Open Thread, 10/8/2018

Paul Romer won the Nobel. Not a big surprise. David Warsh’s Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations: A Story of Economic Discovery is pretty good. I recommend it. I would read it in concert with Hive Mind: How Your Nation’s IQ Matters So Much More Than Your Own and A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World (Warsh wrote a negative review of the second book and likely would not be a fan of the first).

Analyses of Neanderthal introgression suggest that Levantine and southern Arabian populations have a shared population history. Bigger Yemeni data set. Yemeni and Levantine populations seem quite similar….

As you may not know Google+ was finally given an explicit sunset schedule. Google tried twice to tackle Facebook but failed both times. But it turns out that Facebook may never have a successor. A centralized social-graph has weaknesses, and younger cohorts seem to be creating segmentation. Their parents are on Facebook, so they have a nominal Facebook account. But the real action is on other platforms.

Life on the Dirtiest Block in San Francisco. Having drinks with friends at the top of hotels and high rise condominium complexes makes you forget that far below the homeless have come out and taken over the night.

Why most narrative history is wrong. First, this seems to be more about ‘popular’ history today, and the mainstream of past history. One reason contemporary academic history is so boring for most people is that it resists grand narrative temptation.

With that being said, this is more of an indictment on modern journalism.

Quantifying how constraints limit the diversity of viable routes to adaptation.

A Simulation-Based Evaluation of Total-Evidence Dating Under the Fossilized Birth-Death Process.

Expanded Pre-Implantation Genomic Testing.

Fudged statistics on the Iraq War death toll are still circulating today. Do you remember this debate more than ten years ago? I do. The very assertion of these numbers distorted the discourse. This was just a prefiguring of the media landscape today. It’s mostly propaganda.

Phylogeny, ancestors and anagenesis in the hominin fossil record.

The genetic relationship between female reproductive traits and six psychiatric disorders.

In case my Twitter account gets deleted, remember you can subscribe to my RSS or follow my Facebook page.

ASHG Meeting next week.

Max Boot is making the rounds promoting his new book, The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right. I haven’t read the book, but having listened to him on various podcasts, one thing that annoys me about this guy: his faction of maximalist neoconservatives and war-hawks in the post-9/11 era were cheering on the mass psychosis which led to this nation backing multiple military adventures. In particular, I’m talking about the invasion of Iraq, which cost $2 trillion dollars, 4,500 American soldiers’ lives, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives.

Instead of starting in 2015, he should start in 2003.


16 thoughts on “Open Thread, 10/8/2018

  1. Based on the Y-chromosomes and linguistic phylogeny, seems likely that all of Arabia was “Levantinized” during the Bronze Age (in at least 2 waves, representing South Semitic and para-Arabic, respectively); in turn, the Levant was probably (unevenly, and less significantly than I once thought) “Arabianzed” during the 1st millennium CE. Would be great to see some prehistoric Arabian genomes.

  2. Agree wholeheartedly about Max Boot and the neocon warmongers, but Trump’s (and Trumpists’) hands aren’t clean either. The current US administration has picked sides in the Great Middle Eastern Dispute and has been abetting the carnage in Yemen. There is also a non-trivial possibility of war with Iran because of the administration’s extremist position on the Israel-Palestine issue.

    On a different topic, what do you think of the Kavanaugh brouhaha? If you intend to publicly express your views, that is. (I don’t do social media, so may not be aware of any of your musings on Twitter, etc.)

  3. On a different topic, what do you think of the Kavanaugh brouhaha? If you intend to publicly express your views, that is. (I don’t do social media, so may not be aware of any of your musings on Twitter, etc.)

    no strong opinion tbh. it was political polarization all the way down…. seems like the left will view the supreme court now like how the right did in the 60s and 70s.

  4. In the higher dimension PCA data on Eurogenes, looks like

    a) South Arabian samples (Yemen) today have more ancestry that fits somewhere between Natufians and Iran_N than can be explained purely by descent from Levant Neolithic or later cultures (Chalcolithic, Bronze Age)

    b) recent Levant samples don’t really seem to need this in excess of the Bronze Age Levantine samples, and slightly more characterized by shift towards “Turan” populations and African relative to BA populations

    c) Bronze Age South Levantine samples seem to tilt in the direction of Natufian and South Arabian recent relative to Bronze Age North Levantine and preceding Chalcolithic samples

    Just my impression. Better transects over time will give more information.

  5. The title of Rosenberg’s article piqued my curiosity, but about two thirds of the way through I lost interest and quit. Rosenberg kept saying things that were kind of obvious in themselves, but which never came together to support the sort of radical revision of our understanding of “history” that the title promised. I won’t remember a word of the article tomorrow.

  6. “Their parents are on Facebook”

    My kids quit Facebook. My daughter does not want me to post pictures of my grandson (the cutest baby in the world) on Facebook. I just deleted my account.

  7. “Expanded Pre-Implantation Genomic Testing.”

    Mentally ill women have more children? Did I get that right? How can that be explained evolutionarily?

  8. I have been thinking about an answer to the question “What do genes do?” for perhaps 10-15 years, from around the time I read an essay of Freeman Dyson’s and learned (misunderstood?) that Schrodinger identified metabolism and reproduction as the two features/functions that distinguish life from other collections of chemical reactions.* I am prompted to write about it here, now, by the following passage in a recent post:

    Where does this leave us? I recently expressed my frustration that we continue for decades to have the same debate about “genetic determinism” that we have had for decades. Nothing ever changes. It’s always the same. Researchers who work in the field emphasize the importance of gene-environment interactions, norms of reaction, and the complex nature of these traits. Or, the modest heritability of the traits in question. They are so focused on these nuances that interesting facts such as the high fraction of nonshared environment get lost in the muddle.

    Consider obesity. It’s actually a moderate to highly heritable trait. But traveling internationally, or looking at pictures from the past, make it clear that there isn’t a blueprint for your final weight. Different people have different propensities based on common environments. Yes. But to say your weight is “determined” by your environment or your genes is kind of weird and “not even wrong.” It’s complicated. And yet less than 10% of dieters keep the weight off. There is something that feels inevitable, determined, about this, but it may not be genetic.

    I am hoping to learn that my answer is “so obvious it is stupid” (i.e., true but not original) rather than “Original & wrong.” If the former, I can continue to rely on it in good conscience. If the latter, I am somewhat at a loss. Anyway, after all that throat clearing, …

    When I first began learning about genetics in jr. high and HS, c. 1970, it was always in the context of heredity. The only function of genes that was mentioned had to do with heredity, essentially a version of neo-darwinism or the modern synthesis comprehensible to a bright adolescent. ISTM that this is still the standard way non-biologists/non-geneticists think about genes: as the channel through which heredity operates. I did not think much about genetics for 20-25 years until it became the dominant topic of popular science writing. After much reading along that line, I came to believe that thinking about genes and their function (only) in the context of heredity to be misleading.

    What do genes do? They determine the response of the cell to environmental stimuli, i.e., genes govern all cell behavior.

    At some point I learned that at a low-level, what genes do is to code for proteins and that these are key to cell function. I do not recall ever reading anything that synthesized this fact with the common notion, i.e., the primary role of genes is that heredity operates through them. How to combine these two pieces? Genes’ role in heredity comes in at the beginning of an organism’s existence, e.g. in the womb or egg for appropriate animals. Then environmental stimuli are all about generating the structures and organs that will form the fully formed organism, and a major consequence of genes’ responses to the environment is that organs (& tissues) develop at the proper time in the proper place for proper functioning. This leads to a somewhat grand view of the environment: the environment for each cell being not only external to the organism as a whole, but all or at least many other cells in the organism.

    *After writing this down, I read ch. 1 of Dyson’s “Origins of Life” for the first time, and came across the following that suggests to me “true but not original”:

    For [one of my American friends, a molecular biologist], the word metabolism means the direction of chemical processes by the genetic apparatus of nucleic acids

  9. it was political polarization all the way down….

    Back when the Trump train started gaining speed, I read several articles by journalists that made the case that “journalists” had to take sides and should no longer try for objectivity. I saw an article on Kavanaugh that was laying the groundwork for justifying totalitarian leftists openly defying Supreme Court rulings.

  10. i should be entirely honest and also admit that i’ve become profoundly unpatriotic over the last few years. i’m going ‘short’ on this republic. so a lot of the political passions have diminished.

  11. Yeah, I’m going to the US for the first time next year. Opted to visit friends in Chicago instead of family in the Bay Area mostly because the prettiest city in the region seems less inviting than Lagos.

  12. Yeah, I’m going to the US for the first time next year. Opted to visit friends in Chicago instead of family in the Bay Area mostly because the prettiest city in the region seems less inviting than Lagos.

    1) sunset in SF. can’t beat.
    2) residential segregation is VERY strong. you could avoid it.

    i think SF is OK if you make more than $150,000 and don’t have kids. it really sucks if you don’t fall into that category (probably more $250,000 if you have kids).

  13. Busy couple of weeks for me. Finished my PhD, wife had a baby and I am considering starting a company in the lab grown meat field. However, there’s very little chance of me and my family moving to the Bay Area for a dream (where most of the investors are). Currently considering my options in Houston.

  14. i’ve become profoundly unpatriotic over the last few years.

    Do you think that this just personality or attitude? The reason that I ask is that because the worse it gets the more invested I want to be.


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