Archive for June, 2010

Can linguistic features reveal time depths as deep as 50,000 years ago?

Throughout much of our history language was transitory, existing only briefly within its speech community. The invention of writing systems heralded a way of recording some of its recent history, but for the most part linguists lack the stone tools archaeologists use to explore the early history of ancient technological industries. The question of how […]

The two cycles

I’m reading Brotherhood of Kings: How International Relations Shaped the Ancient Near East. The book basically outlines the international state system in the ancient Near East which fostered diplomatic relationships between the monarchies of the period. It is noted that this state system and diplomatic culture did not make it through the chaos which marks […]

Psychometrics, epigenetics and economics

Two papers of interest. IQ in the Production Function: Evidence from Immigrant Earnings (ungated). And Human Intelligence and Polymorphisms in the DNA Methyltransferase Genes Involved in Epigenetic Marking. My impression is that the focus on epigenetics has a higher-order social motive; even the sort of humanists who are involved with N + 1 have asked […]

Is the “missing heritability” right under our noses?

One of the major criticisms leveled against genome-wide association studies for complex diseases is that they have identified loci which account for a relatively small proportion of the variance in most traits. The difference between this small proportion of variance explained by known loci and the (generally large) total amount of variance known to be […]

The returns on homogeneity

A few days ago on Twitter I wondered if economists had calculated the costs of the world having a diversity of languages, instead of one language. The logic is that unintelligibility naturally throws up barriers to communication, and the flow of ideas and labor. This is one reason why the European Union necessarily has less […]

“What has bioinformatics done for us”

So asks Anthony Goldbloom: A British bioinformatician asks what bioinformatics has ever done for us? Or put differently, what is the single greatest biological discovery made possible by bioinformatics? He is offering $USD100 to the person who puts forward the most compelling answer (the prize is small but the idea is to stoke discussion). Kaggle […]

The Times on the human genome at 10

Two articles in the New York Times this week revisit the promises made 10 years ago about how the sequencing of the human genome would revolutionize medicine (and how, obviously, it has not). There are things to quibble about–I could go on again about how some of the arguments against genome-wide association studies are silly, […]

Bad to the bone; the genes and brains of psychopaths

The manipulative con-man. The guy who lies to your face, even when he doesn’t have to. The child who tortures animals. The cold-blooded killer. Psychopaths are characterised by an absence of empathy and poor impulse control, with a total lack of conscience. About 1% of the total population can be defined as psychopaths, according to […]

Population size predicts technological complexity in Oceania

Here is a far-reaching and crucially relevant question for those of us seeking to understand the evolution of culture: Is there any relationship between population size and tool kit diversity or complexity? This question is important because, if met with an affirmative answer, then the emergence of modern human culture may be explained by changes […]

Jews and genetics

Over at Discover Blogs I have a very long post up on Jews & Genetics. In particular the recent paper in AJHG. One observation I have to make about Jewish genetics: when it comes to PCA plots which illustrate the relationship of Jews, in particular Ashkenazi Jews, to other populations I’ve noticed that two different […]

Sexual orientation – in the genes?

Mirrored from Is homosexuality a lifestyle choice or an innate biological disposition? The idea that it is a choice is certainly widespread – a part of several mainstream religious doctrines and political ideologies – and is used to condone significant discrimination against homosexuals and the criminalization of homosexual behaviour. But what does the science […]