Open Thread, 09/05/2017

Over the weekend DNAGeeks put up some Gene Expression t-shirts. Check it out!

Saudi Crown Prince’s Mass Purge Upends a Longstanding System. This is a big deal with major ramifications.

Genomic Signatures of Sexual Conflict.

Finished Red Flag: A History of Commumism. Recommended.

7 thoughts on “Open Thread, 09/05/2017

  1. A book for you* to comment on:

    Review by Charles C. Mann of “A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes Hardcover” by Adam Rutherford, Published by The Experiment on October 3, 2017, ISBN-13: 978-1615194049

    ‘A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived” is not particularly brief, not exactly a history and not concerned with everyone who ever lived. A more accurate title would be something like “An Omnium-gatherum about Genetics by a Real Smart Guy With an Amusing Prose Style.” Whatever the title, this enjoyable book has a great deal to say about our genetic code—or, more precisely, about how our knowledge of genetics is misused and misconstrued.

    * * *

    What “Brief History” is about is challenging popular ideas about the import of genetics, especially the genetics of race. One beginning is the fact—first shown mathematically in 2003 by a Yale statistician, then demonstrated in the laboratory in 2013 by two California researchers—that everyone on Earth, no matter where they live, what languages they speak, or what skin color they have, is related by descent from a small pool of ancestors just a few thousand years ago.

    * * *
    Human ancestry, Mr. Rutherford writes, is a “matted web,” not a simple tree. Because of this snarl of complexity, there is no “group of people on Earth that can be defined by their DNA in a scientifically satisfactory way.”

    In the final, most impassioned section of the book, he explains what this means. There are clear differences between one person’s genome and the next, but these don’t partition us into identifiable groups.

    * * *

    Nor can you use clusters of characteristics to define groups satisfactorily, Mr. Rutherford says. “Genetically, two black people are more likely to be more different to each other than a black person and a white person. In other words, while the physical differences are clearly visible between a white and a black person, the total amount of difference is much smaller than between two black people.” The obvious physical differences—skin tone, hair type, nose and eye shape—among races are real. But the genome encodes vast numbers of other characteristics, ranging from immune-system components to the shapes of surface proteins in red blood cells. And in these characteristics there is such variability—less visible than skin tone, but much more vital to life—that it swamps the visible characteristics, foiling efforts to divide people into cohesive genetic groups.

    Mr. Rutherford does not deny that there are genetic differences between groups of people that are linked to geographic origin. Asian-Americans, for example, are much more likely to die of cancer than people of African descent. But this does not mean you can sort humankind into well-defined races based on cancer-proneness, because other groups of related people are also prone to cancer. Race as a category is too simple to fit well into the complexities we now see in biology.

    *We still await your review of “Seveneves”

  2. Got me a GNXP shirt, thanks! Very streamlined website. If you really want to do some sales you could even post them on Amazon, etsy, etc. My wife has a little etsy store that brings in extra cash flow and she can do it all from home, obviously.

    Twitter is losing its power for me. Pocket app now has recommendations and I’m not sure if I see a need to use Twitter anymore to find good articles to read, at least. They have pretty much everything you need or could imagine, already saved and ready to be read out loud to you on a playlist while you work. The future is here!
    As far as “curated” longreads and serious investigative journalism go, I can find several dozen articles and load them into a Playlist in 5 minutes.

  3. The Saudi development:

    Saudi Arabia will always be opaque to outsiders. It is not really a state in the modern sense. It is more like Family Business. See: “The Saudi Monarchy as a Family Firm” by Xavier Marquez on January 29, 2015

    I have often said that to understand the KSA, you should study the History plays of Shakespeare:

    “Shakespeare: King & Country” [Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V] Royal Shakespeare Company w/ David Tennant as Richard II

    “The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses” [Henry VI, Richard III] Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III

    This could prove very interesting.

  4. John Darwin also noted how it’s more appropriate to compare a region of China (Kiangnan province) to northwest Europe in After Tamerlane (which I have some notes on here) when wondering why it got left behind in the “Great Divergence” rather than having its own industrial revolution. He concludes that it was too expensive to travel coal from the regions that was mined it to Kiangnan, although he also notes that science had basically died out in China around the 1400s.

  5. “everyone on Earth…is related by descent from a small pool of ancestors just a few thousand years ago.” This is so obviously false that it is astonishing anyone could think it.

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