Open Thread, 10/15/2018


I pinned the above chart to my Twitter profile because I’m “trying to make it happen.” It was David Mittelman’s idea, and the data was courtesy of ISOGG, but putting it together as a graph has really brought home to people how the consumer genomic landscape has changed over the last half a decade.

The plot to the right, which shows a smoothed chart of the total number of kits over time, is also important.

I recorded a podcast for the Urbane Cowboys last week. It should go up today, so watch for it. I talked about a variety of topics, so I don’t know how it will drop in regards to editing.

Was talking to a friend about the importance of emotion in reasoning, or at least how emotion allows us to reason better. He asked about books, and Descartes’ Error came to mind. But I’ve read about critiques of its interpretation of the history of science and philosophy, though I think the big picture conclusion is probably still valid.

Will be at ASHG this week. Mostly I’m going to learn more about African genomics. Not as much on pop-gen as in previous years. If I approach your poster, don’t worry that I’m going to tweet or write about. Just be cool.

Noticed Tim Blanning’s massive survey of Frederick the Great is now less than $10 on Kindle. Because of the World Wars, I think we learn a lot less about Prussia from 1700 on than we otherwise would. Blanning’s The Pursuit of Glory: The Five Revolutions that Made Modern Europe: 1648-1815 is also excellent.

I’m listening to John Keegan’s A History of Warfare on Audible. To be honest I think I’m much better at reading than listening. This shouldn’t be surprising. In courses, I generally prefer to learn from the textbook as opposed to listening to lectures. And I have a lot of experience reading over my lifetime. Less so listening.

Xunzi: The Complete Text has been a difficult read for me. I’ve gone back and reread passages several times. It is definitely on the discursive side. That being said, I have come to a strange observation: Xunzi’s view of religion is similar to Ludwig Wittgenstein’s. Here from the Stanford Encylopedia of Religion:

He opposed interpretations of religion that emphasize doctrine or philosophical arguments intended to prove God’s existence, but was greatly drawn to religious rituals and symbols, and considered becoming a priest. He likened the ritual of religion to a great gesture, as when one kisses a photograph. This is not based on the false belief that the person in the photograph will feel the kiss or return it, nor is it based on any other belief. Neither is the kiss just a substitute for a particular phrase, like “I love you.” Like the kiss, religious activity does express an attitude, but it is not just the expression of an attitude in the sense that several other forms of expression might do just as well….

This seems similar to Xunzi’s belief that religious rituals were an important part of life, even if supernatural beings did not exist. Though Wittgenstein seems to have had some sort of fundamental mystical religious beliefs, whereas Xunzi was more of a naturalist.

The whale shark genome reveals how genomic and physiological properties scale with body size. Dim on comparative genomics. But I do like sharks.

Harvard and the Brigham call for more than 30 retractions of cardiac stem cell research. The medical science literature is going to yield a lot of problems sooner than later.

Estimation of allele-specific fitness effects across human protein-coding sequences and implications for disease.

The Democrats Have a Latino Problem Hispanic voters were supposed to be the party’s future. It’s not working out that way.

Jason Collin’s on global fertility projections.

Bayesian Estimation of Species Divergence Times Using Correlated Quantitative Characters.

Hidden ‘risk’ in polygenic scores: clinical use today could exacerbate health disparities.

Identity inference of genomic data using long-range familial searches. If they solve the Zodiac killer, forget about the worries.

Inferring Demography and Selection in Organisms Characterized by Skewed Offspring Distributions.

Adaptive walks on high-dimensional fitness landscapes and seascapes with distance-dependent statistics.

Existence and implications of population variance structure.

Megalakes in the Sahara? A Review.

On this week’s episode of The Insight we’re talking about the genetics of the Uralic peoples, and Finns in particular.

Have you been noticing more intrusive and stranger advertisements in the media? That’s because it’s in trouble. The whole sector. But you knew that.

On Eve of Harvard Bias Trial, Dueling Rallies Show Rifts Among Asian-Americans. The pro-Harvard Asians seem to have memorized zingers from Between the World and Me. They may be pro-social justice, but they’re still Asians, so no creativity!

13 thoughts on “Open Thread, 10/15/2018

  1. Super excited about the Uralic episode! I sort of secretly hoped you would do something like this but never dared to ask even. We’re such small potatoes. Do you have a guest perhaps?

    I don’t know much about this stuff, but it seems linguistics has a lot to complement the story and timeline. Researchers like Ante Aikio, Janne Saarikivi and Jaakko Häkkinen come to mind at least.

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  2. I’m going to re-read David Reich’s book again, after I finish re-reading Pet Sematary (which I now think is my favorite Stephen King novel, even if I think The Shining is his best novel). Stuff I’ve learned from it has come up multiple times since then, and I want to refresh.

    I can believe that fertility is partially hereditary, but then shouldn’t the Demographic Transition have been relatively ephemeral? Economic conditions have changed considerably since it first started showing up in rich countries, but it persists across generations now. At the very least, it appears to be heavily mediated by socio-political-economic-environmental factors.

    Still, that has some interesting implications. Population pressure is a “push” factor, and about 95% of science fiction with big space colonies tend to assume never-ending human population growth. The Expanse series is one of those, with a massive Earth population and population off-world because people apparently started having tons of kids again once technology obsoleted a lot of jobs.

    In the longer run, of course, we’ll just modify our bodies, desires, and behaviors to meet longer-term goals. But in the short run, it’s an open question.

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  3. Razib, if I switched my email address and name in my comment, could you delete it rather than pulling it out of moderation. It will include “Brett” somewhere in either of those.

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  4. @Gade
    Yes, that’s a great paper by Aikio – afaik, this stuff is starting to be the new consensus in comparative linguistics. Actually, we’ve known for a long time that the Saami populated much of current Finland. But the timing was off for a long time I guess, and Aikio really drives home the point that the Saami expansion, too, was fairly recent (and unrelated to Baltic-Finnic pressure).

    It would be interesting to know how much the Finns absorbed of the previous populations when they crossed over and started expanding. Apart from the Saami, there have been older waves: Nordic Bronze Age (Proto/Paleo Germanic), Textile Ceramics (Uralic?), Corded Ware (Indo-European), Comb Ceramics (unknown), Paleo-Lakelandic (unknown), Paleo-Lappic (unknown)… Estonians are obviously the easiest point of comparison. It’s fairly easy to see the similarities and differences in phenotype with naked eye:
    – Both have this distinct “Finnic” look. Something with the eyes especially.
    – Many Estonians are way more Baltic (Latvian, Lithuanian) looking, which makes sense, some even to the point of not really looking that Finnic at all.
    – In a similar manner, many Finns are more Swedish/Scandinavian looking, especially closer to the west coast.
    – Finns seem more stocky, baby-faced, shorter, especially further north and east. This is the curious thing. Is it just the absence of further Baltic admixture? Founder effects? Mixing with the Saami – and/or some other groups?

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  5. I didn’t think we had any DNA we could attribute to the Zodiac killer.

    Brett, you’re going to have to modify EVERYONE, or the unmodified minority will become the majority.

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  6. @Jaakkelin Serkku
    Compared to Estonians, and perhaps the Proto-Finnic population of Lake Peipus area, the Finnic peoples who expanded to Saami territory outlined in Aikio’s map (Finns, Karelians, Veps) have a clear amount of Saami and maybe some sort of Northwest European (Germanic?) ancestry. Most differences should stem from that and founder effects.

    Other now extinct populations were baked in at Late Iron Age timeframe. The “Paleo-Lakelandic” for example is postulated based on the peculiarities of Saamic linguistic substrate in Finnish so it’s assumed that they were in contact with and assimilated by Saamis.

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  7. Razib rules!

    Loved The Genetics of the Finns episode. Razib’s strong know-how and knowledge for both history and genetics is remarkable. I also liked how you talked about Tolkien at the end. I did not know how much you’ve been in contact with Finnish life personally and was pleasantly surprised.

    I’m from northern Finland myself and I do have smallish portion of Saami blood flowing through my veins. Got to buy the 23me test kit someday to find how much exactly.

    Here’s a link to the episode website (I don’t have iTunes).

    http://insitome.libsyn.com/website/the-genetics-of-the-finns

    Peace.

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