Open Thread, 06/18/2017

In the centuries around and before 1000 A.D. there was a “Viking international” of sorts. Harald Hardrada may have died in England trying to become king of that nation, but he served for a time in the Varangian Guards in Constantinople. His connections to Kievan Rus were such that priests in the Eastern Christian tradition were brought in to aid in the conversion of Norway. The book The Vikings talks about much of this.

Speaking of Kievan Rus, as I noted in the comments below the Y chromosomal lineage of the Rurikids is clearly one of Finns, not Scandinavians. But the Primary Chronicle indicates that the recent ancestors of Vladimir the Great were Scandinavian, so the cultural assimilation must have occurred earlier.

And Kievan Rus itself was more connected to other parts of Europe than Russia itself later would be. Anne of Kiev was the mother of a future king of France

An Expanded View of Complex Traits: From Polygenic to Omnigenic. Everyone is talking about this. Have not read it. A lot of the discussion is going on on Twitter. Jonathan Pritchard has been very active in the discussions.

Punctuated evolution shaped modern vertebrate diversity. This paper is about morphology, but still cool.

How genetics is settling the Aryan migration debate. The author follows me on Twitter and quotes me in the piece (from one of my blog posts in 2009). He clearly knows his stuff and seems to have read my posts, so nothing new. But he does get some scientists to put into the record that they don’t believe things they believed in the late 2000s. One problem is that Indian “Out of India” proponents keep citing papers from the late 2000s which the authors themselves likely don’t stand by anymore.

Reading a bit of A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution. I feel the field of human behavioral ecology gets short shrift, though to be fair before Joe Heinrich started writing books there really weren’t any popularizers (both David Sloan Wilson and E. O. Wilson do do some on the side in this area).

Berkeley Says It’s Standing Up to Trump, But It’s Actually Busy Arguing About Zucchini. Median home price in Berkeley is now $1,100,000.

Over the past year for various reasons I’ve gained 10 pounds. My waste has gone from 29-30 inches to 31-32. They did a measurement at the gym and my body fat is now 17%.

So I’m going on a ketogenic diet to cut some of the fat. Any advice is welcome.

29 thoughts on “Open Thread, 06/18/2017

  1. Alarmed by my expanding waistline, I once made up my own simple diet and exercise plan – no sugar or anything with added sugar, no alcohol, and no deep fried foods, but as much as I wanted of anything else (so, lots of rice for dinner, grains for breakfast, etc.) + I swam one mile of freestyle every day after work. The swimming was a key element – it burned huge amounts of energy, while preventing too much loss of muscle mass. I lost 35 pounds in 6 months, and my waist went from 37″ to 31″. It was 32″ when I left secondary school and had stopped growing, so 31″ was the smallest it had been since I had been an adult, basically. Don’t know what my body fat % was, but eyeballing it, it must have been pretty low.

    The catch was that I had such an energy deficit from the swimming, I fell asleep on the sofa every night right after dinner – my wife would wake me up when it was time to go to bed. Plus I had to throw out all of my pants and buy new ones. The other catch was that I got so thin, it was not a good look – after 6 months I decided to add weight training, and ease off on the swimming somewhat, which was a better balance for maintenance and muscle building purposes, while keeping good control of body fat %.

    But for a quick crash fat loss, the long distance swimming was perfect – I lost the first 25 pounds in the first couple of months, then eased down another 10 pounds over the next 4 months; by then I had hit diminishing returns. The diet was not in any way extreme, and I was eating huge amounts of good stuff, including lots of carbs.

  2. The Berkeley article reminded me of Davis and how many years(measure K) it took before a Target could open.

    I tried keto and switched to just basic low carbs, which is working well.

  3. I thought the ‘Aryan Migration’ article was very clear and honest, with quotes from scholars, etc.

    But, then I read all the comments, sorting them from the ‘best’ (most liked).

    I felt a lot like when I read the comments at Fox News.

    Most people commenting have nearly zero comprehension of genetics, and in fact read facts like 18% of Indian men have R1a haplogroups, to mean that 9% of Indians today (because it was ‘a male migration’) have the genes of migrants, and 91% are full blooded ‘native Indians’.

    I believe a stronger emphasis on autosomal data, and especially ancient autosomal data, would have been a greatly helpful addition.

    Of course there were also a lot of people with the old silly arguments still. Like, Then how come there are no copies of the Rig Veda from Europe or Central Asia? Case Closed!

  4. “Any advice is welcome”

    Lift weights instead. Start with a 5×5 program then in a year transition to reverse pyramids. Lift for power. Your body will change forever and maintenance will be much easier than maintaining your ketogenic diet.

  5. As a person gets older Paleo lifestyle becomes ~more~ important not less. (Michael Rose at UC Irvine argued this idea awhile back.) Thus exercise becomes ~more~ important. People seem to vary a lot in their responsiveness to exercise, even within the same families. What seems to work for most is any vigorous heart-pounding exercise for forty minutes a day, every day — Like the person above in the comments who did long distance swimming every day. (Lifting weights, my muscles always gave out before getting a sufficient cardio-vascular work out. Yes there are strategies, but they don’t seem to work for me – not for weight loss.) Finding what works for any given individual – the devil is in the details. Weak knees or feet? One of the tracks with a slight give and some extra cushiony running shoes might help, or might not. Or try jogging on beach sand (nature-therapy extra.) And so on. Finally, if you happen to have a copy of William James’s Principles of Psychology read the section On Habit. Still the best quick treatment on the subject I’ve read.

  6. Talking of Vikings appearing in unexpected places, if you happen to visit Venice take a closer look to the stone lion on the left side of the entrance to the Arsenal, the “Piraeus Lion.”

    Originally installed in the port of Athens if was taken to Venice as loot in the 17th century, and on its side has a long runic inscription that was almost certainly carved my members of the Varangian Guard or other Varangian mercenaries sent to repress a revolt in Byzantine times.

  7. “I’m going on a ketogenic diet to cut some of the fat. Any advice is welcome.”

    Per me si va ne la citta dolente,
    per me si va ne l’etterno dolore,
    per me si va tra la perduta gente.
    Giustizia mosse il mio alto fattore;
    * * *
    Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.

  8. Agree with John Massey: 1-mile swimming, 5 days per week, is the king of whole-body exercise. But! Can be a hassle to get to-from pool, change clothes etc. Time-consuming.

    Agree with Freddie deBoer: “Lift weights instead. Your body will change forever and maintenance will be much easier.” That is my personal experience as well. For examples of such sudden beneficial transitions, recall smart musicians Sting and Bruce Springsteen. Around age 35, when ‘lifestyle rock-n-rollers’ typically start to waste away into shrivelled-liver land, they both instead showed up one fine day with assiduously acquired muscles, the having and easy maintenance of which have obviously served their entire physiologies very well for subsequent decades of mature bodily enjoyment and stamina. With a modest but beyond-bookworm muscular setup you can eat whatever want in moderation. Also, if you have modestly sufficient discipline, you can work out at home with just three pieces of equipment– doorway chin-up bar (c.f. ‘Iron Gym’ available at ‘Big 5’-type stores –or amazon too I suppose) plus those clickable adjust-a-weight barbells (purchase a model that has up to ~50 lbs. each, you’ll gain strength within a year to need that much). Throw in a proper amount of vigorous walking (a lifelong habit you should never ever go without — 3 miles minimum on treadmill or street or trail — also is extremely psychologically healthy as “walking meditation” which is our evolutionary inheritance and is our evolved bipedal-hominid set-aside time to let life-problem solutions come unbidden and also related pulses of creative/holistic intellectual insight.)

    So, your weekly routine, requires 1 hour per day of dedicated healthy-happy Razib time: 3 days a week walk, 3 days a week lifting weights, and you get one day per week rest if needed (gardening day).

  9. Re: Human behavioural ecology, I really enjoyed Joe Heinrich’s book, thanks to you from whom I heard it first. I thought Sara Blaffer Hrdy’s mothers and others was such an eye opener, pretty convincing demonstration that as a species we are cooperative breeders. I also recommend the evolution of the human body by Liebermann, in a different league, but important in terms of what are the main outliers in today’s diets in relation to the extremely varied diets of hunter gatherers. I agree with John Massey, as a species, we’ve never had as much sugar in our diets.

  10. I just asked a Sikh in our office what she thinks (whether or not this was a good idea…). She agrees with the Iranian invasion theory. As for the theory of Indian origins of the Indo-European languages, so far as she was concerned this is a fringe theory.

    In the “northwest frontier” among non-Hindus, there seems to be little sympathy for hypotheses popular in Hindu nationalism.

  11. Rick: they should be careful what they wish for. I would rate as “high” the chance that some Bronze Age fragment parallel to the Vedas will be found in Iranian Kurdistan in my lifetime. We already have the Mitanni treaties swearing by Vedic gods…

  12. There is no serious debate anymore. Migrants from West of India impacted both its genepool and civilization. The few crackpots saying otherwise are down there with Creationists.

  13. @A. Furtiv Russell – Yeah, everything you said. Plus if the water in the pool is chlorinated, you need to use a nose clip, otherwise after a while you get serious irritation to your nasal passages (something Razib definitely doesn’t need, although swimming in salt water might actually help). I ended up using eye goggles, a nose clip and ear plugs. You feel kind of cut-off, with not enough sensory inputs.

    I would only ever recommend long distance swimming as part of a short term crash fat-loss program. For long term, there is no substitute for weight training + brisk walking or running, especially for older people, who need the exercise to be load-bearing in order to maintain bone density. Plus I do Tai Chi to maintain balance and motor skills, but playing any kind of physical game or practising any kind of martial art will do that for you.

  14. First of all, thank you, Mr. Khan, for the articles about the Finnic peoples. I enjoyed them and learned much.

    As for this:

    Over the past year for various reasons I’ve gained 10 pounds. My waste has gone from 29-30 inches to 31-32. They did a measurement at the gym and my body fat is now 17%.

    You will likely find that as you have more children and as they grow up, more and more of your time will be taken up by spending time with them and/or ferrying them to their activities, to the detriment of your own fitness regime. It’s just a part of life. There are only so many hours a day. Time can’t be made up – you have to accept its limitations.

    So I’m going on a ketogenic diet to cut some of the fat. Any advice is welcome.

    I am of the belief that moderation is key rather than the composition of food, that is, within reason. Eating something that doesn’t appeal to you is ultimately not sustainable. Eat what you like, but modestly and judiciously.

    And since conservatives care more about outputs than inputs, I would suggest you put emphasis on a sustainable exercise program, which ideally should be a lifestyle (with your kids – even better). I know you enjoyed and benefitted from strength training in the past, but I, again, strongly recommend taking up a combat sport, especially Brazilian Jujutsu, often called “kinetic chess”:

    Here are good “infomercials”: The Soul of Jiu Jitsu

    Water and Stone

    You will become functionally stronger and more supple. You will learn to physically control and beat bigger men (it’s the foundational art to mixed martial arts/cage fighting). You will make lifelong friends and brothers-in-training. And, being highly intelligent, you will without a doubt greatly enjoy its very cerebral aspects. Finally, it’s low impact and relatively safe (I’d suggest Judo if you were younger), something you can introduce to your wife and children and can enjoy until deathbed.

    I have been practicing Judo for forty years now and Brazilian Jujutsu for about twenty years. As you well know, there is an enormous amount of bullshit in life and people can be awful. For me, outside of my family, the Mass and prayer time at Church and my time on the mat with my Judo/Jujutsu buddies are the only pure things I encounter on a daily basis. On the mat, there is no rich, no poor, no class, no race, no bullshit… The only currency is your skill, dedication, and camaraderie with your fellow training partners.

    Give it a try.

  15. Doubt I will tell you anything you don’t know…
    –you may face a temporary drop in energy/fogginess/crankiness, which may be a problem for you
    –to make a permanent change, to some degree you’ll have to make a thorough adjustment in what you eat; consider carefully whether you’re up to it (including limits on fruits and whole grains)
    –a lot of your initial loss will be water weight
    –presumably you’ve consulted a doctor; there are conditions that can make ketosis difficult to achieve, or dangerous if it is achieved
    –a 31-32″ waist doesn’t sound bad to me
    –Good luck!

  16. yeah i’m going through keto flue right now i think.

    re: waist. i am narrow-waisted. if i am getting above 30 that is due to too much fat around mid-section.

  17. The Hungry Brain by Stephen Guyenet is a great summary of new developments in obesity research since the ’80s, with a neuroscientific bent. It presents a lot of interesting findings that mostly been locked away in academic journals, enough to build a fairly complete and plausible model of the body weight problem.

    Scott Alexander had a good review:

    The Guyenetian view on the ketogenic diet would probably be that ketosis itself does nothing, but proscribing a vast swath of tasty foods decreases the reward value of the diet, increases satiety, and reduces daily calorie intake, which will slowly grind down the setpoint. (Note: this is NOT calories-in-calories-out.) The high protein content also provides a (probably slight) satiety advantage.

    The account of the obese patients subsisting on a 400 calories a day of tasteless nutrient slurry and not feeling hunger is the really vivid anecdote for me.

  18. The high protein content also provides a (probably slight) satiety advantage.

    I’ve seen this claim before many times, i.e. high protein = high satiety. Might be true, I guess.

    For me, though, the type of protein makes a huge difference, as does the preparation for the said protein. Give me baked tofu or “generic” beef, and I won’t feel very satisfied. Give me equivalent protein (fat, calories, whatever) intake in spicy grilled pork or beef fatty brisket, and I am happy!

    Similarly, generic fried fish, bleh! Grilled with some good spices, YES!

    I think a lot of people have some “comfort food” that makes them happy that is based on something more than protein or fat content. Ever pick berries freshly and eat them? Much more satisfying than, say, ice cream (and I LOVE ice cream).

  19. “Over the past year for various reasons I’ve gained 10 pounds. My waste has gone from 29-30 inches to 31-32. They did a measurement at the gym and my body fat is now 17%.”

    Fitness and weight are always relative, but I commend you for staying so fit, even as a adult with a job and a family and some hobbies (reading non-fiction and blogging) that are pretty sedentary, as well as the ever creeping gradual burden of aging.

  20. Mr Khan,

    I have a question about within-sex genetic covariance: Do men have a higher or lower genetic variance than women? I’ve heard that with the distribution of our genome women have less variation on the bell curve than men.

    Is there any basis for this? It was my understanding that women have more genetic variation than men due to having two X chromosomes and there being more variation on gene expression within the X chromosomes.

    I’ve also seen a theory that with traits linked to genes on the X-chromosome in women being averaged across the genetic variants found on each of a woman’s two X-chromosomes, this would reduce the likelihood of extreme traits (men have just one X-chromosome, precluding this averaging process).

    If male and female homologous traits share a similar genetic architecture.Is there any biological possibility for men to have more genetic variation than women, and if so what would be a potential reason for it? If there was substantial within-sex specific genetic variance, would it imply the same rate of within-sex phenotypic variation?

  21. have a question about within-sex genetic covariance: Do men have a higher or lower genetic variance than women? I’ve heard that with the distribution of our genome women have less variation on the bell curve than men.

    i think u mean phenotypic. on many traits they do.

  22. “Evidence for strategic cooperation in humans.”

    Pretty much fell out of my chair when a clicked through to this from your twitter feed and realized that it wasn’t a parody paper. I wrote a short letter to the journal editor expressing that thought which may or may not be published.

    This is the kind of stuff that gives academics a bad name and gives rise to the nerd stereotype.

    I’ve always had a low opinion of using artificial behavioral experiments as evidence when more reliable methods are available and this paper illustrates just how bankrupt it is to use those kinds of tools to ask these kinds of questions.

    Descriptive methods are often far superior to experimental ones as biologists, of all scientists, should know perfectly well. Certainly, a review of literature and history and the social sciences would be superior to the approach taken in this paper to answer the question posed in its title.


    Razib, if you feel open to disclosing how your fare on the ketogenic diet, and particularly if you experience these effects, it would be of great interest to me, at an academic level. I doubt whether I could ever go on it myself, but that doesn’t reduce my interest in the general subject.

    Feeings of euphoria and greatly enhanced energy levels make it sound a pretty attractive proposition; but maybe not everyone has the same experience with it.

  24. @ Razib Khan,

    “i think u mean phenotypic. on many traits they do.”

    Yes, I meant within sex phenotypic variance in a population, on sexual traits.

    I wonder if humans have been selected to adjust preference selectivity according to the phenotypic variability of sexual traits of potential mates in their social environment.

    A higher male morphological variance (regard to female variance) might explain in part the greater female choosiness for male characteristics. But however I think the strength of directional sexual (female) selection on male signals would make male phenotypes would tend to remain relatively constant in natural populations.

    What do you think?

  25. “Any advice is welcome”

    Intermittent fasting works for some people. Peter Turchin is a fan (also big on paleo). N=1

    The Shangri-La diet is weird, but I know someone who found it slow, but effective. Another N=1.

  26. I have read Peter’s thoughts on the Paleo diet. If it works for him, fine.

    But it hardly seems necessary. Good nutrition (I dislike the word ‘diet’) is just mostly common sense and suggests that you focus on consuming foods that are high in nutrition, and avoid things with a lot of ’empty calories’ but no nutritional value (sodas are a prime example; alcohol is another one). The really bad things are foods that combine high refined carbohydrates with high saturated fats – think french fries, chocolate, ice cream; that stuff will make you as fat as a pig and speed you towards insulin resistance and diabetes. (Yes, Priscilla, there really are ‘bad foods’ that you would do well to stay away from.)

    Speaking of Paleo, these Stone Age men are going to be performing next to the Queens of the Stone Age. Seems appropriate.

Comments are closed.