models there’s a lot more jabber than legwork. It is notable how much the jabberers […]

Experiments in cultural transmission and human cultural evolution

For those of you familiar with the formal mathematical models of cultural evolution (Cavalli-Sforza & Feldman, 1981; Boyd & Richerson, 1985), you’ll know there is a substantive body of literature behind the process of cultural transmission. In this respect, we have a great deal of theoretical knowledge regarding the three vectors of transmission: vertical, oblique […]

Nature, nurture and noise

Mirrored from The question of what makes each of us the persons we are has occupied philosophers, writers and daydreamers for millennia but has been open to scientific inquiry over a far shorter time. The answer clearly lies in the brain and, somehow, in how it is “wired” (whether that refers to the amount […]

How do non-genic polymorphisms influence disease risk?

I think it is probably (or should be) an uncontroversial statement to say that recent genome-wide association studies have revolutionized our understanding of the molecular basis of variation in disease risk in humans. From a handful of polymorphisms reliably associated with a few diseases, there are now hundreds of such associations for a wide spectrum […]

Hello, stranger!

Mirrored from Wiring the Brain ( Faces are special. Humans are innately interested in faces and so good at detecting them that we see them in clouds, shrouds, pieces of toast, tree-stumps, and even simple yellow circles with a couple of dots in them. Even newborn infants (really, really newborn) are more interested in looking […]

Differences in swine flu response by population

Remember when there was talk about how SARS might disproportionately hit Chinese in comparison to other populations? Here’s a new paper on how Swine Flu may progress in different populations, Clinical Findings and Demographic Factors Associated With ICU Admission in Utah Due to Novel 2009 Influenza A(H1N1) Infection: The ICU cohort of 47 influenza patients […]

Mad Mice

The mighty mouse has become an invaluable tool in biomedical research, due to the fact that its genome can readily be manipulated, using genetic engineering techniques in embryonic stem cells. These techniques were first developed to “knock out” or delete any gene in the mouse genome and this approach is so established now that off-the-shelf […]

Party like a Persian

MTV Not Involved With ‘Jersey Shore’ Imitations: For the show he calls the “Persian Version,” his casting company wrote: “If you are at least 21 years old, appear younger than 30, and are outrageous, outspoken and a proud Persian-American, then Doron Ofir Casting and 495 Productions, the team who brought you ‘Jersey Shore,’ are looking […]

Evolang 2010

Over at Babel’s Dawn, Edmund Blair Bolles has written several blog posts about the recent Evolang 2010 conference. They’re all worth reading, just to get a gist of the varying approaches taken to language evolution, with Bolles singling out talks by Morten Christiansen and Terrence Deacon as being particular highlights. Not too surprisingly, Deacon is […]

Cultural innovation, Pleistocene environments and demographic change

It is well documented that Thomas Robert Malthus’ An Essay on the Principle of Population greatly influenced both Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace’s independent conception of their theory of natural selection. In it, Malthus puts forward his observation that the finite nature of resources is in conflict with the potentially exponential rate of reproduction, […]

Common versus rare variants, again

A commentary published this week in the prestigious journal Cell is the latest salvo in the rare variants versus common variants “debate” (see my overall thoughts on this topic here). The commentary contains a number of false claims (ie. many SNP-disease associations found to date are false positives due to population structure) and non sequiturs […]

Podcasts about language as a complex adaptive system

For those of you more interested in listening rather than reading, then the journal Language Learning has a load of podcasts about language as a complex adaptive system. If you fancy some reading, here is the position paper by the Five Graces group. Below is the abstract: Language has a fundamentally social function. Processes of […]

Evolutionary fitness & nutrition

Russ Roberts recently had a discussion on Econtalk with Arthur de Vany. A lot of it covered baseball and social science, but he also spent a lot of time on “evolutionary fitness” (see the website at the link). I agree with a lot of what he had to say, but felt that some of his […]

Numbers and Amazonian Tribes

The Guardian has a great extract from Alex Bellos‘ new book Alex’s Adventures in Numberland. Besides sounding like the title to a mathematician’s experimentation with LSD, the book dedicates a section (the abstract in the Guardian) on the work of  a linguist, Pierre Pica, and his discovery that the Munduruku tribe only count up to […]

Social Networks and Linguistic Research

I’m always interested in ways of using social networking sites as massive pools of data for researchers to mine. So on that note check out The Adventures of Auck‘s post on Cultural Variation and Social Networks. The post is more of a rumination, accompanied by some simple statistical analyses, than a detailed exposition. But it […]

It’s complicated

Human genome at ten: Life is complicated (H/T Dr. Daniel MacArthur). This is one reason that economists are in more demand than historians in public life. Economics is reducible in a way that history is usually not, or at least historians tend not to be interested in doing. Also, the average economist is much smarter […]